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The growing clamor for sustainability while extracting dwindling material resources has led to impressive innovations in mining. The industry is increasingly seeing use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — where connected devices relay information — and more, which have brought about a dramatic increase in efficiencies.
But leveraging these innovations needs an ecosystem that is agile and mobile, a framework that enables workers to access insights from this technology to mine productively.
Key Challenges to Productivity
The mining industry has a unique set of challenges. Namely, it’s working with a finite set of mineral resources. Additionally, having to run operations in a greater number of remote areas poses a key speed bump to productivity today and in the near future, as more readily accessible regions are explored.
The trifecta of remoteness, hazards and the need to access real-time data presents a special challenge: Industry workers need mobile platforms that can work effectively in those remote areas, empowering workers to leverage meaningful insights in real time, at the edge.
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Traditionally, the industry has used paper manuals and documentation as the only workhorse that can be utilized in hazardous conditions. But as innovation in mining continues to heat up, so does the need for rugged devices.
Productivity Enhancements That Mobile Platforms Deliver
Mining technology can benefit from ruggedized mobile devices in a number of ways. Above all, the advantage of mobility is its ability to deliver connectivity even in remote areas. The advent of 5G is further expected to enhance this capability. Many apps used in the mining industry can be functional offline, so while connectivity is not always a requirement for all operations, it helps to enhance productivity in many instances.
Here are some instances where rugged devices deliver important productivity enhancements in mining:
1. Hazard Reporting
Innovations in mining include live monitoring of the working environment to accurately gauge hazardous gases and materials. Rugged mobile devices are especially useful partners under these operating conditions. Supervisors can remotely monitor working parameters and signal appropriate messages to workers to notify them of environmental concerns.
While U.S. worker fatalities in mining have been steadily decreasing, down to 22 in 2018 from 85 in the early 2000s, industry equipment and hauling continue to remain a challenge, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Safe operation of these devices through improved connectivity can help decrease this number even further.
Machine learning algorithms can predictively gauge when mining equipment is going to fail, sometimes simply by measuring the vibration patterns it generates. Workers using rugged mobile devices can access this data at the point of use, and proactively attend to failing equipment, thereby improving uptime.
3. Task Management
Mining industry workers, no matter how spread out they are over various locations, can all access the same enterprise management system through a secure mobile device management (MDM) platform and check off tasks efficiently. Eliminating paper this way keeps all workers focused on outstanding deliverables and greatly improves task management.
4. Resource Yield in Real Time
Mobile devices can send and receive crucial intelligence with real-time analysis of where to dig next. For example, IoT technology at the end of drill bits can relay information about how much ore is actually present in each seam that workers are operating on.
Mining technology and innovations in the industry have accelerated to the point where advanced solutions such as machine learning and IoT need to be leveraged to see continued revenues at scale. Such an environment makes a strong case for mobility. The problem is that the mining industry is also rife with worker hazards and harsh natural conditions. This means it’s not enough for workers to simply use any off-the-shelf mobile devices.
To leverage innovation in mining and avoid fines and penalties, the industry also needs secure, ruggedized mobile devices designed to meet OSHA stipulations. The Pepperl+Fuchs Tab-Ex® 02, built off of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Active2, is specifically designed to comply with GHS requirements, and can deliver efficiencies in a number of ways and keep enterprises abreast of the competition.