The Importance of Advanced Analytics in Mining

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RMES Analytics is a technology company that offers advanced analytical solutions to improve process productivity and business competitiveness.

Through the application of digital models in processes, the company analyzes equipment performance, bringing equipment information down to the plant, fleet or full process level and linking operations industries to business strategies.

Its mining clients include Codelco, Glencore, SQM, Rio Tinto, Yamana Gold, Lundin Mining, Teck, CAP and Kinross.

To learn more about the importance of advanced analytics in mining, BNamericas spoke with Alessio Arata, co-founder and CEO of RMES Analytics.

Numerical: What are your challenges as a mining supplier?

Arata: We were born as a service and consulting company in the field of physical asset management. Our big challenge was to change a business model from a service provider to a company that offers IT technologies and solutions. This involved a series of changes such as moving from a variable structure to a fixed structure with support areas, customer success and new product development, understanding the business need for a recurring solution in the time, as issues and bottlenecks evolve.

Numerical: Outside of large-scale mining, do you offer solutions for small and medium-sized businesses?

Arata: We focus on large, but this also applies to all types of physical asset-intensive businesses. Our main RMES Suite product is used in operations that concentrate more than 70% of copper production in Chile and more than 20% of global copper production, if we include our customers in Peru. The advantages of using our solution are mainly the optimization of capex and the increase of production levels thanks to the online identification of bottlenecks and the reduction of process downtime.

The profitability of capital-intensive businesses, such as mining, is largely determined by the need to get the most out of the capital invested. This involves ensuring process availability, leveraging available information to identify criticalities and project potential benefits associated with implementing improvements. To do this, we focus on quality data to determine the maximum potential of processes, assess the gaps that exist in production and take the necessary preventive measures to improve capital productivity.

Numerical: How important is benchmarking in your technology solutions?

Arata: Working with a large percentage of mining operations in Chile has provided us with relevant knowledge in the area of ​​asset performance and standardization of metrics, allowing us to make comparisons between operations. In 2016, we worked for the National Productivity Commission on a study on large-scale copper mining. On this occasion, we carried out a benchmarking of the productivity of the equipment, thanks to which we obtained the performance indicators of approximately 90% of the large Chilean copper operations. We connect directly to source information available in factories and fleets. Thanks to our technology, we were able to standardize and configure the information until obtaining the indicators, both at the level of the equipment and the processes, so that they are comparable under the same standard. This information facilitated knowledge of the existing discrepancies between mining operations. The experiment was a success and from there we have refined the technology to allow better online comparison of operations. This is relevant for large mining pools that have many operations but use different standards. The solution allows mining companies to benchmark themselves anonymously.

Numerical: How to ensure the security of your technological products?

Arata: It is essential that no one can interfere with the data and prevent the loss of information. Generally, customers prefer us to use their servers, so we host our products on their own technology infrastructure and security standards. This allows us to not pose a risk to customers, as the information, although collected through our applications, is stored in their systems. In any case, we have all the necessary security measures.

Numerical: How much should a mining company invest in technology to stay current and achieve efficiency in its operations?

Arata: Big tech companies around the world could invest 10% of their sales in R&D, or even more in some cases. However, a mining company whose objective is not the development of technologies but the acquisition of solutions, already validated, could be less so. The important thing is to invest more and more in technologies to improve production processes, information analysis and organizational management.

The mining sector, in general, has the lowest rates of digital transformation compared to other capital-intensive industries. Technological transformation has to do with a different way of doing things. It is important to define what you want to achieve with the technologies, for example, reduce costs, improve production or do less damage to the environment. Everything has to go together: the process to be changed, the people who will work, the technology that will be used in the process, etc. Technology should be seen as a means, not an end.

Numerical: What are the most interesting technological innovations that have recently been implemented in the mining sector?

Arata: At the implementation level, I highlight self-driving trucks, remote operations centers, the application of robotics for high-risk tasks, and even the use of advanced analytics to predict breakdowns or identify opportunities to reduce production losses.

Miners need to focus on their business and take advantage of technology providers, who invest in research and development to provide better equipment and solutions for mining. Therefore, they should invest in developing an organizational culture that allows them to quickly evaluate and adopt the best innovations available in the market.

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