GEOVIA is part of Dassault Systèmes, which has worked with Boeing, Airbus, ABB, Volvo and other major manufacturing enterprises over decades. Dassault Systèmes has supported digitally influenced productivity, safety, environmental impact, and business culture changes, and now drives transformational change.
The company, a EUR$3.8 billion-a-year software leader based in France, has some of mining's most popular software products, such as Surpac, Whittle, and MineSched, in a portfolio built around leading-edge 3D design, product lifecycle management products, and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
"It's a really exciting time for Dassault Systèmes GEOVIA because we've been doing a lot of work recreating our solutions for the mining industry, integrating the experience from aerospace and manufacturing, and using the [Dassault Systèmes] 3DS Experience platform to help companies drive value creation," says Ash, who will work out of Melbourne, Australia.
"We are, and will be, bringing exciting new solutions and experiences to the mining industry.
"I also think it's the right time for the mining industry.
"Some [miners] started a little earlier than others down the digital transformation path - BHP and Rio Tinto probably started 10-to-15 years ago - but really in the last 2-3 years a lot more mid-tier mining companies have started to do projects around digitisation and then the next step, digital transformation.
There is a greater expectation for mining companies to change faster
"We're looking forward to helping with that transformation of the mining industry."
"The rate of change that mining companies have been able to achieve in terms of improving productivity and our environmental footprint, and safety, I think has been pretty good over the last 30 years or so.
"The sorts of orebodies that can be mined now profitably compared with the past, with significantly lower grades, reflects that rate of change.
"But that said I think there is a greater expectation for mining companies to change faster.
"There are changes in investor expectations, absolutely. Maybe even five years ago investors would have looked at mining companies investing in digital technologies with some scepticism. Now they are seeing companies that invest in technology, and getting significant value from those investments, as more attractive companies to invest in.
"And investors are also putting pressure on mining companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental footprints, improve profitability, and reduce risk.
"I think also now there are different expectations from governments and communities about the types of jobs mining companies should bring - technology-laden jobs rather than manual jobs. That's changing quite fast.
"The other group that's also being quite instrumental in bringing about change is actually our workforce. And if miners want to attract millennials and now generation Z, having interesting problems, solving them with technology and having technologies that people use in their workplace, are really important to being an attractive employer.
"We are at a bit of a crisis point in terms of attracting people to mining engineering and geology, especially in Australia, Canada and the US; numbers are plummeting in our mining schools. We really need to make ourselves modern, and have interesting problems to solve in very modern ways, and technology certainly helps with all of that."
Ash sees Dassault Systèmes' proven ability to work closely with major (and smaller) corporations to define and deliver value as a significant differentiator in an era of new alliances and closer collaboration between miners and technology providers. While technology can be a facilitator of process change and improvement, it can also support the cultural adjustment that is often essential to achieving effective outcomes.
"I certainly think we all need to increase the speed at which we change, and the key to that is reducing the timeline to value - the time between committing to a technology to solve a particular problem, and driving behavioural change in our workforce or in our business. That time to behavioural change, which is what drives the value, needs to be shortened," Ash says.
"One of the challenges, first of all, is establishing that there is a problem that really needs solving, and finding a technology that will help us solve that problem.
"But then, how do we then get our people to change their behaviour? How do we change our processes?
"And how do we then scale that across multiple mine sites?
"I think that's where mining companies really should be focusing a lot of their efforts.
"There are some great technologies available from technology suppliers.
"But identifying where a technology can solve a problem in their business, where a technology can create value, and defining what that value looks like, and then defining the values and/or behaviours that will change at the end of that implementation, and then working out how to scale that - these are the real challenges for mining companies."
Ash says mining companies are increasingly looking to leverage automation technologies - and model the impact of "physical automation as distinct from the software automation" on new projects - through advanced data management and analysis, and integration of traditional operating siloes.
Operational, cost and safety benefits achieved at existing mines are being reported not only by larger miners, but also by a number of fast-growing smaller and mid-tier companies. The gains are also being made outside the more mature mining jurisdictions, in developing markets in Africa and South America.
The sense is that value capture at brownfields sites can be magnified at new mines.
"A lot of these tools and technologies absolutely add value at the brownfields stage, but where real value uplift is likely to be seen is at the greenfields stage," Ash says.
"That is just because you've got more degrees of freedom.
"As mining companies need to bring on more projects they will get the full benefits of that optionality, and will also be able to use technologies to reduce risks.
"We certainly feel we are in a position with our suite of technologies, and the partnering capability we've demonstrated over many years, that we can give the mining industry a capability that will help them de-risk and help them transform faster because they can select technologies that will solve particular problems with a lot more efficiency, they can then integrate into their suppliers, and even help co-design some of those technologies that are needed.
"Dassault Systèmes has a long history of being a trusted tech supplier and being exceptionally good at partnership. The company has had a partnership with Boeing for over 30 years and really helped Boeing transform not only itself but the whole aerospace industry.
"So I think they bring this really strong ability to partner and help industries transform."
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