Making Back Office Operations Key to Mining Success
Peering into an industry that one is unfamiliar with is a humbling experience. So when I look at the mining industry, it isn’t just my misperceptions that need some adjustment, but the sheer scope and interconnected nature of the industry is daunting. Take coal for example. Coal is coal, right? You dig it out of the ground and burn it to make electricity. That is an oversimplification of course but there are many parts of our day-to-day life that we don’t give much thought.
So when I looked at Aquila Resources Pty Ltd, and saw that they have a project to develop a proposed longwall hard coking or metallurgical coal mine, I had to find out more.
As it turns out, hard coking coal is used in steel production. Thermal coal is the one more commonly known for power generation. There are 2 key components to making steel: iron and coke. The quality of steel produced depends on the quality of these key ingredients. So within the metallurgical coal family, there are grades that define the properties of the coal. Hard coking coal is the best for steel production due to its low levels of impurities and its caking properties (which describe how it acts when heated). And Australia happens to have large deposits of this high quality of metallurgical coal. This I did not know!
Aquila also has interests in the other half of the steel equation. They are part of a joint venture to deliver on the West Pilbara Iron Ore Project; a rich, undeveloped deposit that is also located near the sea for easy transportation.
All this requires playing the long game. Everything involved – resources, infrastructure, output, contracts – all are a long term investment. However, bidding and contracts need a fast turnaround.
Aquila was finding that they had to reinvent the wheel for every contract request. In a digital world where everything is one or 2 clicks away, the company was searching for their historical documents in a myriad of places causing a lot of unnecessary churn. They needed a solution that would bring them a unified, nimble approach to their contracting process.
With the help of solution partner Dyflex Solutions, Aquila implemented SAP Ariba, selecting the software based on its stellar reputation and good fit to their needs. In addition to shortening the lead time, Aquila increased the visibility into their contract process, and implemented online approvals that streamlined their workflow.
There are many things that can affect the mining industry. Weather, global uncertainty, and downstream projections can impact this commodity market. But with some smart business moves, Aquila has a firm grasp on improving their business.
Something that may seem so basic to the world’s economy like mining is not ‘basic’ at all. While providing the raw materials that go into our everyday life, they are an innovative industry poised to handle a changing world. By adding a SaaS (Software as a Service) to their process, Aquila has increased their competitive edge.
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