November 2016

Editor's letter

Dispatch from the desert

By Ryan Bergen

Ryan BergenThere is no place on earth that fights harder to get your attention than Las Vegas. The lights, the shows, the three-quarter-scale replicas of modern and ancient monuments. With each visit it seems the time it takes for sights that initially stopped you in your tracks to simply blend into the background becomes shorter.

I do not envy those in the marketing departments, working in this setting, who must capture the notice of their target audience among the 44,000 people who walked the Minexpo floors in September. A job made more difficult by the reality that marketing budgets are tighter and staffing leaner than the last time the service and supply sector convened in Nevada in 2012. While I did detect a little weariness in the eyes of some marketing directors, the spectacle, which included a wedding atop a haul truck, celebrity drivers and in my own case an extensive one-on-one chat about lubricant quality with a reality TV star, matched the occasion.

Through the many press releases and presentations “digital” asserted itself as the main preoccupation of original equipment manufacturers. The term casts a wide net meant to capture the evolving opportunities to improve operational performance through data analytics as well as those related to equipment and process automation. While it is convenient to rope these interests together, as François Gariépy notes in his column “The road to autonomy,” the conclusion after careful analysis could be that the advantages of automation do not outpace its cost.

His argument articulates the shift in perspective that is necessary before mine operations can deploy the most useful of the myriad new technologies available to them. It is a shift that has begun as much of the talk at Minexpo left behind the utopian language used to inspire technology adoption and focused on the situation-specific opportunities, the limits and the unanswered questions related to those technologies.

The current hard times have played a part in moving the discussion from why novel approaches ought to be tried to how. Now that suppliers have miners’ attention, we will be watching closely to see which ideas squander that attention and which succeed in holding it.

Ryan Bergen

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