The idea that underground mining work could be performed entirely by unmanned machines is not a utopia but rather the vision of the Swedish mining industry beyond 2030. Active measures are ongoing to ensure that this vision is realised. It will require increased collaboration and the will to develop among companies and research institutes across national boundaries.
Sustainable development, productivity and equality are all definitions that are applied to future mining operations. Innovations, electrification, digitalisation and automation are ways of achieving these goals. The main theme of the Mining 4.0 encompasses all of these future aspects. It is also the main title of this international seminar at the Northern Industry event in Oulu on 24th of May 2018.
The Mining 4.0 seminar is an initiative for exploring the opportunities of closer cooperation. A good start should begin on the domestic market. The next steps comprise for example increasing cross-border collaboration, eliminating myths and prejudices, and developing new channels for networking. Once the knowledge base has been integrated and cooperation models perfected, this collaboration could achieve a lot. Keeping Nordic R&D expertise and manufacturing in Sweden and Finland. Attractive cluster expertise could also promote exports of mining technology and know-how.
Small nations are stronger together
The areas of expertise of Finland and Sweden and their opportunities within the mining sector complement each other. It makes sense to share the best ideas, solutions and experiences. Small nations are stronger together. They can offer each other local markets, expertise, partnerships and customers. The first step is to find the methods and channels for this cooperation.
The Swedish mining portfolio is well-established around the world and made more accessible in part by Business Sweden, while Finland’s offerings are pushed by the likes of Mining Finland and Business Finland. These agencies already cooperate sporadically, for example by attracting investments to Fenno-Scandinavia through GTK, SGU, Business Sweden and Mining Finland. Collaboration within the mining sector could be much more extensive. Not only due to the automation potential in the sector globally.
The maritime industry provides good examples of the benefits of working together. Cooperation among Finnish and Swedish actors offers ways in which small nations can respond to the enormous market demand. When there are more actors, price levels can be kept reasonable and time pressures under control. Companies can benefit from the best digital tools and innovations in the industry, as many solutions are applicable across sectoral and national borders.
What could two leading mining experts achieve together?
We have the expertise. Going back to my first example of development work, the automation of underground work, Swedish know-how and innovations are a driving force. Over half of the underground technology used by the global mining industry comes from Sweden, and if we include Finland, this already impressive global market share rises to 70 or 80 percent.
The history of the Swedish mining industry stretches back over a thousand years. The Mining by Sweden cluster has been developed by Business Sweden as part of the national minerals strategy, bringing the entire value chain of the Swedish mining sector under the same roof and bringing together actors within the industry. The expertise of the Swedish mining cluster is being utilised also elsewhere, for example in the modernisation and digitalisation of the mining industry in Kazakhstan. The culture of innovation in Sweden is very high, also within the extractive industries. Research and development in this field enjoys long-term State support, which makes it less susceptive to economic downturns.
Sustainable development and responsibility are at the heart of Swedish strategy for the extractive industries, Mining for Generations. There are also long-term development goals regarding wellbeing and the environment, which the Finnish and Swedish mining sectors share in common. In Finland, for example, the sustainable mining association Kestävä kaivosteollisuus ry is doing great work promoting responsibility within the industry.
Finland has strong expertise in networks and telecommunications, as well as leading research in chemistry and minerals. Finnish geodata sets the standard for other countries to follow. Just think what we could achieve by working more closely together!
Companies from both Finland and Sweden will get together at the Northern Industry event. We will have innovative Swedish new players like Mobilaris, as well as representatives of mining giants like Boliden and LKAB. Let us meet up at Northern Industry at the end of May and take our collaboration to a new level!
Senior Project Manager
The Mining 4.0 seminar is being organised as part of the Northern Industry event in cooperation with Business Sweden. The seminar will be held in English and cover the themes of the future of the mining industry and automation.
How is your company doing and what are the reasons for success or failure? What should you do next? Do you know the answers to these questions? Are you sure? You should be able to answer swiftly, any time, and based on data.
Industrial companies collect huge amounts of information with missed potential, raw data. For instance, in manufacturing, sensors constantly collect data from hundreds or thousands of measurement points. Reports are being made and some actions are being documented manually. Partially data is already in use for decision support. However, a realistic, data-driven knowledge of the state of affairs is often behind tedious work, which requires combining data from different sources of an organization, data silos.
What kinds of information would help a company to prosper and be more productive? It is very likely that these information already exist, but they need to be highlighted from the vast amounts of raw data and put into use. For example, in the area of quality, real-time information helps to prevent quality defects and costs already before the product is shipped or even manufactured. This affects your bottom line.
From hype to concrete benefits
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industrie 4.0 are comprised of elements that are not new: sensors, data transmission, data storage, and analytics. The core benefits of IIoT come from the complete package, through which data from different sources inside and outside a company is collected, processed, and analyzed in order to refine and utilize meaningful information.
Unplanned downtime and quality claims are just a couple of examples that could be prevented with essential information received in advance. Traditional tools are not capable of providing this information, whereas modern advanced analytics methods such as machine learning and deep neural networks can.
There is a lot of hype and confusion involved in discussion about Industrie 4.0, big data, and digitalization. From my viewpoint, they are all simply means to an end, which is making meaningful information easily accessible. It is all about getting more essential information than before in order to make better decisions and actions in the future.
Information drives and enhances business
Industrial companies need to be able to offer their customers added value competitively on time and on quality. Increasing efficiency has been a goal for a long time. Companies often have high level domain knowledge and long-lasting customer relations. These attributes will get them far, but with more meaningful information in hand, they will go even further.
More and more case examples are told and witnessed illustrating that IIoT is not just another fad, but a new approach to drive business. In the future, industrial companies will live and breathe IIoT and utilize all data comprehensively to be competitive and productive.
Start small, think big
The first step towards utilization of data and IIoT does not have to be an exhaustive and expensive project. Agile tests and tryouts can be more efficient in finding out directions, where to allocate resources, not to mention the speed benefits. It all comes down to figuring out the right questions: which challenges a company wants to solve and what kinds of information are needed for decision support.
When meaningful information is in the right hands at the right time, it is easier to perceive the big picture and be able to operate proactively. With IIoT you are back in the driver’s seat accompanied with a state of the art navigator.
Managing Director, Quva Oy
Ackerman is the chairman of the IoT session of the Northern Industry Congress in 26 May in Oulu, Finland.
This blog post was originally published in Finnish on Stop+Go blog on Feb. 12th in 2016.