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Productivity key focus for resources sector, extends to IT: Oracle

When it comes to implementing IT in the mining industry, it is important to bring in real time value.

Oracle Asia-Pacific industries business unit oil, gas and mining director, David Hattrick, has seen the convergence of IT create an interesting development in the mining industry, particularly in the area of productivity.

Hattrick points to a recent ABS report that found productivity levels in the resources sector are on par to those the 1980's, despite significant advances in equipment.

"Productivity in the last 30 years has been about bigger, whether it is trucks, trains, or ships," he said.

However, physics has created a barrier to this method of growth.

"They can't make the trucks bigger right now, especially the tires," Hattrick said.

"The technology to overcome the physics is not there yet."

With a changing of the guard at resource giants such as Rio Tinto and BHP, Hattrick has seen an increased focus in cost cutting, as well as managing opex and capex with much more scrutiny.

"That ultimately translates to IT spending," he said.

"Whether it is project portfolio management on the capex side, there is scrutiny to how technology can be used smarter, such as in facilitating the processes between the operator and engineering firm, contractors, and sub contractors."

While resource companies are looking at how IT can help in the productivity drive. Hattrick admits to operation reporting still being in an "embryonic state" in the mining industry, as well as in the oil and gas space to a degree.

What the companies are keen to do is find ways to aggregate all of the data that is coming out of all the different systems running mining operations, as well as be able to have an inter and intra view of work shifts.

"Both industries are shift based, so there is an opportunity to optimise what is going on during an 8 or 12 hour shift," Hattrick said.

In addition to gathering that information, there is also the need to be able to aggregate data across multiple mine sites and up the management chain.

Spreadsheet problem

Hattrick likens the current state of IT implementation in the mining sector to what the banking sector was doing 20 years ago, namely running on spreadsheets.

With mining being one of Australia's largest industries, said it is "spooky" that tasks such as supervisory control are still being done in spreadsheets.

"Very often the integration point between two different systems is Excel spreadsheets," Hattrick said.

While there is the temptation to share technological innovations with the resources sector, Hattrick warns about using IT acronyms liberally when dealing with people in the industry, as there is a tendency to "see their eyes glaze over."

"There is a huge chasm with the mining manager and IT manager culture, like oil and water," he said.

"But they do really need the same stuff that the other industries have implemented to solve the spreadsheet problem."

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.


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