Last April, we released the Avoca Intelligence Suite — a business intelligence and analytics platform, built just for mining. Since then, a lot of folks have asked us about business intelligence and why the mining industry needs it own solution. So, we sat down with our senior analytics architect, Ed Robinson, to chat about intelligence, analytics, and why it’s more than just a spreadsheet.Ed Robinson

Let’s set the record straight: What is business intelligence, anyway?

It’s basically the idea of gaining information from data to make intelligent business decisions. It can be any data, really. At a mine, it could be payload weights or spotting times, or accounting information, or even weather conditions. The idea is, you’re not restricted to certain isolated systems — you can pull all of that data into one location and have what you need.

What does business intelligence do different from normal?

At the moment, mines have a large number of different systems. The information is geared toward operational procedures — what they need to run the different parts of the mine’s operations. That doesn’t mean it’s easily accessible for people to look at. It doesn’t mean they can find trends or use it to make meaningful decisions. There are gigabytes, terabytes of data they need to sift through. That’s not something they can make decisions on without a tool that helps them analyze it. Business intelligence is that tool.

How can mines use their data to make decisions?

Mines make decisions all the time: How they should schedule traffic, how they should dig, where they should blast — anything, really. To make the best decisions, they need to know the factors that go into the best decisions. That’s where BI helps. Sure, they can make their best guess without it. Or, they can use old data or highly summarized data. But, maybe there are factors they don’t have access to. Maybe they go through a process to access it, but it takes them a month or more to get the data and, by then, it’s not timely. Then they’re making decisions based on how the mine looked a month ago.

So, business intelligence gives quicker access to data?

It’s quicker for sure. Without it, in some cases, mines can’t see the effects of a change they make for a couple of months. They had no way of getting the feedback needed to know if the change was working in the long term.

But, business intelligence presents data in a business-oriented manner too. So, all the data is displayed in terms that miners or other people understand — accountants, mine managers, dispatchers. It can be charts, tables, whatever the end-user is most comfortable with. BI is getting into better and better visualizations all the time. It goes way beyond just an Excel spreadsheet.avoca-productivity

So, what’s the problem with current business intelligence systems?

Well, there are different types of off-the-shelf BI packages (and neither of them really work well for mining). One type is very common, but it requires a lot of time to set up and configure the various data going into it. You need a big team working for months to set it up, which just doesn’t work for mines.

Then, there are more ad hoc tools. They’re good at pulling in data and creating visualizations, but not so good at handling huge amounts of data. Even then, they’re generic packages, not ones for mining. They don’t have the formula, the data relationships, the information already loaded for it to work for mining. They need to be configured. So, there are options, they’re just expensive or otherwise limiting.

What’s different about Avoca?

It’s mining-oriented. From the very beginning, it’s organizing data in ways that mines like using data. It’s also using very modern software behind the scenes to help it manage geographical data, hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of data points (which older packages are not well-designed for). Basically, it’s already loaded and implemented a couple of different fleet management systems to make sure it’s geared toward the mines and the types of data they’re most comfortable with.

Why does business intelligence matter for mining?

If you make the right business decisions, you make money. More money. That’s what it comes down to.

Want more information about Avoca Intelligence Suite? Check out our overview video below or contact us at info@wencomine.com or 604.270.8277 to request a demo.