Your exploration company needs a digital strategy. Here's why.
Mining leaders are all too aware of the challenges faced by the industry.
From increasing regulations and safety concerns to rising costs and the need for greater efficiency to counteract contracting budgets, the modern mining landscape is challenging.
Meanwhile, the modern mining manager is expected to:
- find opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce costs and gain new insights
- stand out from competitors and secure investment funding
- prepare the company for the future by responding to constant change, new technological developments, regulations and other challenges
- operate sustainably and with an increased focus on ESG, not to mention,
- find the next orebody, deeper under the surface than ever before - and at a greater cost than ever before.
So, how do you rise to these expectations and remain competitive in the industry?
The opportunity of Mining 4.0
Mining 4.0 represents many opportunities that can be leveraged to respond to the changing mining landscape. The rise of technology and digital tools is set to change the game regarding how people work together. It's something that we're already starting to see right now.
However, many mining teams aren't positioned to make the most of these new opportunities. Some are even at the risk of falling behind - or missing the boat altogether.
Where are mining companies going wrong?
Our team at CorePlan sees a common pitfall when talking to mining professionals at conferences, at the pub, and in Zoom meetings. It's a well-intentioned but misguided focus on individual technologies and software. This hyperfocus on implementing one or two specific tools to ‘fix the problem’ is often at the expense of team usability as well as the bigger picture of the organisation, long-term. .
Yes, it's digitisation, but it's not digital transformation - as they intended it to be.
One example of this in action is going down the custom software route. This is where a company opts to build a specialised product for one step of their exploration workflow - but that product doesn't "talk" to any of their other products. All of the data is locked in one place. So, whilst it might do one part of the work well, it's causing a hassle with everything else around it. It's created a disjointed way of working that's a really inconvenient part of the team's day.
A second example on the opposite end of the spectrum is opting for products that can do 'everything', but each step is incomplete. This creates frustration and sends the team back to spreadsheets for basic tasks - perhaps even abandoning the software altogether - along with the time, energy and money spent getting it up and running in the first place.
Where is the happy medium - and long-term plan?
The problem with not having a strategy
What's underlying both these examples, and so many more, is that there's no strategy driving these ad-hoc decisions. There needs to be a concrete plan for incorporating technology into the business.
Without a strategy, you risk being stuck with a heap of expensive tools and digitised data with no way of bringing them together. This is a big problem for exploration teams because data is your only asset until you find a resource. You need the data to work for your team, not your team working for the data.
Implementing a digital strategy is one way that Managing Directors and Exploration Managers can be better prepared for mining's digital future. It's your guide to going beyond digitisation to complete digital transformation.
What is digital transformation?
Digital transformation involves integrating digital tools into the workday and existing operations, processes and culture to transform how the team works together over time.
Digital transformation goes beyond simply integrating and using technology. It requires the entire team to embrace a new mindset around how technology and data are used in every stage of your workflow to empower people to focus on discovery.
Successful digital transformations empower managers to make data-driven decisions across the business, from day-to-day operational decisions to the strategic level.
How can a digital strategy help?
A digital strategy can help your team leverage the power of new and developing technologies to streamline your operations, increase efficiency, reduce costs and make better use of data.
It's your company's roadmap for how it will use digital tools and technologies to create a competitive advantage and adapt to the changing demands of the industry. This can involve adopting new technologies, refining existing solutions, or integrating tools into current workflows and processes.
A written strategy helps your whole team focus on the bigger picture by taking a holistic view of your operations and avoiding getting bogged down in day-to-day problems. It also provides decision-makers with a framework for making decisions that align with business goals in the long term.
What should you include in your digital strategy?
Digital data management (digitisation)
Your digital strategy should include a plan for how your company will collect, store and analyse data in a digital format (no more paper!). This will ensure that you're able to make data-driven decisions and acquire insights by being able to capture and analyse data at scale.
Something that stops or delays a lot of mining companies from digitising is the idea that all data must be 'cleansed' before moving to new systems. But the reality is that this isn't really necessary a lot of the time, and the data can be integrated or backlogged into the new system over time.
Some software may even have automation that can help you clean up your old data faster than having someone do this manually.
Digital tools and software
Digital tools and software can assist your team in automating data collection and analysis and increasing the data's accuracy. Modern software can provide real-time insights that can inform on-the-spot, data-driven decisions that help you save time and money.
The mining tool and software market is transitioning from traditional purchase and licensing models to subscription-based models that give buyers more flexibility. Lower prices also make technology more accessible for everyone, including Junior companies.
However, with this comes an increase in the number of providers to choose from. Mining companies are now faced with more decisions and trade-offs than before.
Creating an organisational technology map is one way to make sense of the pain points in your workflow and direct your search for better solutions. Prioritising open software (software that allows for easy data sharing with other systems) in this search will allow for greater connectivity across functional areas and teams.
Here are some more things you could consider:
Automation presents a huge opportunity for mining teams to speed up and scale work processes and productivity. It can replace physical work using robots or autonomous trucks and drill rigs. But, it can also be applied to intellectual and office-based work such as data processing and analysis.
Automation doesn't mean removing people from their jobs. It means removing the fiddly, time-consuming tasks like manually compiling, checking and transferring data between systems to free up time for value-driving tasks that benefit the business.
It's important to prioritise automation as this will help you scale up your operations quickly and cheaply when you make your next big hit.
In the early days of mining software, many companies relied on ERP mining software that covered many business areas and tasks. Whilst ERPs could cover a breadth of needs, they didn't address them adequately. Today, we're seeing a shift toward managers choosing highly specialised products to complete specific tasks or areas and connecting them into one system.
Enter the need for interoperability in your digital strategy. Interoperability enables these independent products to connect to create a wholly integrated workflow system.
Another digital tactic to consider is how you will protect your company's digital assets and data from cyber threats. Mining businesses are a popular target for cyber-attacks because of the high value of the knowledge and assets held within the industry.
Until you make a discovery, data is your most important asset. This makes it critical to have a plan to prevent and respond to cyber incidents.
This is the case at larger companies with the budget to roll out cybersecurity programs and education. But what about the Junior and small companies that don't have the budget for an IT department? No worries, you can still get the ball rolling on cyber security. Our free and easy list of cyber security tips for small mining companies is a great place to start your cyber security journey.
Regarding software, cybersecurity should also be built into your products. Assigning user roles and permission-based access controls can protect sensitive data and only make it accessible to those who need it to complete essential job functions.
Incorporating good governance into a digital strategy is a way to create failsafes that ensure your operations are compliant with industry regulations and standards.
A well-designed digital strategy should have governance embedded into the digital workflow. This could include recording, tagging, cross-referencing and approvals, and cyber security. Built-in workflows with tick-off requirements can ensure nothing important or legally required is missed. This is particularly important in a future where people work with multiple systems. Technologies should also block tasks and alert you when they are blocked. For example, drilling can only be commenced if a POW or authorisation is present in the system.
An incremental approach
Sometimes the key is just to get started. A digital strategy isn't just about the end result - it's about how you will get there and the immediate, middle and long-term goals you want to hit along the way.
Taking an iterative approach to the journey means you can start seeing results much sooner. By implementing technology in a planned sequence instead of all at once, you'll be better positioned to respond as issues and new findings arise. This gives you the flexibility to pivot if your needs change and reduces the risk associated with an immediate overhaul of your business.
Where to start your digital strategy journey
The first step with any strategy is identifying the specific challenges and goals you want to address.
Here's a list of 5 trends affecting exploration managers that might give you some inspo for where to start.
This can help you to prioritise the order you'll tackle each of the components of a digital strategy and what success looks like.
Once you have developed a scope for your digital strategy and success criteria, it's time to think about which tools and technologies can help you reach your goals.
If success looks like:
- saving time and money by automating repetitive tasks
- increased accuracy in data collection and analysis
- standardised processes and reporting across your drilling campaigns
- access to real-time insights to make data-driven decisions
- a team focused on discovery without the distractions of manual paperwork
Then drill program management software like CorePlan could be a fit for you.
Our experienced team has helped exploration teams of all sizes to transform their operations. They can provide the guidance and support you need to streamline your operations, increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Schedule a free demo with our success team for a confidential discussion about optimising your operations using digital technologies over Microsoft Teams or Zoom today.
More from our blog
CorePlan is a cloud based operations platform that helps people in mining work better together.
Exploration teams at Mining Companies (and Exploration companies) use CorePlan's Exploration Hub to plan, run and manage their drill programs.
Drilling Contractors use CorePlan's Drilling Hub to capture data from the field, share the data with their clients (which happen to be exploration companies and mining companies) and then invoice them.
As a modern SaaS platform you are able to easily subscribe and get started in a matter of days.