By Kevin Shikoluk
Mining operations everywhere are experiencing constant profitability pressures from two directions: continued commodity pricing volatility and global demand variability. Africa-based miners are no exception.
These dynamics have caused mining companies to re-evaluate business models and seek smarter, more efficient modes of operation that focus on sustainable cost management practices and improved productivity.
The mining sector isn’t unique in this regard. Many of the world’s leading industries—manufacturing, oil and gas, healthcare, and others—have also recognised this need for change. While the exact improvements vary from industry to industry, the path to transformation is similar: an emphasis on improvements at both the asset and process levels through the application of leading-edge digital technologies across the Industrial Internet value chain.
By harnessing the combined power of machine sensors, edge-to-cloud connectivity, advanced data capture, and powerful analytics, the Industrial Internet can deliver deeper insight into mining operations than ever before.
These insights can then be used to drive intelligent recommendations for improvement—from asset lifecycle management to condition-based, prescriptive maintenance programs and strategies to optimize performance within the plant. This approach has already yielded breakthroughs in improved efficiency, increased asset availability, and optimised processes in many other industries and there’s a growing track record of success in mining.
Condition-based maintenance can help reduce total maintenance costs by guiding the timing of maintenance, avoiding over-maintenance when not needed, and triggering maintenance sooner than might have been scheduled, ultimately avoiding expensive repairs from a more serious failure.
Even switching to usage-based predictive maintenance can help lower maintenance costs by avoiding performing unneeded maintenance on idle or lightly-used assets.
The incremental cost to instrument a critical asset is dropping rapidly thanks to the introduction of digital solutions within the mining space. Asset Performance Management, for example, can make a significant impact by giving real time visibility and actionable insights around the data that is captured within the mining operation.
This data from smart connected devices allows for much more precise and focused service that not only increases asset availability, but also reduces overall maintenance costs.
The power of vertical integration
The real power of these connected technologies, however, is the leverage they provide when integrated vertically across the mine.
For example, Wabtec worked with a South African operator to deploy a collision awareness system on a contractor’s fleet at their above ground mining operation. This in itself is not unique as many companies across South Africa are doing the same in order to comply with safety legislation.
What’s unique in this case is that the customer is using other solutions within Wabtec’s Digital Mine portfolio to help solve another problem: ensuring consistent feed grade of ore into the concentrator.
In this particular case, downstream processing was impacted due to the varying ore grade quality. Leveraging solutions from our Collision Awareness portfolio as well as Operations Performance Management technologies help operators blend the ore to get a consistent feed grade into the concentrator downstream.
For miners, controlling these sources of variability is ultimately the key to improving throughput and metal recovery.
Vertically integrated digital solutions are only scratching the surface of what’s possible. As this example also shows, mining companies in South Africa are actively embracing these solutions, and in doing so, are at the forefront of transforming themselves into fully fledged digital mines.
To take full advantage of the promise of the Industrial Internet, mining companies must develop an overall strategy that includes a full assessment of the continuously evolving ecosystem of solutions that will help them reach their goals.
It can seem like a daunting prospect, but by working with knowledgeable and experienced partners, the digital transformation process can be manageable and affordable to deliver exponential cost saving and productivity benefits.
At Wabtec we’ve learned that in order to make the transition to a digital mine, operators require support in multiple capacities. One of the ways we’ve been successful in assisting mining operators is by leveraging robust monitoring capabilities around the globe to better understand their operations.
Working from high-tech hubs around the world, we can monitor customer operators’ assets and operations with sophisticated software. When the software flags anomalies that require action, we work with our mining customers to drive the required action.
We also monitor ongoing processes on behalf of customer operators. This means, for example, that Wabtec’s Digital Mine can make sure control loops are finely tuned to optimizing ore grade recovery as a collective mine site.
As a result, operators are able to advance from being completely reactive to being on the front foot of taking a proactive stance and defining how they want to work based on data-based decisions.
The change management aspects of this process should not be underestimated. But in our experience, it’s eminently achievable and ultimately rewarding.
Those in the mining industry who embrace this need for industrial transformation sooner will have a distinct advantage over competitors who choose to delay their journey to modernisation and digitisation.
Kevin Shikoluk is Global Strategic Product & Marketing Leader, Digital Mine at Wabtec Corporation
CWG Plc Empowers Small Businesses in Nigeria with SME Solution
Pan-African Information and Communications Technology Company, CWG Plc has said the essence of its Enterprise Resource Planning Solution (SMERP) that runs on the cloud is to empower small and medium enterprises in Nigeria and offer them the required tools to manage their entire business.
Mr. Dolapo Orogbemi, Product Manager for SMERP, who disclosed this recently to the media, noted that with SMEs contributing massively to Nigeria’s economy and creating both direct and indirect jobs, SMERP was designed intentionally to help SMEs thrive.
“Since inception, it has been the number one goal for us here at CWG because we have always identified the potential for SMEs once they are provided with the right support.
Thus, SMERP was designed to make available enabling tools for all SMEs across Africa at a relatively affordable price and to also make their business operations lean where they can save more resources to increase profitability,” he said.
Dolapo explained that in support of SMEs, SMERP has provided an effective ERP tailored to the SME market, providing services such as Inventory Management, E-commerce platform, Accounting, Point of Sale and Customer Relationship Management tool.
He argued that one of the major reasons SMEs don’t survive beyond the early stage of their business is due to inadequate funding to scale the business and this has become a default gap in the SME sector.
But with the CWG’s SMERP solution, SMEs can take proper records of their day-to-day business transactions to present to financial institutions as proof of profitability and project business growth for them.
According to him, SMERP’s competitive edge is based on value to the SMEs where they can have access to a complete ERP solution at an affordable price, stressing that the solution enables each SME with special requirements to execute their business needs.
For more information on SMERP kindly visit www.smerp.ng to start a 14-days free trial.
Encomiums for TD Africa as Nigeria Prepares for Tech Experience Centre Launch
A number of globally renowned Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the technology space have commended TD Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s leading technology, lifestyle and solutions distributor for successfully birthing the continent’s first Tech Experience Centre.
The commendations come ahead of the October 1st launch of the centre located in the high-rise Yudala Heights on 13 Idowu Martins, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Equally important, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami is expected in Lagos to commission the Centre, with the Lagos State Governor, BabajideSanwo-Olu, alongside a number of other high profile dignitaries, expected in attendance. The event will be streamed live to millions across the world from 5pm.
In a chat with newsmen, Chidalu Ekeh, head of the Tech Experience Centre, stated that aside reducing the decision making cycle for Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), as well as other technology consumers, the Centre will also serve as a training centre for young Nigerians on latest technology.
“We are creating a path in this country where state-of-the-art technology will be accessible to CEOs, CIOs, CTOs and others technology consumers, so that they can make prompt decisions without leaving the country,” Chidalu said.
“What we have on board is a tech genius area where our customers will be able to take advantage of the partnerships that we have with the various OEMs on board.
“The Centre will afford young Nigerians the opportunity to receive world-class training on the latest technology.”
Also speaking on the reason for mobilising other tech giants to bring the massive project to life, Mrs. Gozy Ijogun, managing director (Sales) TD Africa, explained that the centre is aimed at adding value to the technology space in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.
Ijogun said: “I am sure everyone is wondering what TD Africa is doing with the Tech Experience Centre. At TD Africa, we consider ourselves value added distributors.
“We are not just here to buy and sell. We add value to the economy. For that reason, we came up with the Tech Experience Centre so that Africans can experience technology the way it should be in this part of the world.
“No other distributor can do this. TD Africa is here to add value to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem.”
The Centre, housed within an impressive eight-floor edifice, will play host to tech giants, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Dell Technologies, HP, Schneider Electric, Zinox, Philips, Samsung, Apple and Bosch, among others.
“The structure also houses a cutting-edge gaming arena, lifestyle and smart home area, café, training centre, conference rooms and expansive office spaces, among others.
Olakunle Oloruntimehin, general manager, Cisco, West Africa, expressed delight with the concept behind the Tech Experience Centre, adding that it would be a great opportunity to offer latest technologies to consumers under the same roof with other tech giants.
“It is a good opportunity to collaborate with TD Africa and other OEMs under one roof. Technology is being democratised and it is important that people come together to take this outcome forward.
“Cisco is excited not only to partner with TD Africa but also to work with other OEMs under one space to make this work,” Oloruntimehin said.
Chioma Iwuchukwu-Nweke, country manager (Nigeria), Philips, also expressed excitement with the expected launch of the project. She revealed that Philips would delight tech customers at the Centre with latest health-driven home appliances.
Nweke said: “This is a dramatisation of the phrase ‘think global, act local.’ This is what TD Africa is doing with the Tech Experience Centre, by bringing lots of multinationals in the technology space in one place so that customers will experience latest technology.
“Before now, people always take technology to be something they have to travel outside the country to experience.
“We are sure that the Centre is going to change this narrative, especially at this time when the thought of travelling is a little bit scary for a lot of people. For us at Philips, customers should expect total innovative home appliances.”
On her part, Vivian Mike-Eze, marketing communication manager, Schneider Electric, commended the vision behind the initiative.
She urged tech consumers to be ready for an immersive experience with smart home concepts at the Tech Experience Centre.
“There has not been such a centre that gathers all the tech giants together in one place here in Nigeria. So, TD Africa has really set a precedent.
“I believe that people visiting the Tech Experience Centre expect to experience technology. In Nigeria, there is really a market for advanced technology that has been ignored for too long.
“This vision by TD Africa to bring the latest technology and get customers to experience it live is a fantastic opportunity to tap into. Because of the Centre, customers do not need to travel to the US or UK to actually see latest technology.
“Schneider Electric promises customers home automation, using the smart phone concept, when they walk into the Tech Experience Centre.
“This involves having the ability to control the temperature and ambience in their homes, with just a voice command. It is easy to talk about it, but there is no better idea than experiencing it by testing the controls and seeing it live.”
In addition, Microsoft Senior Partner, Specialist-Modern Work, Josh Adekeye, appreciated TD Africa, noting that the Centre will promote customer immersive experience. He promised that Microsoft would always support the Centre, which will reduce the burden for Microsoft to fly its customers to other countries to see its latest technological rollouts.
Adekeye said: “For us at Microsoft, when we heard about the Tech Experience Centre, we knew that it was something we needed to participate in. Before now, we usually fly our customers to Microsoft Technology Centre either in Dubai or in the US.
“However, when this opportunity came, we indicated interest and supported TD Africa to achieve it. We will always support the Centre. The beauty of technology is in seeing it.
“What Microsoft brings to the table is customer immersive experience. It means the customer will see the technology, feel the impact and make their decision easily and quickly.”
Lending his voice, Managing Director, Samsung (Nigeria), CadenChiyeon Yu hailed TD Africa for galvanising other tech giants to bring the Tech Experience Centre to life, adding that the Centre will afford Samsung a great opportunity to expose customers to its latest offerings in Internet of Things (IOT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other innovations shaping the global tech ecosystem.
Meanwhile, Ayokunmi Solesi, Country Manager (Nigeria), Bosch, described the Centre as a huge landmark on the African continent, adding that Bosch was ready to bring modern kitchen appliances to the delight of customers at the Centre.
Solesi said: “This is live experience. When you see big OEMs like Bosch, Schneider Electric, Samsung, Cisco, Microsoft, among others coming under a platform, you will realise that something great is about to be born.
“This is a huge landmark, not just in Nigeria, but also in Africa. For us at Bosch, this is a very commendable initiative,” Solesi said.
The Tech Experience Centre is an ambitious project, the first of its kind in Africa, to house global technology giants under one roof, with the aim of making latest and cutting-edge technology easily accessible to Nigerians and other nationals.
Experts and economic watchers have hailed the expected launch of the centre as a major development that will shore up Nigeria’s relevance in the global technology space, while also boosting the nation’s economy.
FG Mulls Zero Charge Policy for Educational Websites
Federal government is considering a new national policy for zero rates on educational websites to allow consumption of content without charges to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on learning, according to Isa Pantami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
Pantami stated this while delivering an address at a webinar organised by Lead Inspire Network in Abuja over the weekend.
The theme of the webinar was Enhancing Virtual Learning and the Challenges of Internet Penetration in Nigeria.
Mr Pantami, represented by Mr Usman Gambo, director, Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), said the policy would contain appropriate incentives for mobile network operators and internet service providers.
The minister agreed that sufficient access to the internet was essential for the development of an informative society and that the Nigerian government was also working to increase the broadband penetration from its current level.
He noted that broadband penetration currently stands at 40.2 per cent and the plan is to make it 70 per cent by 2025.
“This is the target we set for ourselves in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan.
“It will be of great benefit to the education sector and we would focus more on enabling appropriate contents, infrastructure, capabilities for learning and teaching,” he said.
He added that few agencies under the ministry had established digital centres, capacity training centres, e-accessibility centres, school knowledge centres, e-Libraries, ICT Hubs and innovation parks across the country to propel broadband penetration.
“In just one year, we have deployed over 200 of these centres across the country and they are mostly situated in rural areas, equipped with at least 25 computers, back-up power supply and free internet service.
“In addition to providing free internet services, the centres also serve as innovation hubs and learning centres for the local community,” Mr Pantami said.
He said that NITDA had issued Framework and Guidelines for Public Internet Access to regulate government approach to deepen internet penetration and bridge the digital divide.
On his part, Umar Danbata, executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), stated that COVID-19 had created a new level for education that required a new approach.
Represented by Mr Henry Nkemadu, a Director with the commission, Danbata acknowledged that high cost of Right of Way (RoW), multiple taxation, operating expenses and economic downturn had affected internet penetration but reiterated that government was putting measures in place to ease the challenges.
Mr Sope Afolayan, co-founder, Lead Inspire Network, said the event was aimed at providing equal access to children at all levels and redirect the thinking of policymakers on the need to see the acquisition of education beyond the four walls of the classroom.
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