Insights from mining and financial services CFOs show how digitisation can transform your business.
At this year’s CFO Day, industry leaders Riaan Koppeschaar, Exxaro financial director, and Sharon Naidoo (pictured), TransUnion SA CFO, shed light on how technology is reshaping their respective fields, offering practical examples and insights into the transformative power of digitisation.
Transforming mining through digitisation
Dispelling the notion that technology and mining are incompatible, Riaan emphasised that mining companies are turning to technology to extract resources that are increasingly harder to mine, because the world’s easily accessible resources are becoming depleted. He says that technology can help mining companies to extract resources from deeper underground, from more remote locations.
He added that in addition to making mining safer and more efficient, technology can also help to make mining greener. For example, technology such as sensors and data analytics can be used to monitor and optimise energy use in mines, and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can be used to power mining operations.
Digitising the mining value chain
Riaan outlined various steps involved in digitising the mining value chain. One is the use of autonomous equipment. He explained that “Autonomous machines are being used to further optimise productivity and streamline operations. Autonomous machines, such as drills and trains, can operate without the need for human operators, which can help to improve safety and reduce costs.” Additionally, autonomous equipment can operate 24/7 without the need for human operators.
He said another key step the company has taken is the use of digitised geological data. Digitised geological data can be used to create digital twins, which are virtual representations of mining operations. Digital twins can be used to simulate various scenarios and optimise decision-making processes.
Riaan stated that IoT is also playing a major role in the digitisation of the mining industry and says, “IoT sensors can be used to collect and analyse vast amounts of data, which can be used for predictive maintenance, safety monitoring, and other purposes.”
In addition, wearables and drones are also being used to improve safety and efficiency in the mining industry. “Wearables can track the wellbeing of mining personnel, while drones can be used to inspect mine sites and monitor remote areas,” Riaan explained.
Mobile-connected systems are also being used to improve the efficiency of mining operations. These systems enable real-time data analysis, which allows mining operators to make informed decisions on the spot.
“The digitisation of the mining value chain is a complex process, but it offers the potential to improve safety, efficiency, and sustainability in the mining industry. As technology continues to develop, we can expect to see even more innovative ways to digitise the mining value chain,” he said.
Embedding technology and innovation
To maximise the benefits of technology, Riaan stressed the importance of creating a strong technological foundation supported by innovation and digitalisation. He cited real-time information, bottleneck resolution, cost reduction, quality improvements, enhanced performance, and improved visibility across the value chain as the key advantages resulting from digitisation.
Implementation challenges and solutions
Riaan pointed out that while technology implementation is relatively easier in new mining ventures, existing mines often face challenges due to job loss concerns and the need for upskilling employees. He said: “Overcoming resistance requires emphasising the safety benefits of technology and demonstrating how human-machine partnerships can optimise productivity and safety.”
The power of technology and human intelligence
Sharon highlighted the potential of integrating AI and human intelligence as the catalyst for the fifth industrial revolution. She said,
“This revolution had the potential to foster sustainability, inclusive economies, and profit for purpose through the leveraging of advanced technologies.”
Sharon emphasised the need for companies to redesign financial planning and analysis processes, in order to leverage AI and data analytics. This approach enables significant cost reductions, standardisation, and enhances the role of human intelligence in creating stakeholder value, managing data and information, and driving investment and business modelling.
She said, “For example, AI can be used to automate tasks, identify patterns, and make predictions. This can free up human employees to focus on more strategic and creative tasks. Additionally, data analytics can be used to gain insights into customer behaviour and market trends. This information can be used to make better decisions about products, pricing, and marketing.”
According to Sharon, TransUnion’s focus on technology extends to promoting financial inclusivity, particularly for underserved and unserved populations. By using advanced tools, analytics, and decision engines, TransUnion enables access to financial products and services for those without a credit history. Additionally, the company aims to build trust, address fraud, and create a data powerhouse for Africa.
Sharon concluded by emphasising the importance of embracing change and adapting proactively to overcome challenges. She stressed that businesses must adopt a forward-thinking approach to stay ahead and use technology to address ongoing challenges effectively.
“We need to start adapting to win: to play on the front foot, not on the back foot. Our challenges aren’t going away, so we need to adapt to them,” concluded Sharon.