Connecting productivity in Australia’s resources sector
Posted on November 28, 2019
The fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, the integration of the virtual and physical worlds – it’s called many things, but one thing is certain – it’s exciting for business. And the Resources Technology Showcase in Perth has shown us just how exciting the prospects are for Australia’s resources sector.
A world-first conference and exhibition, the Resources Technology Showcase is a great demonstration of the many ways technology is changing one of Australia’s most important sectors.
It’s a key enabler of advanced mining, extraction, production and logistics techniques. It’s also a key enabler for managing the inherent variability of the resources sector.
As McKinsey points out, mining has always been marked by uncertainty and variability, from the resources in the ground to the stress on equipment to the weather. It argues the key to the next era in mining is recognising this situation is no longer inevitable.
As the Resources Technology Showcase demonstrates, technology plays an enormous role in unlocking new ways of managing variability, driving productivity improvements and delivering very real and tangible returns.
The internet of things, machine-to-machine connectivity and accurate data; capabilities for harnessing big data volumes, including the use of artificial intelligence to analyse and support decision making; automation for reducing costs, increasing productivity and improving safety – digital technology is serving up an exciting menu of possibilities for the sector.
Technology and the high-speed connectivity that underpins it are also delivering clear benefits for mining employees. Technologies such as connected helmets with augmented reality or video streaming to offsite expert assistance can enable workers to repair and upgrade systems more accurately and efficiently. In vehicles, image recognition is enabling the detection of driver fatigue and sounding alarms when a driver closes their eyes for a longer than normal period.
Keeping connected onsite
The benefits also take on very real human dimensions for mining employees when considered in the context of personal wellbeing. Happy, healthy, connected and engaged employees are more productive and loyal employees, often providing that discretional effort more frequently and of their own accord.
Far more than just an enabler for a mine’s operational productivity, reliable and high-speed connectivity can keep employees, particularly those in remote locations, connected with loved ones, partners, family and friends, as well as the broader society and what’s happening in the world around them.
In our growing digital world, reliable and high-speed connectivity is a key enabler for education, commerce, finance and entertainment. It’s often said by fly-in fly-out mining employees that the two key things they look for in a prospective employer are the quality of the food and the entertainment options such as services like Netflix to enjoy downtime between shifts.
This introduces a further dimension to a highly competitive labour market, which is already constrained as employers fight hard to attract employees with the different mix of technical skills required to meet the changing technology profile of the resources sector.
Greater digitisation of the resources sector offers a new era for productivity improvements – be it through equipment, technology, people or workplaces. The key to maximising the potential on offer is striking the important balance between a highly technical and connected production process and a highly competent, socially connected and engaged workforce.
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