Is Holistic Software the Future of Mining?

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Last month, Mining Weekly ran an article about a South African mining project and engineering company that developed a software solution they believe will revolutionize the mining industry in the near future. The development company, DRA, refers to the software as a Mine Operations Management System (MOMS). The primary goal of the MOMS software is to integrate mining production data with supply chain data to identify causes of unplanned downtime and improve process efficiency. Since mining operations are frequently challenged by high demand and diminishing throughput, every small increase in efficiency can make an enormous difference.

DRA electrical engineer, Johan de Villiers, explains the process by which MOMS retrieves information from PLCs and SCADA systems related to stoppages, yields and quality. This data is used to improve efficiency. MOMS also uses this information in conjunction with supply chain data – which is managed by a separate system – to synchronize mining and supply chain schedules. De Villiers also notes that the trucks used to transport ore frequently have on-board systems to monitor fuel consumption, payload, and tire conditions. MOMS also integrates this information.

Integrating these various systems is only one step in the process, as this data must be analyzed and used to make complex decisions about improving operations. Of course, the benefits of these incremental improvements are cumulative, and the long-term returns are enormous. Add to this the fact that MOMS is also used to interface with the enterprise resource planning systems, and an additional set of key performance data is now available to make even further refinements to the processes

MOMS software is yet another example of how industrial operations are changing today. Data integration is no longer seen as an option; it is becoming essential to companies looking to outpace the competition through improved quality and production efficiency. And while MOMS provides an opportunity to realize the benefits of data integration, it also introduces yet another software system to manage and maintain.

Imagine if these same benefits could be realized without introducing another system. What if your SCADA system allowed you to work with information from multiple channels? The same system used to monitor your production data could be used to integrate supply chain data or enterprise resource planning data. There would be no need to introduce additional software systems. In many cases, you may actually be able to eliminate one or more of your current systems by allowing your SCADA system to do more.

Of course, not all SCADA systems will allow you to take advantage of the benefits of integration. SCADA software has not always kept up with the technological advances seen elsewhere in today’s industrial environment. Processes are changing. In the same way that we have to update the hardware we use as advances are made, it is essential that we update our software as well. Using a SCADA system and HMI screens designed a decade or two ago is simply not adequate to take full advantage of the opportunies presented by today’s industrial environment. Maybe it’s time to change the way we think about SCADA.

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