Part of innovating is making connections between things that aren’t usually connected.
Let’s see if we can look at the mining industry and maybe make some connections to whatever industry we are in.

Around 16,4 million people are employed in South Africa (as of Q1 2020) and about 350,000 are miners. That’s 2,1% of the total workforce. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s one person in 50. If you imagine 3 minibus taxis full of commuters, proportionally, one of those is a miner.

If you want to avoid contracting Covid-19, the SA government suggests we avoid going down a mine. Actually, the official advice is to avoid the three Cs — crowds, close contact and confined spaces. A mine fits that definition perfectly.

You would think that digging up the ground and crushing it is not a job somebody can do from home.

Or can you?

Like banking, retail, entertainment and even event planning, mining is an industry that can take advantage of the digital economy — the digital economy forced on us by the pandemic.
Accenture research released a report back in 2017 that said the SA mining industry alone could gain an extra R213 billion by implementing a combination of seven digital strategies.

R60 billion of that value comes in time and cost savings for customers, productivity gains, job creation and reduced carbon emissions.

We interviewed 30 top mining execs in 2019 to ask about their digital initiatives.

Of course, mines are increasingly using autonomous trucks, diggers and drills.

Drones are entering mine shafts to make sure they are safe. The drones also use imaging and AI to take photos of equipment and predict equipment failure so that preventative maintenance can be performed.

These are definitely jobs that can be done remotely.

Mines are using augmented and virtual reality to help miners dig only the most valuable ore. VR glasses can help operators repair machinery on-site, saving time and money and allowing miners to operate more safely.

Mining companies in Australia are using AI to iron out congestion in their supply chains. There are even brain sensors in the helmets of drivers to measure fatigue and save lives.

What about those promised connections?

Statistically, one in 50 of your customers is involved directly in mining, and if each of those people is supporting just three others, that proportion is suddenly 1 in 17 — nearly one person per minibus taxi.

But let’s think about how mining is using digital technology to gain that R200+ billion rand.

The industry is using artificial intelligence to smooth out its supply chains. Mines are also using AI to predict demand and customise their offerings to their customers. What could your business use AI for?

They are using automation — in their case, trucks, drills and logistics. They are using sensors and the Internet of Things — IoT. What could you use automation for, to make your operations safer, faster and more responsive? Where could you install sensors and the IoT to improve your business?

They’re using data analytics to predict failures in their machinery, and be proactive in fixing them. You have a wealth of data about your own business, and especially your customers. How could you leverage that data to create value?

And tying all this together, they are using cloud technologies to accelerate their innovation.

One of the huge opportunities of this pandemic is that we can re-imagine our businesses from the ground up. It looks like re-opening is delayed for a few months. What can we do to re-invent instead?

I’d love to know your ideas about this blog. Are the concepts pie-in-the-sky, or can you imagine borrowing some ideas from the mining industry? Drop me a line at rory.moore@accenture.com.

Rory Moore

Associate Director – Innovation, Accenture Africa

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