top of page

MineWarp transcript: Hans Schill "Data Driven Insight The 6th Sense Mining Needs"

Empie Strydom 0:16

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the MineWarp podcast. This is your host Empie Strydom again. And it's great to have you with us. Thank you so much for making the time to listen to MineWarp. Welcome to join us as we speak with interesting guests and opinion makers, movers and shakers in the world of digitalization and digital transformation in the mining and natural resources industry. Today, we're going to be talking about a topic that that is the subject of much discussion. And that is the ability to understand what is going to happen on a mine. And that may impact on the next shift or that may impact on the short-term plan or longer than that. And I think one of the most important skills that any company has to have whether a mining company or anything else is this ability to to predict what's going to happen, whether that is happened in the market or happen in the actual mining operation. We all know about people who have this uncanny sixth sense about what's going to happen next. And it is on that exact topic that I want to introduce our guests to you today. Our guest today is Hans schill, business manager for a brand called sixth sense underground with Epiroc and Epiroc of course needs little introduction to most listeners in the mining industry. As a global manufacturer of mining and construction equipment. We're very happy to have Hans on here. He is an engineer with lots of experience initially in Atlas Copco, of course, then it turns to all of that turned into epiroc, as many of you will know. But before that even with Saab, and so on. And I'm not going to introduce him much more. I'm going to welcome you to the podcast and I'd love for you to tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Hans Schill 2:16

Well, thank you. It's good to be here. Thanks for inviting me looking forward to this conversation that we're going to have. So a little bit about me and my background. I'm, as you said an electrical engineer I graduated from University in 1998. feels like it's forever ago, as you said, my first position my first job was with a company that later become a part of SOP aerospace, the aircraft manager. Back then we were working on tactical data links for military aircrafts. Reflecting right now it seems like that's that's been the theme throughout my career, working with how to make data more valuable than then yeah, and in creating good insights from data. Back then it was all about sending radar pictures to fighter pilots, they can see beyond the horizon, the same thing goes for Yeah, same thing in the minor environment that it's all about creating those insights, getting the people that needs it, that extra six cents, to be able to be a little bit more a little better than the competition. As an electrical engineer, I work with radio systems and the challenges of having maybe 15 different systems or small aircraft plane, making sure they don't disturb each other but I as I got more experienced I continued working with the integration to the command and control centres and taking on bigger and bigger projects in that space. So much fun really and also working with other countries than Sweden, I spend a fair bit of my time down in Middle East as well working with their military surveillance systems and that of course, seeing that culture and being a part of something else was very interesting. And something that I had with me throughout my career of course, I joined the Atlas Copco 2011 I started out in the surface division who developed and sold the surface drill rigs the Claudel crawl and relax and one of the most interesting problems Yeah, of course, this is the first time I got an I got exposed to the mining customers in the mining, mining market at all. Being an engineer and I thought it was was interesting and very inspiring to see the way we approached this new kind of product. We were just the first product I started was our first terminal product for those machines. From an experience perspective, technology has been there forever. But the first thing we did was to talk to I don't know we visited 10 to 15 customers talking about okay, we have this technology, what do you think we can do about it? What problem does it solve for you? It was yeah, of course easy to understand safety was the main driver for most customers were having those machines in your house. Walls and above all, underground mines, where do you never know when a hole is gonna come up and swallow during. But then also, of course, to have one operator controlling two or three machines at the same time, of course, it's it's valuable as well. But I really liked the approach and I really like I think that's, that's something we are doing good and of course, should continue and do an even better to be closer to our customers when we develop new things. After working with a surface crawler, drill rigs I, I continue on to start managing a team of software developers developing the ring control system, as we say the onboard automation on the machines. So and reflecting a little bit on that I think that now when I'm working in the marketing department and closer to customers and all that it's almost like we take that for granted. But of course there's a lot of knowledge and engineering and expertise that goes into actually making these vehicles as good as they are. Even the onboard automation is quite complex, I would say. And, yeah, I learned to learn not enough from my years there that things don't happen overnight. And it's it takes a lot of passionate people to actually make it work and happen. And after that, I'm able to I get a oppertunity to move to the US for a few years starting up the regional Application Centre in the US. Yes, shortly about what those centres are all about, we started this, I'm guessing it's about 10 years ago. And back then we did have some pretty smart machines and some smart systems, and we kind of get the feeling that both customers and our sales companies out there weren't really adapting to new technology quickly enough. So one way of kind of boosting, boosting the technology scenes here was to send developers out there closer to customers helping out with understanding how, how the machines work, the value it could give to them and, and also bringing invaluable feedback back to the development, of course. So that's

Empie Strydom 7:11

the purpose of the regional application centres to, to, to put technical, technically savvy people really close to the customer in order to understand those needs, and then develop almost local solutions for specific customers.

Hans Schill 7:28

It's both ways, both local solutions a little bit, but then also feeding back to the main development teams as well, what the customer actually are seeing what's working and what's not working. And then that worked very well in Australia. So we expanded the concept of Chile, in Canada, and then to South Africa, us. And now the last couple of years. We also have centres in Russia, China and more important Sweden. So and we continue to grow this concept. Of course, it's just not developers. Nowadays, we realised there are other competencies that are needed. Data Analytics, network specialists, product automation engineers, and that kind of competencies they have all around the world close to our customers, I think is the main concept. That's an

Empie Strydom 8:15

important point. Just before you continue, do you think that? Or do you find that customers are investing more and more in various skills themselves? Or is this still something that they outsource to technology companies, such as what you're trying to provide here,

Hans Schill 8:34

you can't really say that every customer is the same, I think with the see a little bit of both, actually. But of course, the fact that we decided to put these kind of competencies out there, especially network specialists tells you that we do meet a lot of customers that that wants our help and wants help with us. And we should be from a product side of things. We also recently acquired a network specialist companies to help us out within this space when we come with our solutions that are depending on other things, infrastructure is one of the most important ones. And they also want to help with getting that right. And then as you know, when you starting to go into remote and autonomous functions, then then the network is vital. If that doesn't work, then nothing works. So we really need to be on top of this.

Empie Strydom 9:25

And then you move on to the specific level of understanding your role that you're in right now.

Hans Schill 9:31

Exactly. So yeah, early this summer, I moved back to Sweden with the family and started this position here in the underground marketing department. For all my career I've been pretty certain what to do but after spending some time in the US I wasn't really sure what the next step is going to be. started thinking about okay, so what am I passionate about and that's, it's basically working with people and working in technology. And here I can do both. So this is a almost a dream job for me.

Empie Strydom 9:58

That's incredible. And of course, you know, it's a, it's a position that that requires people that can both understand technology at a detailed level such as your engineering background allows you to do, but also to translate that, that technology skill and engineering skill into valuable business propositions. And that's why I like the marketing heavy approach that you bring to the picture,

Hans Schill 10:27

do you find my experiences pretty come in very handy here, as you say, having the technical background, I see the drawbacks of having an engineering heavy company also that we develop a lot of things, or at least historically, we have done that doesn't get used by customers. It isn't as useful as we thought we haven't always been as close to customers as we should be.

Empie Strydom 10:51

Do you see? Well, I'm sure that you do see that there's a massive move towards automation, not only automation of a specific machine, but automation of the mining process. So automated mining, I'm sure. And of course, a big part of that is just understanding what the current status of the mining environment and the equipment and then the mining process itself, isn't it?

Hans Schill 11:19

Yeah, of course, I like to see it as a stepwise process, really not that the first step. But we're going to talk a bit more about this later. But, but of course, the first thing you do is get data from a machine, how did you actually do according and then comparing that to the plan you had. And then you can start automating functions and getting more consistent operations. And then you implement this remote functionality. And then all of a sudden, you have a machine that can do things on their own. And you progress through the automation levels and have an autonomous machine. And in parallel to that, of course, all the system integrations and the process automations. So yeah, of course, you know, when we see

Empie Strydom 11:58

things, the solution or how to say that the brand within April has much more to do about, about understanding what is going on inside of the shift and understanding what the implications are of those realities. And then it has to do with necessarily automating a mining vehicle, or am I wrong?

Hans Schill 12:20

No, you're absolutely right. So hence, of

Empie Strydom 12:22

course, epiroc as an as an equipment manufacturer, like many other equipment manufacturers, and even the commercial vehicle manufacturers, everyone from death and Volvo nowadays, you can hardly buy a car that is not chock a block full of technology. And so epiroc is also investing heavily in both r&d as well as, as you mentioned, you know, growing through acquisitions, and so on, in this world of digital, and a part of that was the establishment of the Sixth Sense, business line or brand. Why don't you tell us just a little bit more about six things itself,

Hans Schill 13:01

my favourite topic. So sixteenths at its core, I guess it's our elevator pitch is our way to optimise our customers value chain, by using automation system integration, information management, and in clavicles digitalization. The overall goal, of course, is to create as safe and efficient an operation as possible for our customers. That's the overall message on what was six senses. The content is, of course, all of our products within those areas, we have our automation product, we have our data products. Nowadays, we also have system integration systems and things like that, that that helps us but in the concept, I would say there's also an embedded, customer focused mindset that we proactively seek to create partnerships and collaborate very closely with our customers. Nowadays, it's not as much about selling the specific machine, even though we do that as well. But when it comes to these more technologically heavy systems and machines, for the customers to really benefit and get the real value out of those, we need to be with them for a longer period of time to really help them use the machines in the right way. You don't go from a simple manual machine to our most advanced autonomous machine and behave the same way. A lot of things around admission these as well for it to be

Empie Strydom 14:28

when I've heard you talk about six things before and if you go on to the AP rock website and read about it, they are these three legs, the inside, analyse and control legs of sixteenths. Why don't you tell us a little bit more maybe about each one of those and about how they contribute towards not only optimising the efficiency of the machine, but really collaborating together to make a mind more productive.

Hans Schill 14:56

Yes, so course so it's actually The three different steps are inside controlling, optimise that's also embedded in the same SEC systems concept. You can say it's a continuous process that you go through these three steps of insight control and optimise. And then you start over, it's a never-ending process really, just yeah begin with inside that's where everything starts to lifted of the mind to see what's actually happening down there is the starting point of everything, when you start monitoring things, even by just monitoring things, you usually get an improvement, we've seen that because that actually improved the productivity by 10 to 15%, just by showing them what the machines actually are doing. Think about yourself, if you knew that someone actually was watching what you did every day and could measure that, I think you would put a little bit more effort into actually being more efficient, and not saying that people are lazy or anything, but when you know that you'll be measured, and you can actually see your own productivity or your performance and you tend to want to improve that. So

Empie Strydom 16:05

as much behaviour to as it is it technology monitoring tool, isn't it?

Hans Schill 16:11

Exactly. You're absolutely right, at a simple shape, it's just collecting the machine data to see how the machine is performing according to plan. But you can also, of course, our situational awareness, tools and other things that that dust is on a bigger level as well.

Empie Strydom 16:27

So so that from the inside part, you know, knowing what's going on with a machine and of course, lots of environmental sensors that can be added these days, and so on. But then there's the control part, from a control perspective, what is take things and portfolio of capabilities achieved?

Hans Schill 16:47

Yeah, you're right, the next step is control. And the control phase is really more about creating a predictable, predictable and consistent operation. Yeah, of course, the products we have to support is basically all automation products, where you machine usually does something a little bit more predictable than the human does. And over time, more efficient as well. But really, the goal of this phase is to create a consistent operation. So you have a baseline that we really know, to be able to take the next step later on.

Empie Strydom 17:22

Are we talking about controlling the machine or controlling maybe a fleet of machines within the mind?

Hans Schill 17:29

Yeah, all of it. And then on, on the lower level, I would say that even the, let's say you have a production drill rig, and the machine can drill a fan of holes by itself. Even that creates more predictable results, both for the quality, but also Yeah, how long it's going to take and so forth. So

Empie Strydom 17:49

yeah, so So they set up the machine and the tasks, those tasks that the machine can do automatically, under the control banner. And then there's of course, the planning of what the machine should be doing. And, and the wider context of what the mind wants to achieve. And, and all of those will fall under the broader rubric of planning and control. Is that right?

Hans Schill 18:11

Yeah, that's right. That's right. And then you can also add a short interval control and things like that, to that to that bucket as well.

Empie Strydom 18:19

It's not only about making the machine more efficient, but it's also looking at making sure that we have optimal availability of maybe the whole fleet of ultimate teams, keeping things like maintenance and production in balance, and a host of capabilities like that.

Hans Schill 18:35

Yeah, it's different from every case really depends on where you're starting from. Sometimes it's, it's actually good enough to make sure the machinery fills the holes in a predictable way. But sometimes, when you achieve that goal and go through this process a few times, then it's time to look at the bigger scope of things. And then of course, the fleet management and everything else on the high levels, you can do the same there.

Empie Strydom 19:02

So And as I'm sitting here and recording this, I'm actually experiencing a bit of communication issues. We can, of course, very typical issue that underground mining companies have, and that is underground. So I want to ask you, is that a typical implementation blocker that you experienced that that company want to be able to have that in shift insight, as well as the ability to control communications seems to be a big problem on the ground?

Hans Schill 19:33

Yeah, so talking about the insight on the blockers we see there. Of course, it's you know, you probably know this better than I am it's all about getting the data in right to the front people at the right time. And nowadays, you know, around mind you have data in a lot of places, but those places can be very isolated. The data quality can be unreliable, but also the structure of the data is sometimes a problem that it's hard to, to use data from two different data sources because the structure is different than its that I will say is one of the blockers at least

Empie Strydom 20:10

to get your hands on the data. But there's also the ability to understand that data and seed within the context of what's going on in the rest of the mind in order to understand what should be done in the control phase and optimise for sure. So when you talk about optimization, what is it typically that you that you're asked to improve

Hans Schill 20:29

lots of different things. Usually, the same cases we talked about is almost every time starts with safety. And then ends up actually solving that safety feature, and then also adding on productivity. And then the next time we go through this continuous cycle of insight control, optimise we look at removing bottlenecks and improving efficiencies and productivity. I will say that safety is usually the first question we get that there's an unsafe area of the mind, or you have a whole block in mind that's unsafe, but you still want to continue production or things like that.

Empie Strydom 21:07

You mentioned maybe one, one or two clients that week, you've done implementations of big things. And some of the outcomes that you were able to achieve. Can you give us maybe an example?

Hans Schill 21:18

Yeah, sure. I have a few examples. So to start with, when I'm thinking about the optimization part and what we usually do, I like to talk about a project that we did with a customer in Sweden, where we optimise the bolting functionality. In then many of these success products, we also implement new automation features or remote functionality. But in this case, we didn't we got approached by this customer. And they said that, yeah, we think we have a problem with Walters, we think that that's our bottleneck. So what we did was implemented a telematics solution. So we could actually see what was going on in the mind. At the time, this is a few years ago that the quality of the data wasn't really, really 100%. So we also spend a lot of time in the mind, working with the operators, following them around to actually see what was happening down there. And just by doing having that approach to to be willing to spend the time with the customer and actually hearing and seeing what's happening, we came up with a few different solutions. I remember one of those was due to the bolt storage, closer to the machines. And in the end, we have seen quite a big improvement of productivity down there without really applying that much new technology.

Empie Strydom 22:33

So very often it is about using technology to maybe point out where traditional blockers or obstacles exists within the normal mining process. And it's not necessarily digital solutions. But it's digital means of discovering mechanical solutions, or process solutions.

Hans Schill 22:53

Yeah, exactly, exactly. Because it goes into the process on the change management as well. But And nowadays, I think we have the quality of the data we get from machines, and our systems are so much better. And the tools available to us are, are better than it was back then. So probably we don't tend to spend that much time in the mind. But I do think that that that approach and that willingness and mindset that we really want to, we really want to understand it's one thing sitting in office and try and think that you know what's happening. That's good enough, sure can get some insight that way. But you really need to be close to the operation.

Empie Strydom 23:35

From an adoption perspective, is there pushback from operators to the intrusion of digital solutions within the within the cab? Or? Or do you find that that the adoption is typically very smooth?

Hans Schill 23:49

So that's a good question. And as always, I think we see it both ways. Usually, when you when you about to implement something, something that monitors the operators or the machines, somehow you find that you find some people that there are very happy about and very interested and really are into it because they truly want to want to improve the performance and do better for the company. But you also on the other hand, have the people think that they're better than the machines all the times. And sometimes it makes Of course, it's boring. The machine does everything by itself. What am I gonna do? An internet? Yeah, so in a few years, we don't have a job anymore. So, of course, there's all kinds of obstacles to overcome and feelings to take care about.

Empie Strydom 24:40

The interesting thing on that is that we find as we speak to two companies around the world that the number of people that are employed by the company when they go heavily mechanised, or even automated, doesn't necessarily decrease, but it is a skills base that changes over time to more knowledge. Workers, maybe people who are able to interpret the signals that are received from underground and so on, and maybe less of the of the hands on people. But the most successful companies have been able to take that both in skill of the operator and take the operator and make them and an operations oversight person that can add that much more detail just simply because they know exactly what the machine is supposed to be doing. Because they used to be the one who did it with the machine.

Hans Schill 25:32

Yeah, of course, of course. In the next step, of course, you have new generations of workers coming. And I do think everyone sees that less and less people are interested in being down in the dark mind all days and, and finding good operators, it gets harder and harder. So for companies to be successful in the future. Of course, it's, I think you need to jump on this train now.

Empie Strydom 25:57

Absolutely. Honest, we can carry on and talk about this for a long time. So thank you so much for coming on. I wanted to close the discussion, just because we're out of time. And we always do that. By asking our guests. What are you reading? What's on your bedside table? At the moment?

Hans Schill 26:17

Yeah, no, like opportunity to talk about two different books. Actually, what's on my bedside table right now is it's a book I started reading, but I'm looking forward to it's called a good strategy, bad strategy by Richard Ramot. Yeah, so far, it's been about the different big cases and the strategies to solve those. And some, some good and some bad strategies, of course. And it's very interesting to see how different approaches are successful and why they're not sometimes there. The other book that I was really impressed about that I thought about mentioning here is a book called Intelligent Automation by Pascal, born at the embarking in Joshua verts. I'm not sure if you read that bomb, but it's, it's talking about how automation is transforming the world, and almost philosophical impact it could have if we utilised it to the full extent, it also describes the different technologies in quite good way. Everything from machine learning to AI to yeah, all this kind of thing. And a lot of lot of cases where that has been used successfully as well. That is a really good one. I enjoyed reading a year ago or something like that.

Empie Strydom 27:26

Yeah, that sounds really, really interesting. We've got previous podcasts, one with MineRP’s, Sinisa Vukovich, who is an artificial intelligence and machine learning specialist. In my opinion, of course, that's in the broader epiroc group as well. And then, two weeks ago, we had a very interesting episode as well with Dr. Ali sutras die from loose II programme leader for volley and those of our listeners who maybe have missed that episode, you know, you'll do well to go back and listen to that because he gives some very practical applications of artificial intelligence in the mining industry. And thank you so much for coming on and spending time with us. I'd love to have you back on maybe and to go into a little bit more technical details for those of our guests who are interested in the in the way that that AP rocks digital solutions and specifically things for the underground mining disciplines adds value. If listeners wants to know more, they can just go to AP Doctor calm, is that right?

Hans Schill 28:34

Yeah, that's right. We have a quite good descriptions of six cents on our external web page. And of course, as always, you can always contact me directly as well.

Empie Strydom 28:44

Fantastic. Thank you so much for being our guest and and we look forward to chatting soon again. Yeah, thanks for having me.

Transcribed by


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page