Dassault Systèmes provides virtual universes to the mining industry
Published on : Monday 03-05-2021
Tanuj Mittal, Sales Director, Customer Process Experience – India, Dassault Systèmes.
Mining as practiced today is considered damaging to the environment. Can digital technologies help in this case?
While some forms of mining, if run inefficiently, can lead to local pollution for example, the mining sector is also playing a key role in the global energy transformation, extracting the minerals and metals for today’s electric vehicles, windmills, and other green infrastructure. Mining and metals companies have made inroads into addressing environmental and climate change concerns, the discussion on sustainability has expanded beyond these concerns. The companies within the industry and have a choice to make by speeding up their digital transformation completely. Technology is at the heart of moving from incremental improvements in sustainability in our existing system towards a very disruptive new model of production and consumption. The digitisation of the process promises to make operations more sustainable from end to end: From the mine pit to the plant, and finally, on to the port. It delivers the agility, flexibility, and collaboration that’s crucial for everyone, from the company boardroom to the rock face and the processing plants, to work more sustainably, safer, and efficiently – with greater agility. Sustainability must cut across all of this, across space, time, and value chain. It is a story of multi-disciplinary collaboration.
How do the various Dassault Systèmes products help in achieving this objective?
The mining industry is becoming even more complex, as it deals with resources that are harder to access, capital looking to be greener, and a redefinition of what profitable means with a growing focus on sustainability and quality of life. As mining companies seek to develop sustainable mining operations, improve mine planning and increase mine productivity, Dassault Systèmes delivers comprehensive industry solutions for mining companies in more than 130 countries, and at over 4,000 sites. Dassault Systèmes’ software solutions and digital innovations in technology that have been tested in many hyper complex industries enable mining and metals companies to create a complete virtual model (a virtual twin) of their operations from one end of the value chain to the other. Dassault Systèmes provides virtual universes to the mining industry to imagine sustainable innovations.
How important is the 3DEXPERIENCE platform as an enabler for the mining sector in its total activities?
Mining companies need to rethink things as systems, and reinvent them. Breaking down some of the silos between mining, processing, logistics, and maintenance across mines, including collaboration across the industry and using the full ecosystem, are keys to driving innovation. Also, to speed up the rate of change, the industry needs to create virtual twins of geology, mining, and processing. By doing so it can try out different processing techniques and different ways of extracting minerals before anything is built. Such an approach will drive rapid change and a greater level of collaboration. It will also lead to less risk.
Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform provides a collaborative digital environment that connects mining users with role-based applications on the cloud. It enables complete pit-to-port optimisation – from geological modelling and mine planning to workforce and production scheduling, supply chain optimisation, portfolio optimisation, plant design, engineering and construction, logistics planning, and more. For digital transformation in mining, geoscientists and engineers can access and leverage the full collaborative capabilities of the platform including data lifecycle management, specialised mining workflows, and approvals. They can reuse, share, and migrate Open Mining Format data from geology and mine planning applications for use with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, thus introducing a new frontier in greener mining and metals that requires digital transformation toward end-to-end sustainability.
Dassault Systèmes is known more in the area of manufacturing and smart city planning. Are there any use cases in India of such a mining project under implementation?
We have a strong mining and metal sector customer base in India which spans from Rajasthan in North India to Karnataka in South India and from Gujarat in west India to various north eastern states. These customers are a combination of private and government players that are serving the mining industry in the capacity of an exploration agency, EPC companies, captive mining organisation, merchant mining organisation, mining consultant, mine development organisation (MDO), academic and research institutions, or a regulatory body.
Today, the mining sector is facing challenges in the wake of low commodity prices, forcing companies to keep costs in check. With high-grade deposits disappearing and geographically viable deposits increasingly tapped out, mining companies are being pushed into remote locations to dig deeper beneath the surface. They are also looking at precision mining, which reduces the environmental waste and pollution associated with mining. Digital technologies including a virtual mine framework based on a three-tiered approach – operational stability, mine execution excellence and business agility – can help them to effectively execute lean practices to increase productivity and innovate.
How can the Mining sector in India become more sustainable with digital solutions, especially in the post pandemic era?
While most companies understand the importance of taking the digital path to sustainable mining in the post-pandemic world, they need a holistic approach to tackle new challenges that can impact the well-being of staff, customers and the business to be given support, guidance, and resources to transform their business models and have the right strategy. They must uphold the highest health, safety, security and environment criteria while adopting technology, standards and best practices towards achieving operational excellence. This includes the ability to quickly transform how they work to address the concerns of key stakeholders who want a more efficient and safer workplace, as well as to navigate uncertainties and be flexible and agile enough to work around disruptions.
The 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables companies to create a complete virtual twin of their operations from one end of the value chain to the other, delivering a single source of truth to all stakeholders. It enables full traceability of compliance and HSSE impacts to identify and address potential risks early on, with full traceability to support management and compliance. An integrated data platform enables teams to design new processes to prevent errors, increase efficiency, and minimise risk. Workers can use virtual twins to experience tasks and situations before going on site.
With this technology, companies can unlock the capabilities of complete digital transformation and experience the new reality of more sustainable mining and metals.
What are the challenges in democratising digitalisation in the Indian mining context?
Change management, skill development, low exposure/protection from global competition, and entry barriers for new players are some of the aspects that, when addressed, will accelerate digital democratisation. Traditionally, Indian miners have focused on initiatives to encourage low-cost labour for cost competitiveness. However, the focus on digital technologies has increased in current times, though the adoption is at a nascent stage vis-a-vis global miners. The adoption of digital technologies to optimise pit operations and equipment performance at a shift level using real-time data analytics has been limited until now in India. Globally, many of the miners have already deployed such systems.
Democratising digitalisation in mining can also increase focus on human safety, simulate high-risk scenarios, and train the workforce. Digitalisation in mining is also about broader organisational transformation and not just a ‘digital mine’. It will impact the way in which decisions are made, skills are required, and the workforce and communities are engaged, and how optimally resources, such as energy, are utilised.
The penetration of digitalisation and Industry 4.0 in the Indian mining sector can be enhanced with greater exposure and awareness of the benefits of the adoption of digital technologies. This will not only need investments by the government and mining industry but also a vibrant ecosystem to help sustain the digitalisation drive.