Connected Systems and Information

Paul Beesley explores why the adoption of industry standards is crucial when implementing an integrated operational platform.

The industry has been subject to endless exhortations preaching the digital mining transformation with the hype generally surrounding topics such as artificial intelligence, automation and data analytics. However, companies that are looking at the more advanced components of the digital mine need to remember that the foundation is and always will be connected systems and information. There will be a time to utilise cutting-edge technology, but only when it’s built upon the basis of seamless communication across internal departments and enterprise boundaries.

Given the large amounts of complex data that needs to cross over various business process boundaries and between different departments and supporting systems, the adoption of standards becomes a corner stone for any solution. ISA-95 is an ‘open’ standard that defines integration across systems and allows data to be used outside of the silos it is often kept. Officially known as Enterprise-Control System Integration, ISA-95 enables true digital transformation by breaking down the rigid data silos that are preventing data from becoming up-to-date information that can provide real insights.

ISA-95 was originally developed as an open framework for manufacturers to build a consistent data model that would allow information to flow freely across production, maintenance, quality and inventory operations in a manufacturing environment. Mining has generally lagged behind in the adoption of standards because of the increased complexity and variation between different operations. Despite this, tools such as business-to-manufacturing mark-up language (B2MML) allow ISA-95 to simplify communications between enterprise and execution systems.

For those mining companies looking to digitally transform, ISA-95 standards have become an essential aspect. At RPMGlobal there is a firm belief in the need for systems to seamlessly interoperate to deliver real value back to the customer. As part of the commitment to enterprise integration, RPMGlobal are active participants in the Global Mining Guidelines Group and are voting members on the ISA-95 committee. RPMGlobal understands the modern mining operations eco-system consists of several different solutions and these solutions need to integrate to provide the next level of productivity improvements.

For the customer, this means they can plug and play with various solutions to meet their mine’s unique demands, regardless of the solution’s vendor. In last year’s IDC FutureScape report, it was predicted that “by 2020, 30% of mining industry leaders will have defined and implemented platform strategies to create integrated environments across equipment, integrating maintenance, planning and scheduling and execution” (IDC FutureScape, 2017).

This group will be at the forefront of the digital transformation. Those that have implemented open industry standards such as ISA-95 have the necessary cross-departmental integration that will enhance the capabilities of cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence and automation. However, investing in this type of innovative technology before adopting industry standards will be inefficient and costly. Only once there are inter-connected systems and information flowing freely across organisational boundaries, can companies look at the most innovative new technologies to improve productivity, efficiency and safety.

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