Image of mining engineer overlooking pit

It's no secret these are tough times for mining. Commodity prices are reaching historical lows. Ore grades are declining. Stakeholder expectations keep rising (and operating costs with them).

So, it's little surprise that Deloitte's annual Tracking the Trends report says operational excellence is the industry's top issue for 2016. As most mines have exhausted their quick wins, they need to eliminate any lasting inefficiencies to stay profitable.

In 2016 though, operational excellence means technological excellence. Every mine relies on heavy machinery, fleet management systems, GPS positioning, and other tools to drive returns. The mines that succeed are the ones making the most of these solutions.

How can you squeeze the last drops of value from your systems?

You've got a few options.

1. Training

Training can turn lagging technology on its head. Any system is only as good as its user, so it's vital that your crew apply every bell and whistle. If a few hours of training in person or at a computer can shave even one minute from an operator's haul cycle, a mine stands to reap dozens of additional loads this year — and every year after.

2. Analytics

Deloitte also highlights the growing importance of analytics in mining. Most mines collect enormous amounts of data through fleet management systems, OEM controllers, and other sensors. The challenge lies in turning that raw data into real intelligence. Business intelligence and analytics tools connect mine data with ERP systems, maintenance records, and supply chain tools. Together, they offer a wholesale analysis of the entire enterprise. They make it easy to tie capital to mining outcomes so decision-making stays accountable to stakeholders.

3. Scalable technology

Of course, the obvious way to achieve excellence is to use the right technology in the first place. No one device or piece of software works for every mine. Some sites struggle to maintain an overpowered system they acquired when times were flush. Many more mines muddle through with outdated solutions that no longer meet their needs; they need a new system, but there's no budget for an upgrade.

"It's important for companies to consider the full range of potential scenarios," says Eduardo Raffaini, mining leader at Deloitte Brazil "... from their options to grow should the market turn, to their response strategies if prices continue to plummet."

Scalable technology provides an answer. For instance, the Wencolite fleet management system starts with the core functions that drive real ROI. But, its upgrade potential means that mines stay primed to expand as soon as the markets rebound. They don't have to wait for a whole new system and its long purchasing and deployment cycle.

"It's important for companies to consider the full range of potential scenarios — from their options to grow should the market turn, to their response strategies if prices continue to plummet."- Eduardo Raffaini, mining leader, Deloitte Brazil

Operational excellence may be important right now, but it has value in its own right. Training, analytics, appropriate technology — they trim the fat so operations can run without wasting time, material, or money. They're the smart way to stay ahead while riding out the current downturn.What can your mine do to stay leaner and meaner in 2016? Let us know over on LinkedIn...

Want to know more about scaling technology? Read our backgrounder on upgrading fleet management systems.