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Automation key to unlocking $74 billion boost to the economy

The Australian technology industry will only realise the full benefit of automation in the resources sector if vendors become brand agnostic and open to collaboration with competitors, according to researchers and industry experts.

Adrian Beer, the CEO of METS Ignited, was speaking following the recent release of a report that found effective use of digital automation in the mining and oil and gas industries could add $74 billion to the national economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new jobs.

METS Ignited is part of the Australian Government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative and works with Australian suppliers to the mining industry, global miners, research organisations and capital providers to improve the sector’s global competitiveness and productivity.

Beer said Australia has the right foundation and experience to create a highly competitive resources technology ecosystem. However, it was up to the vendor community to collaborate and create a stronger domestic market that all can benefit from.

“We have every type of mining method, quarrying method, production type, every OEM in the market, and every vendor is here,” Beer said. “We have the large technology vendors, so there is no better place for a technology sector to come together.

Today, quarries use back office material management systems linked to integrated weighing systems, like the Trimble Loadrite L3180 load scale, to optimise their operations.

“We have a unique opportunity in Australia, but if we don’t pay attention we will miss out. For some reason, in Australia, we don’t seem to recognise our global strength at the macro level – the report is intended to be part of the wake-up call.”

Being an active – not passive – player

The report – titled Staying Ahead of the Game – also found if Australian equipment, technology and services suppliers are unable to support producers to automate large parts of their operations, then these producers would be forced to import advanced equipment and services, shrinking the economic opportunity for Australia.

In this scenario, Australia would become a passive recipient of technologies produced elsewhere instead of spearheading the technological progress itself.

Beer said optimisation and a high degree of productivity was critical to the quarrying sector, in particular, due to the cost of aggregate materials compared with other commodities.

Referring to his experience 10 years ago as the Asia Pacific regional leader for Actronic (the manufacturer of Loadrite scales now owned by Trimble), Beer said the adoption of back office material management systems linked to integrated weighing systems were examples back then of quarries being able to closely monitor and optimise their operations.

He also pointed to a collaboration between Boral and Metso at Ormeau Quarry as another indication of Australia’s current capabilities in this space.

“But consider how much more productive you could be if you also had the other equipment vendors, the competitor quarry operators, the universities, some of the big tech companies all clustered together to address this optimisation problem.”

In Europe, Beer said the concept of ‘clusters’ had been highly effective, with the primary goal of creating solutions that can be commercialised and attract the best talent.

“We want competitive vendors working together building technology ecosystems that sustain our industries into the future. So it is more than just OEMs being brand agnostic, it’s being willing to share and collaborate for the greater good.

“If we can get the big technology vendors to do that, then we can be the catalyst to create a market for these future products and technologies that is far bigger than any one of these vendors can service on their own.”

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