It's a question that can be asked of any industry: what will the sector look like in the years to come? How will demands change, skills evolve and the technologies used advance? And what impact will that have? For the global resources industry – and particularly mining – that question has some different answers.
GlobalData's mining technology writer Andres Tunnicliffe looks at the issues.
Tunnicliffe says: "Managed correctly, the sector could lead the way in innovation, harnessing the opportunities Industry 4.0 has to offer, but it has to act fast. If it doesn't, the future might be very different. Speaking on the topic, Australia's Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said that the country's resources sector, vital to its economy, stands to benefit hugely if it adopts Industry 4.0 technologies.
"Andrews was speaking on the publication of a report which said Australia stood to benefit to the tune of A$74bn and 80,000 new jobs by 2030 if the resources sector adopted advanced analytics and robotics capabilities. Staying Ahead of the Game, co-authored by Nera and Mets Ignited, said that if the industry, academia, policymakers and the technology supply chain worked together, all would stand to gain. However, it warned that the full benefit – economic, social, environmental and safety – would only be realised if a 'globally competitive domestic supply chain is created to participate in this transition'.
Mets Ignited CEO Adrian Beer told GlobalData: "We now need the technology vendor community to bring the products that are ready to integrate to the sector. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) need to move towards a 'brand agnostic' mindset if collaboration is to take root.
"In the mining sector, there are numerous suppliers of equipment with their own proprietary technology platform in that supply chain, however, they don't yet have a common set of standards that we can work from."
"If we can get those technology vendors to see that system-level view of what they bring, and take that to the mining sector, this would be industry growing. Mining companies are really looking for that kind of innovation to be applied."
"The vendor community is now where the responsibility lies to achieve automation in the mining sector. If it doesn't do that work and step up and create an off-the-shelf integration platform, the competitiveness of the sector is going to suffer to a point that it's not going to be sustainable.
"Automation is coming, it's a necessity for the future sustainability of our industry and if we don't take advantage of the opportunity available to us, we'll miss it."
Source: GlobalData/Andrew Tunnicliffe