In recent years, companies in the mining and tunnelling business have expanded from supplying products to providing a broad range of services, as well. Given the unique challenges of working underground, what’s the next step in the development of these services?
In mining and tunnelling, everything begins with safety. This is where an experienced service provider with complete process knowhow can really add customer value because their services can improve both productivity and safety. Suppliers may provide their services separately or as long term service agreements, but the life-cycle approach, where a single supplier takes responsibility for the whole range of services, is increasingly common. Additionally, and especially in new locations with a fresh workforce, suppliers will also offer personnel training. This ensures that equipment is being used properly, making operations safer, while also improving efficiency and productivity. Simply put, skilled operators do better, safer work.
Expertise and skill can also drastically reduce waste and emissions. This is because sprayed concrete is used to support and reinforce tunnels, and concrete production creates a significant amount of CO2 emissions. Therefore, minimizing concrete use doesn’t just save money, it also reduces emissions. Combining efficient logistics with the optimum concrete mix and skilled concrete application can reduce concrete use, and therefore CO2 emissions.
Digitization now offers opportunities to add further value for customers. With detailed information about machine utilization rates, process performance, material consumption, parts wear and much more, it’s possible to identify areas for improvement. And, by following trends and data over time, wider efficiencies can be found. In addition, digitization enables the development of safety systems so, for example, safety alerts can be sent to mobile devices to ensure that they reach the right people as soon as possible.
However, transforming the service business is not just about technology, it’s also about people. Suppliers with process knowledge can provide customers with training and consulting on how to improve their processes – both material consumption and process through-put time. These savings can be significant.
Because everything is measurable, it can also be discussed. This makes it easier for service providers to demonstrate the value of their services to a wider range of stakeholders. Real savings and benefits can be presented. Predictive maintenance and maintenance schedules can be planned together with the maintenance management and supply chain team.
Digitization provides clear data, which makes it easier to be understood in a multicultural environment. This is especially important with life-cycle services where the long term benefits can be much greater than the short-term costs. Demonstrating clear customer value is a great way to ensure customer loyalty.
Nowadays, the IoT also extends to mining and tunnelling, which enables connectivity with equipment and processes underground.
Customers can get technical support, remotely. Support services can see data from customer sites where connectivity available, including equipment and spares availability, as well as the inventory at the customer’s site and at local service centres. This improves the reaction time to customer challenges and improves the reliability of their daily operations. Typically, the customer will have access to a portal provided by the service provider, which offers the necessary information and lets the customer buy spare parts and services online.
In addition, remote access makes it much easier for service centres to scale up and serve more customers at more locations. Since there is less need for travel, the support can be provided instantly. The requirements for a digital service platform start from understanding the customer’s needs – the service provider’s internal operations need to be in place before they can add value to the customer. With an end-to-end approach, every phase of a project can be taken into account, from consulting and specification to production optimization and fleet management. The end result should be a well-planned digital service platform that can serve all customer applications, including services, sales and operations.
Helping customers grow
Because service providers have a good overview of the entire life-cycle of mining and tunnelling projects, they are ideally positioned to help customers start up new projects and support operations. An expert service provider makes the customer’s life significantly easier and it saves them time and costs. In addition, they can help make their customer’s operations scalable, providing the equipment, services and know-how to help them grow profitably.
In developing markets, the scale of new projects can be huge and the logistics can be challenging. Even finding qualified personnel can be difficult. That’s why being able to provide data from the annual material budget to the daily maintenance requirements is so valuable.
Business offerings are also increasingly data-driven. By combining continuous data with years’ of experience from the field, it’s possible to calculate costs and potential savings. This enables service providers to offer different types of earning models such as fleet availability agreements and process performance management. In fact, with the level of detail available, it is now possible to offer for example cost per hour pricing.
All in all, services for mining and tunnelling are increasingly focused on performance, and behind this you will find service providers with years of experience and a dedication to safety and doing things right. Now digitization is here, it will help them do it even better.
About the Author
Mikko Immonen is the Senior Vice President of the Services Business at Normet Group. He has over 10 years’ leadership experience in the global service business, especially in performance services.
Mikko is always looking for new and better ways to do things, and at Normet he drives service growth, performance and safety. Normet Group is based in Finland and specialises in serving customers in the underground mining and tunnelling business.