Assisted Reality in the mining sector: a focus on METS and service delivery

Post date :


HINDSITE's Nathan Field and our own Ashley Pearce discuss RealWear s effect on the mining industry.

The mining industry has long been known for its complex and hazardous working environments. As such, investments into technology for the mining sector are undertaken with great care, acknowledging that said technology must not only be effective for its intended function, but also intrinsically safe.

A key challenge in this regard is that mining companies are more likely to rely on third-party METS (Mining Equipment, Technology, and Services) to develop new technologies rather than develop these themselves. Presuming a METS provider isn t providing a solution that is, in itself, a safety product, the most impactful area of their product lies under the umbrella of service delivery.

When delivering, installing, commissioning, and maintaining their products (service delivery), METS companies have enormous opportunities for innovation.

Handsfree aR technology

There are many ways and technologies that can add value to service delivery activities for METS companies. However, Mineral Economics concluded in 2021 that any technological intervention must prefer wider and larger interventions rather than being a spot-solution. In other words, technology implemented by a METS company needs to not only support one function, but also enable broader improvements. We re looking for a wider-reaching impact.

Assisted Reality (aR) is one of those technologies that can bring significant benefits to multiple areas of a METS operation. RealWear in conjunction with ABI Research conducted a study in 2022 into Assisted Reality (aR) in the mining sector. The study identified four key use cases for aR in mining.

Remote expert assistance

Knowledge capture and operationalisation

Just-in-time learning and training

Offsite inspection

Let us consider these from the perspective of the METS provider.

Remote Expert Assistance

The skills shortage across mining and METS has resulted in subject-matter experts (SMEs) not only ageing as a sample of the total workforce, but also being overworked.

One major benefit of using an aR solution like RealWear Navigator 500 Series on-site is that with the right software, experts can be anywhere in the world and have instant point-of-view access to their frontline. This saves METS and mining companies in two ways: travel costs (time and money) and downtime costs (primarily money in the form of lost capacity and scheduling overhead).

KLINGE is a mining tire advisory service, and director Al Klinge remarks I would never have thought that we would be able to not attend a site and deliver to the same level as if we were present in situ , but with RealWear they have been able to.

Access to remote expert assistance has significant implications for service delivery. METS providers no longer need to send SMEs to every single installation or commissioning, nor do they need to send Tier 3 support personnel on troubleshooting callouts. When a frontline technician needs help, SMEs can get an on-site point-of-view from them on demand.

Knowledge capture and use of the knowledge in learning-aided guided work instructions

With an ageing workforce and an increasing degree of technical complexity on mine sites, knowledge capture is a critical issue for METS providers wanting to scale with an expanding mining sector.

The expertise and experience of retiring SMEs is invaluable to delivering differentiable services to mining customers. Having a hands-free knowledge library accessible to younger or less skilled frontline workers is the best way to force multiply the impact of remaining SMEs.

Consider service plans offered to customers by a hardware company. If the subject-matter-expertise of collective generations can be offered at any time to a customer via service personnel, there is no rate limiting factor for promising higher levels of service across the board.

However, the real power of having knowledge captured in a Knowledge Management system (KMS) is knowing how to operationalise it. The best KMS solutions will not only allow you to record, store and access a library of content, but will let you make it available within the context of guided work instructions, digital SOPs or troubleshooting workflows.

Using a KMS like HINDSITE paired with RealWear, METS companies can build a library of proprietary knowledge and make it accessible to their frontline workforce. Not only can this know-how be recorded on-site using a RealWear Navigator headset, it can also be accessed anywhere (yes, underground and offline) in the same eyepiece. This can significantly improve operational efficiency and reduce the risk of errors or accidents resulting from a lack of information.

Workers are no longer required to consult an out of date manual back at a site trailer - all the hindsight that their predecessors have acquired is available with a few voice commands or a step-by-step workflow.

Just-in-time learning

Assisted Reality provides workers with real-time visual guidance and support, enabling them to complete tasks safely and efficiently, especially for critical tasks. A significant reason for this is that visual learning increases retention and recall. Remember show don t tell ?

Studies have shown that visual learning is more effective than traditional classroom-based learning. Workers are more likely to remember and understand information that they see, rather than just read or hear. Combine this superpower with real-time, visual learning on site (pre-recorded or via remote assistance), and all of a sudden workers are able to associate learning with a real-world scenario, increasing retention again.

Just-in-time learning saves companies wasted time and money in training new employees pre-site where it s not needed and allows them to skill-up (or reskill) workers as a situation demands. HINDSITE s Digital Workflows feature is a great example of this on RealWear devices, as it combines guided work instructions with associated learning material at every step of a procedure. Whenever a frontline worker goes on site to perform a maintenance, commissioning, or other aftersales task, they have the full backup of their organisation in their RealWear eyepiece.

Offsite Inspection

Lastly, regular inspections of mining equipment and infrastructure in often remote and high-risk locations are a challenge. It either requires high travel bills or significant training programs for local employees or contractors.

Assisted Reality technology allows inspectors to remotely inspect equipment and infrastructure without physically being on-site. Not only does this reduce travel costs, improve inspection efficiency, bolster customer satisfaction, increase equipment uptime, it also provides avenues for new revenue streams.

Consider you re a metallurgist and you fly around the country every couple weeks to support customer sites. Perhaps there is an avenue with RealWear devices on the ground to provide an offsite consult package that gives your customers real-time access to you, wherever you are.

Assisted Reality isn t the future of mining, it s actually happening right now. RealWear, in partnership with HINDSITE, is set to revolutionise the sector, making it safer and more efficient than ever before.