Across the industry, mining companies are increasing their investment in digital technology, racing to keep up as advancements in the Industrial Internet of Things begin to revolutionize the way that activities are coordinated.

You’d be hard-pressed to find two industries more distant from one another in the public imagination than tech and mining. One is a world of tapping fingers and florescent lighting, the other one of hard manual labor and zero sunlight.

But just because these two kinds of work are very different doesn’t mean that they aren’t dependent on one another.

While it’s not typically how we think about mining, the industry has always been at the forefront of new technologies — after all, it was coal that fueled the Industrial Revolution, and most of it supplied through the use of steam-powered pumps and drills.

Today, mining companies depend on planning software to drive executive decisions and estimate costs.

And thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things, this kind of advanced software is making its way to the ground level of mining operations. Modern equipment has already made extraction and transportation of raw materials more efficient than ever, but digital hopes to improve the management of those processes.

With the use of intelligent objects, mining companies are hoping to collect more data, eliminate more downtime, and waste fewer resources.

GE and Komatsu

General Electric has long been a partner of the Japanese equipment manufacturer Komatsu, creating and distributing new mining equipment through their joint company, Komatsu GE Mining Systems.

The company’s latest collaborative effort is a series of trucks with built-in smart sensors that monitor the trucks’ activity and accurately diagnose machinery problems.

This kind of intelligence will offer a host of benefits — unnecessary repairs will be avoided, the right components will be added or replaced, and management will have all the data they need to maximize fleet availability.

According to mining-technology.com, GE’s Global Manager of Propulsion Systems Gagan Sood says that “GE and Komatsu are optimizing their respective technologies, know-how, and extensive experience to develop new ways of utilizing big data for enhanced productivity and safety performance.”

It’s cooperative ventures like these that disprove the imagined gap between these two very different fields. Preventing all the costs associated with the replacement of machinery, as well as the loss of manpower that result from on-the-job injuries, could create all the separation that one competing mining company needs over another.

Conversely, the companies that don’t invest in the Industrial Internet of Things could soon start feeling the pinch as technologies like Komatsu’s make their mark on the industry.

Why a Digital Center of Excellence?

The temptation for mining companies hoping to stay competitive will be to hire a Chief Digital Officer and let him or her handle the transition to smart equipment. But mining enterprises and companies widely vary from one another, meaning that the Internet of Things will probably do very different things for each.

It’s unlikely that these businesses will be able to find a CDO capable of overseeing both the addition of smart trucks in New Zealand and the installation of smart pressure sensors in an underground South American mine.

For a project as large and wide-ranging as this one, the wiser choice would be to build an entire digital team. Each product should be overseen by its own manager whose only task is to ensure that the transition to Industrial Internet of Things technology goes smoothly.

Furthermore, these managers should be part of a team that specializes in disruptive, digital technology, not industry insiders only looking to satisfy the shareholders.

These are the qualities of a Digital Center of Excellence, and if mining enterprises are interested in really staying ahead of the Industrial IoT curve, it’s what they’ll be creating within their own companies.

While more and more industry leaders cite the importance of digital to the future of their work, it remains to be seen who will follow through. When the new Industrial Revolution — the Industrial Internet of Things Revolution — arrives in full force, will mining again be ready to lead the charge?