In mining, ERP is only as useful as it is accessible
By Meryl Malcomess, marketing director, Syspro.
Mining underpins many major economies on the African continent, and yet, as an industry it has largely been left behind when it comes to technology - especially information technology, says Meryl Malcomess, marketing director, Syspro. It is, without a doubt, information technology that holds the potential to allow the African mining industry to step into the 21st century and even leapfrog ahead.
In mining, it is imperative to ensure an operation supplies the correct end-product to the right market, in the right form, at the right time. Missing the mark on any of these points will drag an operation to the rear of the pack. To avoid this, maximising visibility and process integration is essential.
One of the main causes of poor visibility is the use of a number of disparate IT systems to handle planning, production, accounting, procurement and other functions. Full visibility of the status of the beneficiation process is critical for scheduling work and enabling co-ordination.
While mining companies may use sophisticated geological modelling and mine control systems, for the most part, their planners and managers rely heavily on their own spreadsheets. As a result, poor data and a lack of effective analytical tools reduce support for appropriate decision-making, risk modelling and other business intelligence operations.
Solution or complication?
The first port of call when it comes to integrating and streamlining operations in the mining environment is enterprise resource planning (ERP). Originally designed to be the back-end system that all employees use and where all business data is held, ERP is evolving to play a far more nuanced and increasingly integral role in all business operations.
With increasingly advanced functionality being built into ERP solutions, it is pertinent to remember that mining operations often exist in remote areas that have relatively poor infrastructure - especially in Africa. As a result, an ERP solution is only as useful as it is accessible.
ERP solutions have a tendency of becoming overpowering and over-complex - actually making it more difficult to attain data visibility and accuracy due to a lack of consideration for the environment in which it is implemented, the IT skills of the users and the devices they use.
Therefore, it is essential that an ERP system is developed to match the unique location of the mining operation in which it is implemented. The mobile component of Syspro 7, Syspro Espresso, for example, is an extremely customisable mobile platform designed to give users access to all business critical information at any time.
Being platform agnostic, Syspro Espresso allows users to access secure information from any device while on the go. The same code base and logic drives the same features on both mobile and desktop - making it an exceptionally user-friendly platform. The 'Work Offline' functionality in Syspro Espresso also ensures that a dropped WiFi signal will have no impact on a user's productivity.
The application-building capabilities we've included in Syspro 7 and Espresso allow for the creation and organisation-wide dissemination of complete applications within minutes. Users require no previous skills or experience in software development, making the platform highly adaptable and accelerating business processes.
The bottom line is, in order to remain on top of all operations, from anywhere, at all times, the mining industry must embrace mobile technology. The right technology solution can accelerate business processes, improve operational efficiency and help mining operations adapt to the type of rapid change inevitable in the sector.