Historically, integration has been centered on enterprise systems incorporating all aspects of a business. It was an ambitious endeavor which required a top-down approach and other systems to conform to one central system. More often than not, these systems didn’t exist, leading companies to invest in building their own systems, particularly with regards to Fleet Management System, production, monitoring and tracking, planning and optimisation analytics and even reporting systems.
Thankfully, technology has since evolved, and along with it, the capabilities of integration. Integration is no longer about standardisation. There is no need for disparate systems to be responsible for compatibility to an enterprise system. Instead, integration has become synonymous with interoperability which enables each program to interact through an enterprise framework accepting connectivity with other systems at their strengths.
This allows the industry to realise deeper integration; more functionality without sacrificing flexibility. While technology advancements have transformed integration capabilities for the mining sector, misconceptions still remain. Below are three common integration myths that are still prevalent within the sector.
Myth 1: Integration is expensive and time consuming to implement
The belief that integration is a massive and costly initiative which requires changes across all levels of a business is simply not the case. Oftentimes, management teams perceive integration projects to take months, or even years to implement, with a hefty dollar figure to go with it. This kind of misconception stems from the early days of what integrations was— big enterprise systems tying the entirety of the business together.
Historically, if companies only had parts of the business integrated, achieving the full benefits of an integrated system weren’t possible.
However, today that isn’t the case. It is possible to have enterprise systems that only work on the parts of the business which need integration. By implementing on a smaller scale, the process becomes significantly more manageable— no longer taking months or years to complete. By focusing only on the areas of the business that benefit from integration, it is now possible to set a framework and build on top of that as your business grows and matures. New advancements in enterprise systems allow decision makers to look at their busines and evaluate aspects of the business where integration will provide value and where it’s not necessary yet. A lot of that comes back to the maturity of the business and operations to produce the inputs and use the outputs which make it worthwhile.
Myth 2: Integration is only for big companies
Another common misconception is that integration is only needed for larger companies, and that the financial cost outweighs the benefit for smaller companies. This again goes back to the outdated perceptions of integration, with the belief that enterprise systems result in lengthy and expensive implementations.
This perception is such a daunting thought for smaller companies that they get accustomed to making do without integration. However, this mentality has also led to companies implementing enterprise systems only once they’ve hit the milestone of a ‘big company’.
Today, if we take a look at how enterprise systems and integration can be applied, there is value to be brought into any size operation. As I mentioned previously, integration can be scaled with the framework only applied to the areas of the business where necessary. An example would be taking a smaller operation that runs two excavators and 10 trucks. Every single piece of equipment in a smaller operation is much more critical to the operation. You cannot afford to have a truck underperform or have extra wait times as the impact on productivity and profitability is amplified.
When applied like this the perspective changes and the value of an integration system exposed. As it is no longer a massive cost driver to implement an integration system, it’s something that every company can consider and benefit from. Larger companies may find there is a lot of value in reporting structures because it provides information on how the operation is tracking as a whole. However, in a smaller operation, productivity, tracking and responding to operational changes is more relevant. Therefore, the need and use for integration is the same, regardless of the size of the operation.
Unlike 15 years ago, we now have the ability to look at and understand what value is obtained from the different aspects of integration. We now have the ability to use the gathered data to make more informed decisions across the short, medium and long term of the operation. Integrating systems and technology across your operation into a single system paves the way for more strategic decision-making. Whether it’s a large-scale iron ore mine, or a small gold operation, integrating systems and processes drives considerable value across the business.
Myth 3: Integration is merely a reporting function
Another common myth is that integration is only useful for producing outputs and is purely an expensive reporting tool. Although historically that was the intention, we are now in a position which was not possible fifteen years ago where integration also provides significant value on the input. Although integration does have the capability to produce attractive power BI dashboards that provide operation wide visibility this is not the most valuable benefit.
By automating the data manipulation process, integration helps to reduce risk by minimizing human error and provide real-time up-to-date information. This in turn provides context to support strategic decisions made by the operations team on the short, medium, and long term
There have been many significant technological advances in the mining industry when it comes to integration. However, the largest barrier is the mindset of what integration once represented. The only way to overcome this barrier and drive change is by physically showcasing the benefits and value of enterprise integrations systems. It requires us as a vendor and clients working together with a common viewpoint and end goal of how integration looks specifically for them.
At RPMGlobal, we view integration as a framework and we work with customers to understand where they fit within the framework, what areas of the business need to be optimised and what are the key drivers they want defined. We work closely with clients to better understand how integration can help improve your operation on an hourly and daily basis.
For example, if there is a maintenance issue, and it was known something was going to be delayed that data can be used to make more informed decisions. If this process was repeated, operations would improve, on a daily basis, it’s no longer a sprint at the end. Doing the little things more efficiently means better results over a sustained period.
This is the message RPMGlobal is spreading so that operations can realise the value of live data as part of their decision making process, this is no longer isolated to planning or scheduling its around the decision making on an instant by instant basis in a live environment.
We’ve only just started tapping into the benefits of integration technology and like all things it will continue to grow and evolve over time making a more cohesive system. This isn’t just up to the vendors but the clients as well, operations need to embrace this change as it can only improve productivity. To learn more about enterprise integration systems visit our website.