HxGN RadioPodcast

The holy grail of successful short interval control

As more mines embrace intelligent mining, the rift between planning and operations grows smaller. Hexagon’s upcoming integration between MinePlan Activity Scheduler and MineEnterprise helps decision makers increase production value through data visualisation and analysis.

NJ: In mining, short-interval control improves the progress of a shift by bringing field actuals closer to the target. This increases savings from equipment availability, utilisation, and production rate. However, it requires integration between short-term planning, operational decision making, and technology to make sense of the data. With Hexagon’s upcoming integration of MinePlan Activity Scheduler and MineEnterprise, decision makers gain more knowledge to improve the progress of as shift and to optimise their production value. Thanks for tuning in! Hi – I’m Neville Judd from HxGN Radio. As more mines embrace intelligent mining, the rift between planning and operations grows smaller. Hexagon’s integration between MinePlan Activity Scheduler and MineEnterprise helps decision makers increase production value through data visualisation and analysis. With us to discuss the new integration are Hexagon’s Mining Division CTO, Rob Daw and Product Manager, Dustin Meisburger. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us today.

RD: Thanks for having us, Nev.

DM: Thanks, Nev.

NJ: You bet. Glad you could join us. So, Rob, just for some context, we’ll start with you. Tell us how important it is to have an effective short-interval control process. How integral is that to the success of a mining operation?

RD: Yeah, I think the short-interval control process really bridges the gap between what we’ve planned to do in our planning group in the office, actually going through and spending countless hours perfecting and taking from a long-term strategic scheduling aspect down into your more tactical planning side of things, into an execution plan. And typically, that’s all been done in a manual phase where we’ve verbalised this information or most operations would know that you’ve got a spreadsheet that you hand over to a supervisor and that’s really about that execution plan of what to do out in the mine. Then, that process typically shows that the supervisors, the mine management group go out and drive the operators to execute on those particular aspects of it and then we try and do a reconciliation and feed that information back on, how did we go with our productivities, how did we go in terms of our compliance to the particular areas that we dug on, and things like that. So, I think once you start to implement a really effective short-interval control process, this starts to automate that process and it really starts to highlight some of the key areas in the mining value chain. So, are we drilling in the right space and at the right productivities to ensure that our excavator is going to have continued broken dirt in front of it? Are we going to be able to have enough ore and if we dig at that current rate, is it going to have enough be able to feed the crusher up into the plant? And also, understanding the impacts when equipment actually breaks down or becomes unavailable, or our utilisation rates are lower than where they are. So, I think once we plan all of this information and we push that information out to the operations and we start to execute on that, the next big piece and value of this is, how do we feed that information back from their field? So, we have all of this valuable information that the fleet management solutions are generating, and it’s really critical information that we can feed back into our planning tools. I think, by closing that loop, by having that information flow seamlessly between office and field and field and office, it really enables an operation to maximise its investments in terms of equipment, people and process.

NJ: So, this is obviously on the technology roadmap to integrate Hexagon’s short-term scheduling tool with the data hub visualisation and analysis tool that Hexagon has. Dustin, how does this new integration enhance a mine’s short-interval control?

DM: Yeah. Really, it sort of goes back to what Rob’s saying. Most of the mine sites out there, they’ve got a mine planning system and they’ve got an operation system and they can often be two siloed sets of data so, quite often, the people who are running the operations, they might not have access to the data, that the mine planners have access to, there’s maybe only a couple of licences, and then, vice-versa quite often, people are examining their production data, their KPIs, and the qualities and quantities produced, but they’re not necessarily getting tied back to the mine planner, at least not on a regular basis at a short enough interval to make a difference. So, really, what this integration that we’ve done is about, it’s about bringing all of that data together to one central place. There are a few keys to this. Number one is, you know, getting that sort of real-time aspect because as I mentioned, a lot of sites, they might do a daily comparison, they definitely do at least a weekly comparison of how they’re tracking against their plan, but quite often, that’s just simply not frequent enough. You know, we spend so much time optimising our plans and making sure that, you know, we have the optimal mining sequence and when we go and execute in the field, quite often, if you’re off for half a shift with your drill pattern, for example, not drilling in the correct area or you’re not getting the productivity that you need, that may have brought on effects on the plan. A week or two later could severely impact your ability to meet your targets for the month. So, it’s important, number one, that we’re consistently tracking against our plan with our operations data at a regular interval. The other thing that’s really important about this integration that we’ve done and what’s so great about being on the MineEnterprise platform is that we make this data visible to so many more of the stakeholders. So, I mentioned earlier about how the planning data, quite often it’s only accessible if you’ve got the licence to the planning software and usually there’s only a few of those hanging around and obviously a lot of the operations guys, they don’t know how to use that. But, when we get that data into MineEnterprise and we’re able to actually create these planned versus actual dashboards and maps and visualisations, you know, we’re able to expand the reach of that data so that everybody on site can see immediately when something is off track with the plan and they know something is wrong and they can start to take actions to address it, which is really, that’s the power of short-interval control is really getting the right information into the hands of the right people at the right time who can action it and make a correction to the plan and keep things on course.

NJ: Right.

RD: Yeah. I mean it’s really about transitioning from that being reactive in your operation to being proactive and how we can leverage this information to make those decisions faster. You know, there’s a lot of moving pieces in a mine site so the ability for us to provide that insight, that information, and for those operations to be able to make those calls sooner can save millions.

NJ: Right. So, mines traditionally have been slow to adopt new technology. I think that’s probably changed in recent years, but there’s obviously an investment of basic technology infrastructure needed. What infrastructure is required of a mine to truly take advantage of this new integration, Dustin?

DM: Well, ultimately you’ve got to have a planning system and that planning system you’ve got to be using that to break down your plan into short enough control periods. You know, you’re starting to see people do not just short-term planning but we’re also hearing something called ultra-short-term planning which, people are really getting down to shift-by-shift, even intra-shift scheduling. Like, they’re really adding a lot more detail to their plans. So, you really have to understand your weekly plan, it can’t just be seven days averaged together, you’ve really got to get down to the detail of the tactical plan so you need a tool like MinePlan Activity Scheduler that really allows you to plan out each of your pieces of equipment over the course of the shift or even shorter period lengths so that you can actually get that detail in terms of understanding. Your tons might be less one day or your metres might be less one day because that matched with what you had on the maintenance schedule. So, I mean that’s the kind of level of detail we’re talking to with our planning. So, you have to have a planning system that allows you to get that detailed. And the other thing you have to have, is you obviously have to have that detailed operations data. So, it requires a fleet management system and, you know, the system that we’re building right now, it’ll work with really high-level, powerful fleet management solutions like OP-Pro, or, if you’re at the sort of lower level, foundational level, we also have OP-Foundation which it’ll work with. But, obviously, you have to have that data available from the operations side to track against.

NJ: So, Rob, it’s important for customers to understand what solution providers are capable of in order to get a full return on their investment, it’s obviously a competitive field that Hexagon works in. How is Hexagon able to deliver full-implementation and integration support better than its competitors? What distinguishes Hexagon?

RD: Yeah. I think we’re uniquely placed in the fact that we have all of these different products and technologies under one roof. So, we’re able to understand what the intricacies are of these products, what the data sets actually contain, and we’ve done a lot of work on actually creating a bit of a data-hub and pulling, you know, really detailed information from our planning tools, from our operation tools, our safety tools, and combining that all together to give us much better insights into that full value chain. So, I think when you don’t actually understand, or you have a high-level understanding of some of the products like our fleet management system, I think, the devil is in the details, right, once you actually lift the lid back on that and start to dive in sometimes there’s things there that you expected, there’s things that aren’t there, and there’s other things in that data set that shouldn’t be there, or are, but, those systems are being built for that for that particular purpose. Not for short-interval control or anything else like that. So, I think that maybe gives us an edge on that front. That way, we have a really deep understanding of all these different technologies. I think the other aspect is that because we have very high-skilled people across all of these technologies, as well, so in our support part of our business we have our engineers, our geologists, our field technicians, our installers, our fleet management specialists, our safety specialists, they are able to bring that unique point of view. I think once we start to open up that information and that data to these types of people, they’re really excited on what the capabilities are going forward and I think we see that with our clients as much as we do internally and I think that again really puts us in a strong position with, ultimately there’s no competitors in this space, right, there is nothing that actually brings this sort of technology together as much as we are within the Hexagon space. Ultimately that’s what our strategy and our mission-vision is in the mining industry is to be that number one smart mining technology player.

NJ: Right. Interested to get both of your thoughts on this final question. As mines unlock the value of digital technology, planning and operations are being brought closer together in this continuous improvement loop, you’ve alluded to that already. Dustin, let’s start with you. What do you think will be the next advance in intelligent mining and short-interval control?

DM: You know, I think this is just sort of the start that we’re getting to where we’re talking about bringing in ultra-short-term plans and comparing them against actual mining information from fleet management system. I think once people start to unlock the potential of this they’re going to start thinking bigger, they’re going to start thinking downstream processes. So, you know, there’s a lot of operations that you’re doing out in the field, in terms of decisions you’re making to optimise your blast planning, that’s going to impact downstream processes like crushing and logistics and, plant efficiency, so I think they’re really going to want to bring in more data downstream and I think also they’ll start looking upstream, as well. So, I mean, they’re going to be wanting to understand how changes in a shift, two shifts, three shifts, you know, how is that going to go back and impact their medium-range plan? How does that impact the budget? Are they going to make their monthly targets? Their quarterly targets? So, I mean, I think we’re starting to see, and we’re looking at it as sort of very narrowly focused with short-term planning and operations, but I think that mining has a huge value chain on both ends of that and I think there’s going to be a lot of interest in understanding how what’s happening in the day-to-day process of the mine is impacting downstream and upstream.

RD: I think it’s also going to add the ability to introduce autonomy into this whole process, as well. So, I think mining we’re very heavy on autonomous, which, you know, is very much with our autonomous haul vehicles or our drill systems. But, when we actually break that down and we look at that sort of autonomously connected ecosystem, it’s how do we bring all the pieces of the puzzle to automate a process? And I think once we get our physicals and our actuals coming from the field back into office – and that’s things like utilisations, availabilities, productivities – we can then go onto the next phase of this even further and look at real-time topography and pulling that information back in. There’s been some massive advancements in the field, mineralogy, sampling, and things like that and understanding what’s happening there and then as you dig out the actual dig block . So, I think as we start to garner a lot more of that information and pull that back through, there’s definitely the concept and the idea of how we can push that into more into our dynamic planning. So, how can we set up our standards in our mine plan? How can we pull this data back through automatically and then re-run these schedules more frequently than we are today? I think even with ultra-short-term or short-term or medium-term, it’s still quite a static process. So, the more and more we can move that towards an automated solution, I think we’re going to see different trends and see different options and, who knows, that might actually change the way that our miners, our clients, actually do business. That’s the power of where this can all head.

NJ: That’s a great note to end on. Dustin, Rob, thanks so much for sharing your insights today.

RD: Thanks, Nev.

DM: Thanks, Nev. Thanks, Rob.

NJ: A big thank you to our guests, Rob and Dustin. For more information about today’s topic, visit hexagonmining.com and to listen to additional episodes or learn more, visit hxgnspotlight.com. Thanks for tuning in.