By Joe de Klerk
Recent data from StatsSA indicates the South African mining sector is still facing an uphill battle, with production falling another 1.5% year-on-year in May – the seventh consecutive month it has declined.
Facing headwinds such as rising production costs, currency volatility and unreliable electricity supply, mining groups need to maximise efficiencies to succeed.
Those that have a firm handle on tendering, procurement, project costs and time will be best positioned to survive and even thrive. Leading mining groups are looking for ways to use technology to gain better visibility into business performance and tighter control over their processes.
Here are five considerations when choosing the right business solution:
- A specialist industry solution is the best fit
The mining industry is different to most other sectors, so look to a software provider that offers vertical expertise.
An ideal software partner will have a large installed base of mining clients – including a mix of mine owners, contractors, subcontractors and engineering, procurement, construction management (EPCM) companies – enabling it to learn from the evolving needs and practices of the leaders in the industry as it refines its offerings.
A solution that is not designed for mining may not be tailored to the processes and compliance needs of the sector, meaning it will need to be customised, often at great cost.
- Integration is key
Any mining organisation needs an integrated business solution that spans operations, engineering and finance. It should offer an integrated suite of tools for cost estimating, daily progress measurement, and up-to-date planning forecasts and schedules.
An interactive estimating and planning solution will build a bridge between budgeted cost and time; it will also allow for budgeted costs to be spread over the actual project.
The right software will not only ensure an organisation maintains control over its actual spend, but also provide an intimate understanding of budgets, quantities, rates and actual costs. Thus, it brings all the key role players in the company together to make informed decisions from a complete, holistic view of the project costs.
- Get a handle on third parties
Mining companies need to manage a range of contractors, sub-contractors, and partners across multiple projects. The right solution will integrate all aspects of the project from start to finish, which includes sub-contractors and materials. It will enable a company to manage these external aspects in terms of reporting and monitoring progress, resource management, cost and delivery.
- Get your head in the cloud
If you are planning to sweep away manual processes and legacy software, consider leapfrogging to a modern, cloud-based estimating, planning and project control solution.
Cloud-based solutions are flexible, making it simple to scale up and down in response to the needs of your business. These offerings are secure and business users can access them wherever they have an internet connection. They can also enable you to opt for a cashflow friendly, subscription model rather than sinking capex into unnecessary hardware and software.
- Make better decisions based on the complete picture
Organisations should seek a system that allows accurate comparison of what is happening on a project to what was expected – all in real time. They can only achieve this when they have access to live data that enables them to monitor project processes so they can make better and faster business decisions.
The solution should allow all cost data (payroll, plant, stock, yard stock, MRP, and so on) to be captured once where the information is first produced (site, head office, yard) and then to be managed through a single database for full integration and real-time analysis.
The decline in May’s mining production was not quite as bad as expected, and we can be hopeful that the worst is behind the South African mining industry. Global commodities prices are a reasonably sound footing and government seems committed to creating a healthier regulatory climate.
Investing in technology today is an opportunity for miners to position their businesses to weather downturns and thrive when things turn around.
Joe de Klerk is MD at CCSMI – the mining and industrial division of Construction Computer Software