Revolutionising Mining operations through informed decision making

Ignia worked with the world’s fourth largest iron ore producer, Fortescue Metals Group, to deliver a mobile business intelligence solution that is shaping up to reap Fortescue an estimated $30 million in annual cost savings. The solution provides reporting tools to on-site field operators via mobile devices at the iron ore mines, giving the team a near real-time view of how operations are tracking against production plans and allowing supervisors to be in and around the mining pits.

A vision to increase operational efficiency

Continually looking for ways to drive productivity improvements, Fortescue engaged Ignia to pursue an ambitious goal to empower employees in the field to make better informed decisions.

Ignia partnered with Fortescue to deliver the Short Interval Control (SIC) decision support system to address the challenge of not having real-time data on hand. The system provides reporting tools to on-site mining supervisors with a near real-time view of how operations are tracking against production plans, via a series of sophisticated business intelligence dashboards, delivered to Windows-based tablet devices.

Feeds of data are pulled together from fleet management systems that track trucks, diggers and other mining equipment, as well as the SCADA systems that control and monitor fixed plant.

Previously, supervisors had to wait up to 12 hours to receive progress reports, generated manually at the end of each shift, to gauge the day’s productivity.

The data is now at the supervisors’ fingertips – presented as either intuitive visual dashboards or as rich data.

“Short interval control had a significant effect on our mining department. For example, the big RH340 diggers are now 11% more efficient – each machine producing an additional 340 tons per hour.” – Taken from the Fortescue Gartner BPM Award video.

These efficiency improvements are shaping to reap some $30 million in annual cost savings for Fortescue and in 2014 the team was presented the Gartner Business Process Management Excellence Award for the SIC project.

Building on the success

Following a successful first phase of the SIC project Fortescue continued to work with the Ignia team to expand on the SIC dashboarding capabilities, with successful implementations across the Solomon and Cloudbreak mine sites.

In addition to the SIC reports and mobile dashboards, Ignia brought real-time dashboard reporting to the Ore Processing Facilities (OPFs) at the Cloudbreak, Solomon and Christmas Creek mine sites, along with near real-time dashboards for rail and port operations.

These dashboards complement the SIC reports and have allowed the business to track production rates against daily targets. Fortescue’s investment in mobile devices for its staff enabled the SIC project to reach more employees across remote locations.

“Fortescue and Ignia partnered to deliver secure operational data and reporting to a wider group of operational staff via a number of delivery platforms which are available 24x7” explained Nick Owen, IT Business Manager at Fortescue Metals Group.

In order to drive further cost reductions, the SIC dashboarding capabilities have been extended to provide the following insights:

  • Mining Dashboards: Real- time, coherent visibility of the mining operations. For example, analytics pertaining to machinery and equipment performance. This allows the team to spot problems and opportunities as they occur and respond early.
  • Andon Dashboards: Real-time visibility of the processes running through the Ore Processing Plants (OPF) and Train Load Out areas (TLO).​ This allows Fortescue to monitor and improve ore processing to meet the needs of the business and provides near real-time visibility of any processing issues. These insights enable the team to make informed decisions and take appropriate action.
  • Mining Historical Reports Dashboards: Richer analysis of data including historical analysis. While this capability was previously available, preparing the data was a time-consuming process, meaning information wasn’t available to operators during their shift. Analysts can now use trends help to measure key performance indicators and use past data to design improvements for current and future processes.

Analysts can now use trends to help measure key performance indicators and better leverage historical data to design improvements for current and future processes.

A key technical objective was to ensure that all near real-time reports are delivered to the devices as fast as possible. In addition, the SIC project ensured that a consistent ‘look and feel’ was applied across all operational reports along with the ability to automate business critical reports, eliminating paper based reporting.

The project was delivered using an agile delivery approach, working in three-week sprints.

Mr Owen described the process,

“Using the Agile method enabled the team to gain continual business personnel involvement to help refine the product – this feedback was a critical component of the delivery cycle, and led to various improvements and enhancements.”

Benefits of precise, data driven decisions

Time management in a mining production environment is a critical success factor. An efficiency gain of 1% can mean millions of dollars for the bottom line. Getting the data out of the control room and into the field has brought a number of key benefits to Fortescue:

  • Informed decision making: Supervisors use the data to recognise and rectify issues mid-shift. For example, data can be used to move trucks from different pits to optimise the fleet and maximise productivity.
  • Cost savings: Analytics of scenarios including production variations allows the correlation of process improvement with C1 cost reduction.
  • Quicker response time: Supervisors and mine control can review reports throughout the shift and make immediate operational changes if the report highlights issues.
  • Easy to consume data: Summary charts and detailed performance reports simplify huge volumes of complex data and display this in real-time.
  • Leveraging the past to design the future: Historical data enables Fortescue analysts to gain deep insights into specific components of a process to identify future improvement opportunities and enable ‘what if’ scenarios for modelling capabilities.

Mr Owen sums up the success of the project,

“The ability to measure the adherence to plan during the shift has improved the way Fortescue works. Previously, it was very difficult to measure against targets during a shift, with the information not visible until the next day. Giving supervisors access to the data in near real-time helps them to make informed decisions, quickly engage with mine control and have a better understanding of available options.”