As the mining industry faces challenges in maintaining a skilled workforce, trained AI systems can bridge the gap in identifying, tracking and dealing with potential problems – before they happen.
Mining has an age problem. As a generation of baby boomers enters retirement and as younger generations opt not to enter the sector, the industry is facing a demographic challenge and a big hiring obstacle that’s familiar to organizations everywhere: “Can’t find ‘em, can’t keep ‘em.”
But for mining, the situation is particularly acute. This is a vertical characterized by a loyal but aging workforce. It typically is an environment where roles are learned “on the job” and passed on to others via a sort of skills osmosis. It’s tight knit too, with generations of families working in the same industry or even the same mines. Loosen those ties that bind and the transfer of talent becomes tougher, potentially leading to skills gaps.
The happier news? As with other sectors attempting to manage change in turbulent periods, help is at hand through digital technology. Notably, as mining sees more workers retire, artificial intelligence and supporting technologies can help empower and upskill the next generation.
Now, let’s look at how that happens. Mining gets into the bloodstream of communities as knowledge is shared and miners compare experiences built up over the years and decades. Experienced mineworkers intimately understand every piece of equipment they use and are alert to the nuances of sound, movement and vibrations that hint at equipment failure or, worse, danger.
A trained AI system can help to bridge the skills gap by recognizing those clues in the performance of pumps, fans, conveyance systems, crushers and other critical processing equipment. Sensors and software can drill down to identify errors and address them proactively or relay trouble tickets to where they need to go so experts can make human judgments on next steps.
Faced with an aging workforce as well as other, existential risks relating to sustainability, mining needs to be refreshed by the power of technology. Digital tools can augment or even replace physical activities and make modern mines safer and more efficient.
Technology won’t replace the people who have dedicated their working lives to mining with skill, passion and experience. But it can help them to do their jobs better, faster and more safely as the industry modernizes and seeks to capitalize on rising demands for minerals that feed into batteries, electronics equipment and electric vehicles.
We can’t go in with attitudes of “we’ve always done it like this” because mining itself is changing rapidly and the industry must have the same appetite for technological change that we see in other progressive sectors. The conundrum is clear: change proactively or get ready to be changed anyway.
Do you want to learn more about how Machine Health solutions can support your workforce? Reach out by email or phone me directly at +1-(814)-935-0001 so we can arrange a conversation.
Frank Lechner is Augury’s Account Executive for Mining & Metals. He has spent the majority of his career helping the mining industry solve difficult problems by bringing together people and technology. Born and raised in the heart of Pennsylvania, Frank found his passion for hard work, integrity, and helping others through his family’s background in the trades. Frank spends his free time with his wife and two incredibly strong-willed daughters. He enjoys the outdoors: hunting, hiking and taking his family to their cabin.