OPINION Across the global mining industry, there is an ever-increasing take-up of autonomous technology. But the interactions and impact on human operators need to be considered. Autonomous technology training can overcome some of those potential impacts.
With every stage of the mining process jam-packed with technology designed to improve the mining process and safeguard mining personnel and the inevitable uptake of smart technology, advanced communication infrastructure and autonomous machinery, comes the need to ensure employees are suitably trained and confident in utilising this technology.
Our organisation categorises employee autonomous technology training needs into two streams; equipment operators and maintenance personnel.
Our comprehensive operator training is focused on functionality and designed to impart all necessary knowledge to get the most out of mining equipment.
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Our maintenance training goes a little bit deeper into the underlying technology of our proprietary products. We offer a regular maintenance package which teaches mine site personnel to replace components and conduct other minor maintenance works.
We also have an advanced maintenance package for select customers, which teaches suitably qualified mine employees to service individual components and carry out the type of activities that our specialised Field Service Technicians would carry out on a site visit.
Personal safety has been one of the key drivers behind an uptake of training programs in the global mining industry. Most countries where we work have stringent laws governing people working in hazardous environments. Further to this is a cultural shift inside mining companies which want to protect their workers and safeguard their operations.
Use of autonomous technology in this sort of hazardous environment is a no-brainer because a lot of the work involves people coming into contact with dust, smoke, extreme weather, chemical particles and long working hours often in confined working spaces such as underground operations.
Therefore in order to use autonomous technology properly they need to be informed about the standard operating procedure otherwise it can result in serious incidents involving machines and people.
Properly trained personnel contribute significantly to operational efficiency and productivity because technology is only as good as how it is used. Most people underutilise the technology that they possess.
The most common example is the smart phone which can improve personal productivity multi-fold if used optimally, however most people only use about 10 to 15% of the features and capabilities. The same principle applies to autonomous technology in the mining industry and if properly used will enable the mine site to increase productivity multi-fold which in turn increases profits.
Training is equally essential for both younger workers who are traditionally more technologically savvy and older workers who are adapting to new technologies in the mining industry. Autonomous technology is going into every mine so the technology is becoming part and parcel of new mine infrastructure. Therefore it is important that the entire workforce be upskilled so they have some level of understanding of autonomous technology.
Going forward our company will continue to offer face-to-face training packages delivered on mine sites or in our offices. This will be complemented by an online training portal which will enable us to reach very remote mine sites that are difficult to access physically and will focus more on repeat training and refresher modules.
Sunil Kumar is the Training Coordinator of RCT.
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