Digital transformation in mining: What CIOs are saying

Monday, April 10, 2017

Digital transformation is affecting all industries and mining is no exception. The industry is implementing the internet of things, big data, cloud computing, machine learning and collaborative environments to explore new methods of improving efficiency and productivity.

At a recent seminar hosted by Microsoft Chile in Santiago, the CIOs of mining companies Collahuasi, Soquimich and Codelco, as well heavy machinery giant Komatsu and Microsoft gave their own take on digital transformation in atheir industries.

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Gerardo Herrero, CIO, Doña Inés de Collahuasi:

"We need to guarantee continuity of processes service 24x7, 12x365. Our target is no more than 8-10 hours of downtime per year. Technology is important not only for business processes but also for our employees. Connectivity is now key for quality of life at the camp, so that staff can keep in touch with their families."

Diderik Lugtigheid, Chile IT director of Japanese mining machinery provider Komatsu:

"Our customers are asking themselves how they can monitor machinery remotely, how to minimize people in mine sites for safety, and concentrate people with high skills in certain locations; how they can incorporate technology into machinery to improve productivity. They understand technology is part of competitive differentiation.

All major mining operations in Chile today have wireless networks installed and very good connectivity in the pit. Connectivity is key for transmitting data from the machinery, which can then be analyzed and turned into business intelligence for key decision-making.

When our trucks run around the mine they will tell us exactly where there are potholes or where road maintenance is required or the speed vehicles are going at; practical things that we circle back to our customers and also monitor."

Carlos Rivera, CIO, Soquimich:

"I see technology as a facilitator for improving processes internally. Often the concept of time to market is understood as an external thing that has to do with the speed in reaching your target market. But that starts with overcoming the internal challenges we have in our processes. Digital transformation has a lot to do with Steve Jobs' philosophy of joining the dots that appear not to be connected but later you see they can join and bring benefits. The way to respond quickly is through collaboration, making information available in the cloud so that others can collaborate.

In general my IT budget is static, or goes up slightly. You have to take advantage of the resources that you have to generate new projects that can help the business. When there are relevant projects that are more expensive, I have two options: try to obtain more funding or change my focus.

This year my boss has sent me to directly visit the mining operations to get a better idea of what workers need and come up with solutions."

Marco Orellana, CIO, Codelco:

"We have been developing the Codelco Digital initiative for several years, after realizing there was very little IT in our operations, which showed us that many of the complexities of mining could be automated.

Digitalization in mining is about survival. The biggest challenges are in the older mines, where a cultural transformation is needed. For over a year now we have been controlling one of our mines remotely from Santiago which is 1,200km away, which shows what can be achieved."