Predictive analytics puts IT at the forefront of mining

Predictive analytics puts IT at the forefront of mining

How do you know if a roof support in a mine in Norway is not sitting right? Monitor thousands of sensors from a control center across the globe in Australia, for starters. Then do it in real time so that the people on site know to get workers out of the way or fix the problem.

The Internet of Things is not just global, it’s underground. Joy Global, a company with longtime roots in Milwaukee, is addressing the need for more efficiencies in mining operations by using analytics to monitor big data, predict the life of components, and automatically recommend work, said Mark Shaver, VP and CIO.

Joy already provides monitoring tools to customers as a service. Now, the company is working with IBM’s Big Data & Analytics technology to combine data from all of the machines across different customers and provide a new service brand, JoySmart.

This will allow them to not only help customers maintain machinery but also spot any unusual performance problems. And it will do so with a wide-ranging fleet of machines that work deep below the Earth’s surface. The Joy brand is focused on equipment for underground mining, with surface equipment being under the brand P&H.

“We had to find a partner who said, this is a journey we’re going to take with you, this isn’t something we’re going to sell you off the shelf,” said Shaver, who has been with Joy Global for 41 years and worked his way up from underground service technician to various directorial roles to VP and CIO.

Shaver presented the company’s innovations and the new brand to a group of executives at the Fusion 2015 CEO-CIO Symposium. The focus this year was on customer experience: how IT can not just align with the business, but reach out and improve the company’s products and services, through analytics, process improvement, personalization, data-driven marketing and more.

“GM was in this space long before we were,” Shaver said. You might get an e-mail that tells you your engine needs service because of how long it’s been running, for instance. but Joy Global wants to be able to tell you what the actual conditions of the brakes are, and whether the operator is running them too hard, the gear case is vibrating too much, or if it’s taking four loads rather than three to fill a dump truck, or if it’s going unused — and all in real time.

“If any of this equipment is sitting still and not mining, we’re in a situation where this is costing the customer anywhere from $1200 to $6000 per minute,” he said.

With the new system, they expect to be able to tell, within 10 seconds, from across the globe, that any piece of equipment is not running at best efficiency.

The Smart Services Technically Enabled Platform, or STEP, uses data from many sources, including various automated sensors as well as inspections and repair history. Sensors track the machines’ operations, fluids, environmental conditions, and vibration. Everything comes together to provide several categories of analytics, including real-time, predictive (component life and fault detection), prescriptive (maintenance recommendations), and descriptive (typical reports and dashboards).

Dealing with a potential 2 gigabytes of data every eight minutes from a single long wall of sensors, the system needs to use big data techniques that Joy Global and IBM worked on together, and there are also people behind the scenes determining which parts of the data stream are most interesting to look at.

It’s a far cry from the company’s beginnings in 1884. But challenges in mining today, including the need to dig into riskier areas, declining ore grades, and social and regulatory issues, require mining to become more efficient, using lean methods, process improvement, smart systems, and predictive maintenance, Shaver said.

To enable IT innovation, the company had to invest in the basics. In 2010 Joy Global had underspent on IT for 5 years, a situation acknowledged by then-CEO Michael Sutherlin. The turnaround that followed involved making IT more streamlined and more active in the business. The STEP project would not have been possible without upgraded networks, eliminating disparate systems, and standard images on standard hardware around the world, Shaver said. The number of major vendors also went from about 15 to 6, he said, and this in a company that outsources large swaths of IT.

“It’s far more likely that you’re spending too little on IT than that you’re spending too much on IT,” said Barb Gomolski, managing VP of the IT Finance & Workforce Management Group at Gartner.

In convincing the business side that IT needs resources, she said, scaling up can be a good leverage point. “There is nothing they are going to be doing at scale that does not involve information technology,” she said.

For Joy Global, that was true. They needed global scale and worked on overall upgrades in order to support new capabilities that could help customers. As a result, the IT organization is in the process of transforming to be focused on technology that boosts the business goals and helps customers — “from answering the phones, to saying how can I help, to calling the meeting,” Shaver said.

Since he’s not from an IT background himself, he said his approach was to keep asking “whys” and digging into one problem after another, whether outdated software, response times, or inconsistencies globally.

The new offering pushes Joy Global further toward services, which Shaver said is where they want to be. He said some customers do want to buy equipment as a capital expense and do their own monitoring and services, but he usually expects they will come around to Joy doing more for them as a service later on.