Resources Industry Productivity Halved, Technology & Innovation to the Rescue?

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The AusIMM held an event around a week ago at MineSpace in West Perth to launch their membership and Matt Mullins of Tecoma Strategies, former leader of BHP Billiton’s whole-of-business productivity initiative, presented on “Some Emerging Trends in the Resources Industry”.

The key point for me, despite the perhaps unnecessary reminder that the resources “Super Cycle” is over and the reassurance that future demand for minerals and energy is robust, is that embracing technology and innovation is VERY important going forward. The industry is focused on falling productivity, which has held a spotlight up to the historic failure to invest in technology and innovation. Pleasingly it appears that there is a fast growing appreciation now technology and innovation can help increase production. New technologies to realise greater efficiencies. Getting more from the same, or less, inputs.

Matt made a particular point of the growing trend to capture and dissect large volumes of data that are generated by resource companies. This data can be sliced and diced to realise all sorts of efficiency improvements. It seems you may need a particular mind-set to know exactly where and how to look for the gems amongst the noise. Matt believes the solution is likely to be found in the world of gaming, as this is where many of our brightest minds reside, particularly those who are able to deal with the volumes of data generated?

It’s on this last point that Perth apparently has a particular advantage. Perth already produces a large proportion of the world’s resources specific software and is therefore well positioned to take advantage of the new focus on big data. The areas of simulation and training will benefit directly.

Presentations like Matt’s continue to reinforce the need to create a culture of innovation within resource companies, who are often caught in an old world view of how they conduct their business. The most successful resource companies build systems that see innovation and technology as a key plank to their business strategy, with a resulting commitment to its identification, capture and utilisation, together with the necessary financial support.