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Embracing digital transformation when you’re digging for gold … or coal … or …

By Microsoft on January 12, 2017

Filed under Manufacturing & Resources

The pressure to improve efficiency and save costs is felt across nearly all industries — and mining is no different. Mining companies are under immense pressure to extract more materials at the lowest possible cost. And, like those in many other industries, miners are turning to technology to help them find new paths to profit. In fact, according to an IDC Energy Insights survey of 190 miners worldwide, their top priority is saving costs, and 83 percent say their technology budgets will either stay the same or increase this year.*

For asset-intensive, skill-dependent industries like mining, this digital transformation has huge potential. By using data-driven insights and actionable intelligence to provide the right information to the right people at the right time, mining companies will improve their decision-making and address such issues as safety improvement, asset management and optimization of mine operations. And this transformation is already beginning to take place — according to the IDC survey, two of every three mining companies are looking at remote operation and monitoring centers, one-third are considering robotics, and one-fourth are weighing the use of drones.

To really take advantage of the transformative nature of technology, mining companies must work across all departments to derive more meaningful insight from the data, improving collaboration enterprisewide to harness knowledge across disparate roles, and provide those insights to employees via purpose-built applications and devices.

A key to making this feasible is an end-to-end, integrated platform that encompasses cloud, mobility, big data, analytics and enterprise social. But, that doesn’t mean the right solution must be costly or complex. The right approach builds upon a company’s legacy data investment and minimizes the risk.

Freeport-McMoRan, one of the largest international natural resource companies, did just that by using the Accenture Hybrid Cloud Solution for Microsoft Azure to create an Industrial Internet of Things platform that improves mining operations by securely connecting, managing and capturing machine-generated data from the trucks, drills and other assets in the mine. It provides operations supervisors with a role-based mobile dashboard to analyze and react to near-real-time situations in the mine, enabling supervisors to take immediate action on items that impact mine production, which ultimately drives revenue.

Digital transformation in the mining industry is not some futuristic, pie-in-the-sky concept. That future is already here, and companies can start right now, leveraging the data they already have without a large upfront investment or long-schedule project. Companies that embrace the insights and opportunities these new technologies provide not only see a significant improvement in productivity today, they position themselves to continue gaining value at a faster rate than their more hesitant peers.

* IDC Press Release, Robotics, Control and Virtual Reality: Why Digital Transformation is Critical for Mining, August 2015

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