UMS brings high-tech digital solutions to mining

A new partnership has been formed which will see cutting-edge IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology being applied to the conceptualisation, design, construction and operational management of mining projects and mining operations.

The partnership brings together the mining expertise of UMS, a leading provider of engineering and contracting services to the mining industry, with the digital know-how of 1Worx, a specialist in the field of IIOT and AR.

“We have signed a shareholder agreement which, in essence, has resulted in the establishment of a new joint venture company, UMS 1Worx, which is based at UMS’s headquarters in Sandton,” says Digby Glover, CEO of UMS. “Not only will UMS 1Worx broaden the UMS service offering but it will also act as an independent business within UMS, with its own customer base.”

Heading the new venture as MD is Charles Anderson, who has enjoyed a long career in the IT industry and who has extensive professional experience in robotics and mechanical engineering. The GM is Martin Hobbs, a very well-known figure in mining circles who was previously the MD of one of South Africa’s best-known shaft-sinking and mining contracting companies.

Anderson co-founded 1Worx in 2016 to market a leading US-developed IIOT development platform, ThingWorx, in South Africa. “We initially aimed simply at selling ThingWorx to customers, who could then use the platform to develop their own solutions,” he says. “What soon became apparent, however, was that clients did not really want to ‘own’ ThingWorx. What they wanted was for us to provide ready-made solutions using the platform and this then became our primary focus.”

He adds that the industry where the most traction was gained was mining. “One notable project we worked on was a new mine which is still widely regarded as the most digitally enabled operation of its type in South Africa. Given the inroads we were making into mining, we made the decision in mid-2021 to concentrate on this sector,” says Anderson.

One of the mining clients 1Worx subsequently interfaced with was UMS. “We incorporated the 1Worx technology into one of our projects and liked it so much that we started talking about a partnership. That partnership is now a reality,” says Glover.

The UMS 1Worx technology collects and analyses data that is generated automatically from sensors on plant and equipment or, in some cases, entered manually. This information can be displayed in a variety of formats, including dashboards that provide a visualisation of operational performance and status by area or by the entire mine. Immediate notifications and early warning of critical events can be sent to devices such as laptops or cell phones anywhere in the world.

Hobbs makes the point that UMS 1Worx represents a step-change for mining. “It’s really about delivering transformative solutions which are holistic in nature. Our solutions provide managers with accurate, predictive and actionable real-time data and information of a quality that has never really been available before in mining. In the past few years there has been much talk of the ‘digital twin’ concept. Our technology delivers this but takes the concept much further.”

Anderson says one of the key benefits of the solutions being offered by UMS 1Worx lies in the fact that they enable the exchange of information between the various teams involved in the design, construction and operation of a mine.

“At a certain point, the personnel who design a mine hand the project over to the construction team for execution and then, when this is complete, the construction team hands over to the operational team,” he explains. “There is very little interaction between the teams – everyone is working in compartments. With our solutions, this changes. Everyone has access to the same data and information. You have a continuous feedback loop that leads to problems being speedily identified and resolved and operations enhanced.”

Giving an example of what can be achieved, Glover says that ‘intelligence’ can now be built into complex operations such as shaft-sinking. “Accurate reporting and analysis around key issues such as stoppages, water ingress, electricity consumption, tons blasted against tons hoisted and similar parameters can make all the difference on a shaft-sinking project and give managers the critical insights that allow operations to be optimised,” he says.

“We’re extremely excited by this joint venture,” he continues. “The technology available from UMS 1Worx brings the ‘Smart Mine’ concept a step closer to reality and has the potential to transform the way the mining industry works.”

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