Industry News

Are you prepared for the fourth industrial revolution?

Two reports about innovation and disruption recently crossed my desk. Deloitte Access Economics’ Tracking the Trends explored the key issues for mining companies as the fourth industrial revolution gathers pace.

Aurecon’s Easy Life, Complex Technology paper reported that up to 60 per cent of building and property industry professionals believe their organisations are unprepared for the Internet of Things (IoT) – or understand how it could assist their businesses.

While these reports examine the mining and built environments, their points are salient for the quarrying industry. The IoT is applicable to numerous industries in the way it links artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, automation, analytics and the cloud to business systems.

Many of these concepts exist in the quarrying environment. Many suppliers to the industry already offer AI, machine learning and analytics as part of fleet management packages and mine planning programs (eg the Trimble load and haul connected solution outlined on enables quarries to measure the outputs of their workers, plant and equipment).

{{quote-A:R-W:250-Q:"The internet of things links AI, machine learning, automation, analytics and the cloud to business systems"}}Further, devices and sensors on processing plant and equipment can identify the potential for blockages and stoppages, or warn operators when parts need replacement. Much of these new technologies are readily available, either as standard or as options, and the producer doesn’t have to invest much capital in them at all – either financial or intellectual.

However, it is likely large and small aggregate producers, like their mining and building counterparts, still have a way to go before they understand exactly how the IoT functions and can assist their operations.

For example, Deloitte reports that miners are already investing significant capital in new technologies to not only raise productivity and improve efficiencies but address broader issues of risk, safety, diversity, sustainability, transparency and future project planning. To paraphrase the Deloitte report, mining companies have recognised they must adapt not only to the technical “disruption of industry” but the disruption from “changing standards and attitudes”.

The quarrying industry isn’t immune from these issues but there are encouraging signs it’s not far behind. Volvo CE, for example, has successfully trialled the world’s first “emissions-free” quarry with a fleet of all-electric load and haul plant. It is inevitable that as quarries adopt more cost-effective, “friendlier” technologies and processes, internal and external stakeholders will gradually appreciate the scale of their contribution to the built environment.

At the local level, we’ve previously reported on the “digital quarry” approach implemented at Stonemaster Quarry in Brisbane between Fulton Hogan, Position Partners, Donnelly Blasting Services, and Cement & Aggregate Consulting. It’s a great example of an integrated technical approach to quarrying from different parties and to paraphrase Deloitte again, a “digitisation” of the supply chain – ie of organisations along the chain breaking down “operational silos” and achieving efficiencies, enhanced asset utilisation and higher productivity.

Further, Aurecon has reported that fantastic opportunities beckon in the future as engineers explore innovative ways of strengthening and “smartening” roads (eg through self-healing concrete, solar panels, illuminated road markings, etc). As generators of the raw product, why couldn’t quarries contribute to this space?

The IoT sounds daunting but it’s not to be feared or dismissed. Is your organisation ready? And should you think about how you can tailor the IoT to your operations?

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