How Real-Time Operations Monitoring Powered Seamless Operations Across Mines and Drilling Sites

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The mining, oil and gas and other resources industries are strong pillars of global economies. Many countries are heavily reliant on these sectors, and companies in this space extract metric tons of minerals, base metals, and resources every day, generating revenues in excess of $1800 billion.

Automation, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and other applications are increasingly optimising various mining processes like the flow of ores, efficiency, transport, and extraction. By doing so, they are increasing the profitability of their operations as well as making mining more efficient. But to be able to effectively automate these processes, reliable and efficient network connectivity is crucial. One of the biggest challenges facing the resources industry and keeping them from operating efficiently is connectivity.

Most exploration and production sites are located in remote areas, where there is no readily available access to network infrastructure for digital communications or operations. Whilst operators navigate these connectivity challenges, these sites are pushing adoption of new digital technologies and IoT workflows, both to stay competitive and to meet increasingly stringent regulatory and compliance requirements. This means a growing assortment of network devices all competing for preciously little bandwidth, leading to network congestion and with failure becoming a recurring problem.

Riverbed has partnered with several resources companies across continents to resolve their network infrastructure challenges, maximise the returns on their technology investments, and help them transition to modern smart operations.

The technology challenges weighing down the mining industry  

Regardless of the type of sub-surface or mining operation, in my experience, the majority of challenges operators face fall into a few distinct categories. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Issues with integrating onsite IoT devices to the corporate network for real-time monitoring and decision making
  • Lack of a single source of truth that can provide a bird’s eye view of operations status across the network
  • Lapses in real-time infrastructure monitoring
  • Meeting varying compliance requirements for operational health and safety in different regions
  • Discovering where exactly to dig, drill or excavate to gain the maximum amount of viable crude oil or ore

Resources companies across the board are investing millions of dollars to develop technology solutions for these areas, but you’ll notice all these areas have one thing in common: they are all heavily dependent on having a responsive and stable underlying network to support them. Network connectivity and real-time monitoring have increasingly been used to support high-precision drilling, blast monitoring, and analytics to assist mining operations to optimise ore recovery.

Riverbed to the rescue

We have implemented NPM solutions for several customers within the resources sector to help them realise ROI on their IoT and automation investments, while also improving the efficiency of their overall operations and enhancing the employee experience. One such example is the work we carried out for a mining transportation giant. This company operates across 150 sites globally, and in many respects, are ahead of the curve in technology. They are already using autonomous haulage to carry tons of ore out of mines to processing plants while also transporting huge amounts of hazardous materials to mining sites. As you can imagine, real-time tracking of these transport services carrying such risky cargo is a must. It’s not just about monitoring their location; safety and operations managers need to know the quantity of ores or hazardous goods being transported at any given time. They also need to check if the necessary health and safety protocols are being followed through loading, transportation, and post-unloading stages.

Riverbed NPM helped them gain deeper visibility into their transport chain, so that at any given point they know the exact status of their operations, from mining to transportation through to processing.

Another example that comes to mind was an oil drilling company for whom we implemented Riverbed NPM, Aternity and Arc GIS. This company operates rigs connected via geostationary VSAT satellites and utilises SaaS and on-prem applications running locally on servers that report back to data centre based applications. The rigs operate on a relatively low bandwidth between 1-2 Mbps and high latency of up to 750 milliseconds. Despite such low bandwidth and high latencies, we helped automate the monitoring of IT/OT systems and sensors across the infrastructure, so operators could assess if valves across multiple pipelines were open or shut when pumping out crude oil and if fuel was flowing as required. We helped them integrate all their sensors, devices, and operational technology onsite to give them an overarching view of their operations with Alluvio NPM. All this information is made available to them on a real-time dashboard powered by Alluvio NPM.

The results of network transformation

Our customers say their work-life has improved dramatically. They now look back and wonder how they were operating without Riverbed NPM. Some of the most prominent benefits our resources industry customers have realised are:

  • Greatly improved response times for resolving network and infrastructure issues
  • Holistic visibility into the state of infrastructure at any given time
  • Reduced time to identify and troubleshoot issues
  • De-risking of their infrastructure
  • Ensuring operational status of health and safety critical technology systems
  • Achieving operational efficiency across the network
  • Enhancing the precision of operational planning due to increased network visibility
  • Setting the stage for increased automation and emerging technologies

It always helps to engage an expert to assess the state of things within your network infrastructure and plan out necessary actions. Get in touch with a Riverbed consultant for a no-obligation consultation to explore how your organisation can transform its network to run critical operations seamlessly and reliably. 

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