Value chain modernization in mining with the Industry 4.0 ERDi Testlab
We’re in the midst of a significant transformation regarding the way we produce products, thanks to the digitization of manufacturing. This transition is so compelling that it is being called Industry 4.0 to represent the fourth revolution that has occurred in manufacturing. From the first industrial revolution (mechanization through water and steam power) to the mass production and assembly lines using electricity in the second, the fourth industrial revolution will take what was started in the third with the adoption of computers and automation and enhance it with smart and autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning (ML).
This fourth industrial revolution holds promise not only for traditional manufacturing but also for other heavy industries like mining and resources. Because of this, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has begun to work with mining industry partners and vendors to look at how to accelerate these innovations and bring them to market to improve our customers’ bottom lines.
Value chain modernization
During our work with mining and resources customers, we’re often asked, “What unique benefit does the cloud bring for a mining company? Beyond the value that the cloud brings to every company in security, cost, and agility of operating technology, can the cloud bring value to the underlying business of a mining operation?”
Commonly in mining and resources companies only a small number of applications used to run the business are actually involved in the production of the end product, with the majority used for supporting functions like finance, HR, and marketing. The term value chain modernization has been coined to encompass the idea of concentrating the modernization efforts to those small percentages of applications that operate the value chain of a mining operation, and to then extract the maximum business value from application modernization efforts.
A key step in mining value chain modernization is to bring the identified applications onto an agile and scalable platform like AWS, where the data being generated can be utilized to power artificial intelligence (AI) / ML algorithms to optimize across a mining operation. By bringing the mining value chain applications to the cloud and modernizing with native services, technology can make a meaningful difference to the volume and cost base of a mining operation.
ERDi Testlab and AWS
The Industry 4.0 Energy & Resources Digital Interoperability (ERDi) Testlab was established as one of six labs under the Australian Industry 4.0 Testlab Network to help build the awareness, knowledge, and skills required to capitalize on the opportunities that Industry 4.0 presents. As part of this network, the ERDi Testlab in Perth is focused on accelerating the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies in Australia’s energy and resources sectors.
In 2021, AWS became the principal cloud partner for the ERDi Testlab, because AWS sees the promise of Industry 4.0 and interoperability across the mining value chain as the key to unlocking the next level of productivity for mining customers. AWS works with the members, partners, and customers of the Testlab to help design and build out demonstrations and use cases that show how Industry 4.0 ideas can be applied in mining and resources operations in an accelerated manner on AWS, using native services and capabilities in areas like data, analytics, and AI/ML.
The work that the ERDi Testlab is doing is a great example of value chain modernization, where critical applications in the value chain are modernized to provide the greatest value to the business.
Automated Mine Operating System demonstration
One of the first demonstrations of this productivity improvement is an interoperability demonstration called the Automated Mine Operating System (AMOS). This demonstration shows how a set of vendor applications commonly used in mining operations can be integrated using standards-compliant messages so that real-time data can be exchanged across the value chain of a typical mining operation. What this means in practical terms is that applications that perform mine planning, mine scheduling, fleet management, material tracking, and operations management are adapted to both publish and subscribe to messages as work is planned, scheduled, and performed on the mine site, before the subsequent movement of materials is tracked to fulfill the plan.
The demonstration utilized the new Industry 4.0 messaging standard for mining operations that has been ratified by the Platform Industrie 4.0 standards group. The messaging standard lets the vendor applications generate messages in an Industry 4.0 standards-compliant format that all the upstream and downstream applications can then subscribe to and consume in real time. This lets the applications begin responding to events from downstream and upstream applications in the mining value chain in real time. The value chain applications can thus work together to optimize the complete process and respond to changes as they happen, rather than reacting long after events happen, when the data from other systems is manually uploaded at the end of a shift or end of the month.
Vendors involved in AMOS
Major mining software vendors include Datamine, AVEVA, ABB, and Wenco International Mining Systems. Each vendor’s product development team worked with the Testlab so that its software implemented the new Industry 4.0 messaging standard correctly and could consume messages generated by the other applications in the value chain.
How AWS accelerated the AMOS demonstration
AWS was utilized as the deployment platform for the demonstration. So not only could the demonstration environment be repeatably deployed with infrastructure as code (IaC) using AWS CloudFormation, which speeds up cloud provisioning with IaC, but several native services could also be utilized to complement the vendor applications. These included Amazon Redshift as the data warehouse where all the events could be stored as they were generated; Amazon QuickSight, which generated dashboards and reports to show real-time insights and visualizations of the data being collected in the warehouse; and Amazon CloudWatch, which monitored the environment and responded to events.
What’s next for ERDi and AWS
Following on from the initial demonstration, AWS is now working the ERDi Testlab and the mining software vendors to build out an AWS Partner solution which will help partners and customers deploy the demonstration in their own AWS environment so they can quickly get a proof of concept of the solution up and running. Work is also ongoing to utilize AWS native integration services like Amazon MQ (a fully managed service for open-source message brokers) to reduce the cost and operational burden of running and maintaining an integration platform to facilitate the messaging between the applications.
Work will also begin to utilize the data being generated to train optimization models using AWS services like Amazon SageMaker (which builds, trains, and deploys ML models for any use case), which can then start to recommend ways to optimize the throughput of the operation by altering mine plans and schedules to reduce the cost and increase the volume of product that the mine can produce.
We think the promise of Industry 4.0, alongside value chain modernization concepts, offers a true step change in productivity for our mining and resources customers globally. We’re excited to continue to help our customers and partners on this journey as we invest and accelerate the industry into the future.