Innovation and product development lie at the heart of a sustainable future for the mining sector, says Paul Shelley, Global Vice President of Innovation, Molycop.
- The mining sector has historically been slow to embrace innovation, but 90% of Australian METS businesses say it’s important to them.
- Moving key decision points forward and reducing long lead-times are key to accelerating product development and driving step-change innovation.
- The mining sector needs to shed its hesitancy to embrace innovation by embracing new digital tools and shaking up the traditional stage gate approach to product development.
The following is an abridged version of Paul Shelley’s article ‘The Criticality of Innovation and Product Development Acceptance for the Mining Industry, published in Metals & Mining Review. Click below to read the full article.
The current state of the sectorThe mining sector has had to face a number of challenges in recent decades. Natural challenges such as decreasing ore grades, deeper deposits and harder rock masses, plus other factors such as skills shortages and stringent sustainability targets, have driven the sector to work harder than ever to enhance processes across the whole value chain.
Innovation and product development have a key role to play in driving productivity and creating a sustainable future for the Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector. The sector is traditionally conservative, favouring incremental improvement rather than step change. In the case of the processing circuit, innovation has been undertaken in focused ‘silos’ with little understanding of how one plant and equipment project might influence upstream and downstream processes.
What’s needed in the face of these challenges are speedy solutions that can be deployed in a short timeframe. Accelerating product development and step-change innovation offer the solution.
Implementing a hybrid stage gate systemThe cornerstone for product development processes since the early 1990s has been Cooper’s Stage-Gate® system. It outlines a sequence of steps – ideation, concept, business case, product development, validation and launch – which requires an appropriate leader to provide approval at every step or ‘gate’.
Cooper’s latest system, the Hybrid Stage Gate, has features for accelerating the innovation and product development process. It outlines the use of focused project teams coupled with effective portfolio management in order to increase resources on projects to maximise speed. New digital tools such as Virtual Reality (VR), Simulation, Machine Learning (ML) and AI can both enhance and accelerate new-product projects.
Changing the series-based stage gate approach to one in which managers overlap stages and key decision points are brought forward can minimise the impact of long lead-time tasks and drive step-change in the product approval process.
The roadmap for accelerated product development and step-change innovation is available but is the industry ready and willing to deploy it? To do it must first break through its hesitancy, embrace innovation and take risks.