Previously I’ve written about how industrial companies are facing dramatic shifts in the way the success of their business is being measured. 21st century investors, customers and employees demand a company not only achieves its financial targets but also operates sustainably too. The good news today is that new digital process intelligence solutions, based on artificial intelligence (AI) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) open platforms can help them achieve both sustainable processes and higher operational effectiveness.
Industries must adapt process workflows to reduce their carbon footprint while also increasing throughput and optimizing value chain efficiency. This is particularly true in the Mining industry and leaders are redefining their strategic objectives and priorities as sustainability issues take center stage on the corporate agenda.
Why is this so important to business growth in mining?
According to McKinsey, Mining is currently responsible for 4 – 7% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. This drives pressure on the industry from communities, regulators, and corporate customers to decarbonize operations and decrease resource consumption.
Today many mining operations find themselves with technology which was deployed on an ad-hoc basis, without a clear understanding of the specific end to end needs of the typical mining operation. The resulting siloed data sources and restricted data access have constrained the industry for decades, placing limitations on productivity, efficiency, sustainability, and safety.
Fortunately, today there are new scalable, pre-packaged, tailored digital solutions which combine with the trend towards information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) convergence to enable new data access and analysis opportunities. These including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) driven analytics to optimize production performance. Today’s technologies and trends can help mines to increase sustainability, reduce carbon footprint and optimize operational performance, all at the same time.
Empowered workers create business value
Today plant’s staff often lack the insights and decision support they need to sustainably optimize mining processes. Operators, maintenance, and other mining staff are unable to work proactively to prevent issues and improve processes.
IIoT with the right analytics can yield the business insights needed to empower staff to:
- Understand how their actions and decisions impact overall profitability in real time.
- Shift from a reactive to a more productive pro-active approach to addressing and eventually avoiding issues.
- Establish benchmarks with easy access to operational trends and identification of process anomalies.
Open, data sharing and connectivity to all process devices in the plant (regardless of who made them) is required if process intelligence solutions are to generate rapid payback and effectively support more adaptable, scalable operations.
New multi-site process intelligence solution delivers fast ROI and higher efficiency
The ability to quickly gather, connect, and analyze complex operational data sets is essential if industrial operations are to gain the maximum competitive advantage from AI and IIoT based process intelligence solutions. Digital platforms and AI can enable more efficient asset utilization, reduce waste, improving operational and sustainability benefits across the entire value chain.
These solutions deliver new capabilities to analyze production data in near real-time, improving situational awareness and building the predictive insights needed to empower staff as they improve production quality, throughput, and delivery speed.
Recent projects with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Plant Advisor ̶ Process Intelligence have yielded process and operational performance efficiencies. These gains have positively impacted business results, improving profitability, value chain optimization, and operational sustainability.
Application Example: Ball Mill
Recently a customer used Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Plant Advisor–Process Intelligence solution in a live Ball Mill application. The solution consists of software apps, AI engines, “soft sensor” technology with access to Service Bureau experts and allows mining operation staff to access process variables and the ball mill’s 15 KPIs in near real-time.
The new system makes particle size and distribution information available to operators once every 15 minutes instead of the traditional frequency of twice a week (after laboratory sampling). The result is more rapid process adjustment and optimization and a significant reduction in problems caused by particles which are too large or too small.
Deployment of the EcoStruxure Plant Advisor–Process Intelligence solution has resulted in the following gains:
- Up to 3-5% improvement in production volume
- Significant reduction of water and energy consumption
- Payback and implementation time in less than 6 months
- +5M euros savings per year, per site
Benefits at various process stages have optimized overall unit operations, (including sub processes) resulting in improved KPIs both up and down the value chain.
They’ve generated millions of Euros in savings for the company annually at just one production site.