Tech or Treat

Tech or Treat

7 Common Pitfalls to avoid when implementing Mining Tech

As Halloween creeps closer, we thought it’d be a grave mistake not to remind everyone that even in the midst of the exciting technological transformations happening in mining, things can still go wrong.

Mining technology has been around a long time with many mines using dispatching and other systems for decades. I’ve been part of this journey since 2006, and I attribute a few of my grey hairs to many hours spent onsite in my early career willing something (or someone) to work. Whilst mining technology has now become much more mainstream and it’s become much harder for the “this won’t work here” brigade to have an impact…many of the struggles are still the same. We’ve collected our thoughts on our Top 7 things that can go wrong. Avoid these pitfalls and your own implementation stands a much better chance of success.

Have we missed anything out? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

1. Poor planning and communication 

One of the most common mistakes made when implementing new technology is failing to properly plan, allocate the right resources and communicate the changes. This can lead to confusion and resistance, as well as unexpected delays and cost overruns. Almost all failed mining technology implementations can have their roots traced back to corners being cut in terms of planning and having skilled people in place.

To avoid: Have a proper, realistic plan (typically double the time you think it will be!) with the right team. Take into account lengthy change management, crew rosters, local skill sets and whether you have the right team in place.

2. Resistance to Change

This remains an enormous challenge when implementing mining technology. We often find that this is a neglected task during an original implementation. Why? A common cause is that the implementation team are highly technical and whilst they are great at programming software and setting up advanced systems they tend to shy away from the “people component”. Other causes include lack of genuine senior management buy-in, lack of enforcement and lack of empowerment for the business owners of the solution.

To avoid: Bring in experienced change management people and don’t task the technical team with the job. This isn’t typically their skill set and even if it was, they will be buried with other tasks to even have time to focus on change management. Secondly the senior management should be actively engaged; and importantly they should be empowering the project implementation team and ultimately enforcing the change.

3. Inadequate training

Another common mistake is failing to provide adequate training to team members on the new technology. Different individuals depending on their job roles need to receive the right degree of training. For certain regions, language and cultural norms and educational standards will need to be taken into account particularly for certain groups.

To avoid: It is important to develop a comprehensive training program that covers all aspects of the new technology. The training should be tailored to the specific needs of the various user groups, and should be delivered in a format, language and style that suits each individual.

4. Nobody believes the data

Regularly very little effort goes into data validation; particularly sanity checking numbers against site knowledge or existing reporting. Time and time again we see end users walking away from mining technology simply because they do not trust the data.

To avoid: Agree on a data validation process with stakeholders. Do not close out the project till everybody is happy with the data; importantly deliver validation reports or dashboards so that data quality can be easily monitored on an ongoing basis.

5. Vendor Software and Hardware Issues

Vendors will always promise a fully integrated, trial and tested solution. In reality, mining technology with all the different equipment manufacturers, infrastructure eco systems, regional regulations and more has become incredibly complicated. So, if you can roll out a new system without a single product glitch along the way you’ve done very well; or not noticed some things aren’t working correctly.

You can’t avoid this but you can mitigate it. Enough time should be factored into the project to ensure a full review of system compatibility can take place. This should include prerequisites such as checking that system X will function with equipment model Y running firmware Z etc. (Note: Ideally this should happen during the RFQ phase….but it’s often missed out!). A full UAT checklist should be compiled with lots of detail included on all aspects of the implementation including data quality, expected system behaviour and more.

If your project team does not have the expertise to fully do this then outside help should be used. Finally it is recommended that project sign off and thus full payment to the vendor(s) is tied to resolution of all bugs and hardware issues that arise during the project. It should be noted that often there will likely be a requirement to mediate between different vendors and equipment manufacturers.

6. Failure to Implement Processes

Mining technology solutions are complex and often involve multiple stakeholders, so it is essential to have well-defined processes in place to ensure that they are implemented and used effectively. Without these processes, things can quickly fall apart. 

For example, a new autonomous truck system will eventually cease to be effective if there are no processes in place to maintain onboard hardware, lanes and manage the (highly skilled) resources. A new drone-based inspection system may not be able to provide accurate results if there are no processes in place to calibrate the drones and ensure that the data they collect is properly analysed. 

Without a solid foundation of processes in place, all implementations ultimately are likely to fail.

To avoid: As part of the implementation all known required processes should be agreed, documented and individuals trained. Following of processes should be monitored and enforced. As the use of the technology evolves over time, processes should be updated to ensure they remain current.

7. Failure to meet expectations

Even if everything goes smoothly during the implementation process, there is always the risk that the new mining technology may not meet expectations. This can often simply boil down to vendors overselling a product and/or end users onsite not being fully aware of what will and will not be possible with the new technology. Additionally, we often find that there is an expectation that the new technology is “hands off” – there is subsequent shock onsite when individuals belatedly realise that resources and processes are required to effectively run the solution.

To avoid: It is important to set realistic expectations for the new technology, and to benchmark performance before and afterwards. Required resourcing, effort to maintain, annual OPEX and training should all be communicated. Everything should then be documented within the project charter and will help to ensure expectations are met.

The Bottom Line

Mining technology isn’t new and many of the implementations common traps have not changed in years. Taking the above into consideration will hopefully help you much more successfully embed technologies at your operation.

If you need any support with your mining technology implementations, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We have a team of experienced professionals who can help you choose the right technologies for your needs and implement them effectively.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Author: Joe Atkinson

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