The advantages of operational data in mining are both deep and broad. Clarity into processes. Moment-by-moment accountability. Real information about what happened, so your decisions are based in fact — not emotion or estimates.
But, data collection can pose a real headache. Without a fleet management system (FMS) or emerging IIoT solutions, mine personnel need to handle it the old-fashioned way: with a pen, paper, and stopwatch.
This disruption adds up. Even at a few seconds per cycle, the costs of manually jotting down cycle times and payload weights can amount to hundreds of hours of wasted time each year.
That’s why most owner-run mines now use fleet management technologies to automate the process, improving its efficiency and accuracy.
But, what about contractors?
Many mine contractors don’t see the value of an FMS built to optimize dispatching and material movement. Like anyone, though, they can still reap huge benefits from collecting accurate data about their processes.
So, what can they do?
They can use high-precision machine guidance.
How machine guidance handles data collection at mines
FMS and IIoT technologies get all the attention, but machine guidance solutions have robust capabilities for data collection. The GNSS technology that lets equipment dig, drill, and doze within centimetres of design also lets them measure mine surfaces — faster and more accurately than manual methods.
As an equipped dozer or light vehicle goes about its business, the high-precision machine guidance system captures the unit’s pitch, roll, and elevation, storing the data. For owner-operated mines, this functionality lets them blend the as-built surface with their geographical database, keeping their operation up to date and consistent.
That’s useful. But, this function may be even more valuable for contractors. With machine guidance, mine contractors can streamline their data collection and reporting — saving hours upon hours of dead time.
Consider surveying. If contractors have been hired to remove overburden, they need to compare the as-built surface with the pre-built surface to confirm compliance with the terms of their engagement. Typically, this process requires them to pause all activity while surveyors head out to the pit, set up their equipment, record their measurements, then return to the office to enter the data they collected. The whole process can take hours — just to get any data at all. Analysis takes even longer.
GNSS-based machine guidance changes all that. It merges the data collection process and the contractors’ productive work, slashing the time and attention needed. In effect, it eliminates the wait times required for surveying, letting time-conscious contractors operating on thin margins squeeze every good minute out of every shift.
Even better, though, standalone machine guidance lets contractors improve their data collection without major changes to the normal work environment. They still dig, drill, and doze, and the system does the data collection for them — no FMS, side-wide network, or cloud technologies required.
In fact, many contractors already use these systems to keep their earthmoving on target.
Simple innovations can change everything that comes after
During the Industrial Revolution, there was a profession in Great Britain known as a “knocker upper”. To ensure they got up in time for work, miners hired people to come around to their homes and knock on their doors until they woke up.
Believe it or not, it was the standard process for miners through the 1800s — until a simple invention changed everything: the alarm clock.
It sounds archaic now, but this historical tidbit raises an important question: What mining process is normal right now, but could disappear if a simple solution became available?
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