Three of mining's most maddening expressions (and the real truth behind it)


Over the past 15 years in the mining software business, I have had the privilege of doing everything from requirements analysis to software development, implementation, sales and marketing of enterprise software.

From a technical perspective, some implementations were simple, and some were frustratingly complex, yet there were three universal hurdles that were ever present - irrespective of the simplicity or complexity of the actual project. I bet you've heard them before:

We use a different system for that:

And just like that, all the effort of the best software architecture and integrated thinking is defeated with a single blow. In the mining technical software (MTS) business, this is as common as the dirt on a miner's boots. Everyone uses their own, homegrown or specialist tools developed in everything from Excel to Fortran. Getting people to change from highly customized, personally developed software to a standardized module of an enterprise solution is not easy, and projects often go the way of other best-laid plans of mice and men...

Let's develop a quick interface to SAP...

Easy, isn't it? We'll just get the HR list from SAP and join that with the crew to be scheduled for a specific workplace, and derive occupational health data from the combined outcome to check who was exposed to what, so we can take care of our HS&E reporting for good. Viola! And before we know it, we've created an integration overhead that costs more to maintain, creates more duplication and network load, generates endless hours of master data synchronization woes and leaves more reporting miseries than we could solve in a lifetime.

Let's develop a quick interface to SAP...

Easy, isn't it? We'll just get the HR list from SAP and join that with the crew to be scheduled for a specific workplace, and derive occupational health data from the combined outcome to check who was exposed to what, so we can take care of our HS&E reporting for good. Viola! And before we know it, we've created an integration overhead that costs more to maintain, creates more duplication and network load, generates endless hours of master data synchronization woes and leaves more reporting miseries than we could solve in a lifetime.

Does this application send email?

O boy, does it ever! The possibility to automatically let people have the reports they need when they need it, and to send notifications whenever a critical task is due (or more likely overdue!) has brought and smashed many hopes of process automation and optimization. The fact is, email is not workflow orchestration, nor does it optimize processes well. Merely using an email to notify, escalate or report has flooded many an inbox, and caused frustrated managers to order the email capability to be switched off almost as quickly as it came online.

There's hope!

In reality, implementing systems that cross enterprise domains requires delicate attention to the way information is generated, related to other sets of information, and finally orchestrated to effectively support or enhance business.

To address these issues, MineRP has invested in innovation centered around:

  • Establishing an enterprise framework for spatial amalgamation of mining technical information traditionally stored in fragmented mining technical systems. This framework completely resolves the issues around the selection of individual technical systems in the various domains, since mines can carry on using their current investments while reaping all the benefits of centralization, simplification and standardization offered by an enterprise-strength information management platform.

  • The unification of the mining technical and ERP domains to achieve unified business planning addressing both rapid mine planning and financial planning through the work we are doing with SAP. (read more about that work here)

  • The extension of the mining technical systems framework to support fully functional process orchestration (not just email!), as well as industrial-strength bi-directional mediation platforms that replace point-to-point file-based interfaces with ERP and other solutions outside of the mining technical domain.

ERP providers the world over have this approach in common. There is no simplifying fragmentation, interfacing, and orchestration without implementing a robust enterprise information management framework.

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