Barely half of mining organisations describe their progress towards deploying a digital/technology transformation strategy as “advanced” – while simultaneously and universally designating such transformation as “critical to survival”, new research from global technology marketplace Axora shows.
At 53%, the proportion of mining organisations describing progress as ‘advanced’ is up just 6% from 2021’s figure, despite them dedicating an average of 9% global annual revenue to digital transformation and innovation, Axora says in its Innovation Forecast 2022/23: Digital Transformation in Mining report.
The Axora Innovation Forecast is an annual market research report from Axora, detailing the trends and technologies driving the metals and mining industry forward. The second 2022/23 report highlights how digital transformation and technologies offer companies an element of control in an industry where many factors are out of their control. The survey of over 160 senior decision makers was conducted on Axora’s behalf by research company Vanson Bourne.
The survey’s respondents – all of which are senior IT and technology decision makers in the mining and metals sector, Axora says – also described the extent of numerous obstacles hindering the adoption of digital transformation technologies, including:
- Cybersecurity concerns (referenced by 44% of respondents);
- Lack of vision into the potential for digital solutions (41% of respondents, up from 31% in 2021);
- Lack of market knowledge in new solutions (also 41% of respondents, up from 33% in 2021); and
- Slow decision making by senior management (cited by 31% of respondents)
Perhaps as a result of these and other obstacles, another finding showed an average of just 60% of the budgets allocated to digital/technology transformation ends up being spent on it.
Ritz Steytler, CEO of Axora, said: “Without control of the price received for their product, or of many of the costs associated with production, many of mining’s digital transformation initiatives seem to be linked by the idea of improving control – or at worst, ‘management’ – of the factors they can influence: certain costs, safety, productivity, efficiency, people. Such an analysis certainly makes sense given our respondents’ overwhelming agreement that the success of their digital transformation efforts is critical to the survival of their business.
“Yet, despite that ‘survival’ imperative, respondents made it clear that they are having to deal with a variety of obstacles – including obstacles that one might have thought would have been successfully addressed or eliminated by now.”
Joe Carr, Director of Innovation at Axora, said: “Many of the obstacles to digital transformation cited by our respondents are rooted in the skills gap. It’s well-known that the entire sector finds it difficult to attract and retain the ‘technology talent’ it needs. This is, then, an awkward time for the mining companies: the need to digitally transform is only going to become more urgent – in order, as our respondents say, for mining businesses to thrive and survive.”
Increasing productivity remains the top driver for the many technology deployments that are taking place; productivity was also the most common benefit seen from deploying new technologies (66% of respondents). Productivity improvements are being achieved through a wide variety of technologies, from autonomous vehicle projects, to the application of machine learning/artificil intelligence to problems, to reducing accidents, to improving training.
Other statistics identified by the research include:
- The proportion of respondents saying that “the cost of a technology investment is more important than the value it delivers” rose from 24% in 2021 to 34% in 2022;
- Some 82% of respondents said that tensions between corporate and site-level teams were hindering innovation progress; and
- Respondents identifying the Industrial Internet of Things as a technology platform that will provide the biggest growth opportunity in the coming year leapt from 37% to 51%; robotics fell from 45% to 27%.