Why Robotic Process Automation Makes Sense in the Mining Industry

Worldwide mining operations are 28% less productive today than a decade ago. Declining ore grades, increasing costs, shortage of skilled labor, market volatility and stringent regulatory compliance have been driving the mining industry to look for ways to improve productivity and efficiency.

Across multiple functions in the mining industry, business processes span a wide variety of rule based and knowledge based repetitive work which do not add any value to the core business or to the end users doing them.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers an approach for automating repetitive and non-value adding tasks using software robots. Further integration of the RPA platform with an AI platform enables robots to progressively take up decision automation tasks leveraging cognitive computing and machine learning.

For the mining industry, a large portion of this work can be automated using RPA to enable and realize touch-less business processes. Software robots can perform repetitive tasks like extracting, uploading, validating or formatting data, performing calculations, etc. with improved speed and accuracy in a repeatable manner 24x7 improving overall efficiency of the process.

Things a Mining Company Must Think of Automating

The mining industry must identify the key processes and activities that can be brought under the purview of RPA for maximum gain. Some of the areas where RPA has shown benefits related to improvement in efficiency, quality and cycle time reduction include:

  • Corporate back-office processes like the Procure to Pay cycle, AR/AP processes, month end Financial Reporting
  • Conversion of life of mine plan to business plan including ore reserve estimation and validation processes
  • Data aggregation from multiple production units to deliver production reporting and reconciliation on tonnage, consumables and utilities
  • Data aggregation and analysis in the maintenance planning and enabling workflows from Production Information Systems to Enterprise Asset Management systems.
  • Metals Balancing calculations using data aggregation from production systems and lab information to subsequent integrations and workflows into Metals Accounting

Leverage chabot for content search intensive activities like:

  • Searching equipment manuals for maintenance procedures, activity guidance or finding compatible part numbers to raise a purchase request.
  • Searching safety procedures, material safety data sheets(MSDS) while operating equipment and handling hazardous material.
  • Searching travel, leave, contractor and other HR policies for location specific information

From our extensive experience working with the mining industry, we can state some of the measurable benefits of implementing RPA as 30 - 80% reduction in manual effort, 50 – 80% reduction in errors, 25 – 50% improvement in productivity and 20 – 50% reduction in cycle time.

In addition to this, Infosys has developed solutions to automate complex tasks like blast design using its BlastAID solution which uses AI to automate the blast design process and improve its design capability (optimized usage of explosives, rock fragmentation and fly rock containment) through a continuous learning model. This solution was a semi-finalist at Disrupt Mining 2018.

What makes the RPA solution tick?

A typical RPA consists of natural language processing capabilities, content analytics, cognitive capabilities and process automation.

The Infosys RPA solution components are based on state of the art in-house solutions and third party components that includes:

  • Infosys NIA: Purposeful Artificial Intelligence platform which provide Big Data capability, analytics, knowledge modelling and cognitive computing.
  • Smart User Environment: Application and information aggregation and 360-degree persona based views and workflows
  • Data extraction and enrichment
  • Reporting Insights and Automation

Infosys RPA Platform helped a large gold mining company, improve the productivity in its corporate back office processes related to procurement and finance by 35%.

For a large iron ore mining company, Infosys reduced the metals balancing and metals accounting cycle time by 50% and manual effort by 70%.

Infosys follows a four step approach to implementing RPA ensuring the client understands each step of the implementation, what it means and how it can help them.

The first step involves stabilizing the legacy systems and the processes that need to be automated to ensure zero disruption in the client’s business.

In the second step, the legacy systems are moved to one edition of the ERP system and the relevant functions are integrated

The third step involves standardization of processes to bring uniformity and ensuring better resource allocation

The last and the final stage completes the automation of the processes that are transactional or repetitive in nature or that lend itself to improvement.

At each stage, Infosys experts guide clients through the change management and provide the necessary support to a smooth implementation of RPA. Check out the case study where we helped a mining company set standards in procurement accuracy and efficiency with robotics.