Industry Quicklook: Mining and Metals

Industry News, Research, Top 10 Industries Interested in Mobile Learning Comments (1)

With the question of who exactly is interested in mobile learning, in the back of our mind, Float decided to get down to the bottom of things. By monitoring the companies who have been frequent visitors to our website, downloading our content, and reaching out to our personnel, we determined which vertical markets are most interested in mobile, microlearning and mobile apps for performance support.    

After studying the key metrics including industries, website visits, documents which were downloaded by the individual sectors, we produced a dataset of the Top 10 Industries interested in mobile learning. Want to see the rest of the list, check this out here.

Here are the results for our #2 Industry: “Mining and Metals.”.

There are numerous industries worldwide that depend heavily on the supply of minerals and metals. Many high-tech-industries rely heavily on rare earth elements and thus has become a recent issue- coal, on the other hand, is one of the leading global energy resources. As a result, the mining sector is still extremely pivotal to the world’s economy. The Top 40 Global Companies, which represent the vast majority of the total industry, reported USD 496 billion in revenue in 2016 alone. The net profit margin of this industry has decreased from 25% in 2010 to 10% in 2017.

The United States has always relied on the important role that mining plays. The pertinence of mining increases whenever it includes the extraction of oil and gas. The total U.S. mining gross output was USD 358.6 billion in 2016, which is a slight decrease from it’s $457.7 billion in 2015 (see graph below). In 2016, the sector employed over 600,000 people.

Some of the biggest reasons why mining matters are simple: without mining, we wouldn’t be able to build like roads and buildings, make electronics or help fertilize our fields. We mine coal and iron ore, which are both used to make steel- which we use as an essential part of buildings, railways, and bridges. We also mine copper, silica, cobalt and more, which are key elements for electrical components and electronic devices. We also mine phosphates which double as fertilizer and help farmers maximize the crops that they grow, harvest, and use to feed us.   

Because of the remote locations of most mining sites, those who work in the mining and metals industries often live onsite for weeks at a time, working 12-hour shifts daily, followed by an extended leave. Due to the long hours and onsite residency, part-time employees only made up 3% of the total new hire college grad workers in 2008. Half of the full-time employees work over 40 hours per week and 36% work over 50 hours a week. The average workweek for a production worker in this industry is 45.3 hours. Bottom line: It’s a tough job, and anything to make things easier, faster and safer are very appreciated.

The working conditions within mines, quarries, and other sites can be unusual and sometimes very dangerous. Workers in these industries are subjected to rough outdoor work in many types of weather and climates- although, some surface mines and quarries do shut down in the winter due to snow and ice hazards. Surface mining is usually less dangerous than underground mining. Oil and gas sites are primarily automated after initial deposits have been located, and they generally operate year-round regardless of the weather conditions, but most offshore oil rigs are evacuated with the onset of hurricanes.

The underground mines are often very dark and damp. Several inches of water may cover the tunnel floors at any given time, and although some tunnels have electric lights, some tunnels are only lit by the miner’s hats. Due to the low ceilings within the mines, many miners work on their hands, knees, backs, and stomachs- which is a nightmare for any claustrophobic. In underground mining operations, there are constant threats of cave-in possibilities, mine fires, explosions, and exposure to dangerous gases. The drilling also puts miners at the risk of developing pneumoconiosis, “the black lung disease” and silicosis.

Mobile Learning + Mining and Metals Industry

According to World Economic Forum’s 2017 Whitepaper “Digital Transformation Initiative Mining and Metals Industry,” technological advances, including mobile devices and digitization,  have accelerated the pace in change within the Mining and Metals market. These advances have improved safety and enabled better communication and collaboration between employees. Let’s take a look at how they’ve done this:

  1. Safety Advances (p. 9)
    • The target workforce for these industries has become more specialized and expensive in developed nations. Digital tools are being used to notify and update management and workers on operations; these timely updates allow individuals to troubleshoot problems and better adjust production.  Because of how dangerous the working conditions are in these industries, connected sensors, monitors, and alarms have become essential tools for reporting harmful events and circumstances. These advances make it possible it alert leadership and employees in an extremely timely fashion.

One of the newest ways that mobile is assisting the mining and metals industry in safety is through Life by SmartCap. This wearable technology prevents microsleeps and disasters by monitoring fatigue and providing accurate alertness measurements in real-time to operators. The technology within SmartCap analyzes brain activity to keep miners awake during long shifts and alerting them if they could be endangering themselves and others.

SmartCap uses an electroencephalogram (EEG) system that monitors the wearer’s brainwaves. These brain waves are then fed into an algorithm to produce a risk assessment number. That risk number is sent to your phone in the form of a notification.

Check out this video about how it works.

                 2. Connected Worker Technologies (p. 15)

    • The rapid increase of mobile devices, combined with the advances in their technology, has assisted companies in introducing digitally-enabled ways of working. The extensive updates to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), can be used to both monitor and empower the workers within the field. The employees can then benefit from real-time push/pull information and use mobile and wearable technologies (i.e., wearable glasses, watches, tablets, and vital trackers) to interact directly and indirectly with robots and sensors.

Equipping workers with and mobile devices allows management to capture critical data in real time. It also enables seamless communication, expert remote assistance, timely diagnosis and real-time guidance and access to the instructions to repair faulty equipment. Overall, these wearables can be used to improve on-the-job training and guiding new employees in job performance, both on-site and remotely.

As digitalization begins to take hold in the mining and metal industries, the workforce will need to evolve a new skill set to fully grasp and understand the digital opportunities that they encounter. These industries may begin to recruit those with a knowledge of software development and artificial intelligence (AI), perhaps neglecting those who had more know-how in working in mines and plants for the advances in technology.

Mobile Learning + Float

SparkLearn - a new microlearning platform from Float

To help target high velocity, globally widespread and mobile industries like mining and metals, Float has developed a platform in which employees can utilize their mobile device for on the job training and learning- SparkLearn®

SparkLearn® offers rapid delivery, which is essential for mobile learners in high-velocity environments. Our platform consists of a flexible content management system and an intuitive mobile app designed with our experience building great apps for the world’s biggest brands.

SparkLearn®

gives learners access to learning content regardless of the content format. This learning management system (LMS) supports Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, PDF, videos, audio, and so much more! Employers can upload items like training manuals, guides, training videos, and assignments. To accommodate the remote locations and harsh conditions, SparkLearn®

also functions when an internet connection isn’t available by caching content for later use.

The ability to search within the application also allows those working in the field to find the information they need both online and offline. Let’s say for example that a drill has blown a fuse. A worker would be able to search on the app for a solution based on the machines model name or the problem at hand and find the solution with ease. SparkLearn®

puts a tool into the hands of the worker in their everyday device – their Smartphone.

What are your thoughts on how mobile learning helps the mining and metals industry stay safe and productive? Can you think of any other examples? Are you in the mining and metals industry? How are you using mobile technology with your workers?

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Alexis Benson

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On September 19, 2018
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