Presenting a seminar titled ‘Collaboration and iteration: the secrets of successful innovation’, Higgins underscored the recent industry rhetoric declaring the mining downturn as the perfect environment for innovation.
Working in the mining equipment, technology and services sector, Dingo has made a name for itself in recent times providing innovative solutions for mining operations.
Despite the need for new technologies and solutions as the mining industry goes about trying to slash costs and up productivity, Higgins said the METS sector was shying away from research and development investment.
“It’s tough times, we’re all feeling that out there. Unfortunately one of the things that gets hit in this sort of an environment is R&D, and the data shows that METS companies are planning on spending 25% less on R&D innovation than last year. So that makes it tough,” he said.
“This is not a sustainable way of attacking this problem. We can’t cut our way to prosperity.”
According to Higgins, the current growth in industry frugality provides the perfect environment for innovation to occur.
“I’m not here to paint a story if doom and gloom, because quite to the contrary, I think that in a lot of ways the stars are actually aligning very, very well for us right now,” he said.
“Our experience has been that customers are up for it now more than ever before. So that’s another reason for optimism.”
Giving an example of his company’s experience with customers, Higgins drew on Dingo’s experience in helping the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance streamline its mag plug inspection activities at its Blackwater mine in Central Queensland.
The BMA was having trouble analysing and using data gathered from its mag plugs (magnets installed in equipment to attract any ferrous particles, thereby giving an indication of its health) in a timely manner.
The alliance was using a third party contractor to inspect the mag plugs and provide monthly reports.
“It was really time-consuming. Often, by the time the information was actually received by the maintenance department the truck was back in service with no chance to actually do anything to it,” Higgins said.
“One of our development guys put together a very simple product that worked on an iphone, took it out to the customer and asked ‘would you guys use this?’.”
The end result, according to Higgins, was that the BMA cancelled its previous contracts and used Dingo’s app to take photos and field notes on the mag plugs, streamlining the process and saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year while improving pre-maintenance of its vehicles.
Dingo has since won the Austmine innovation award for the Trakka field inspection app.