By Matt van Wyk

I once decided to buy an ultra-light, carbon frame, Bianchi road bike to get fit.  I had the best bike that I could afford, fancy cycling shoes, riding pants that apparently could stop a sore behind (a total lie) and even some colourful spandex kit. Despite having all of this, after a week I lost interest and gave up. So why did my journey fail? Because it should have been about improving my health but instead, I made it about the bike.

In my decades of experience in operations, projects and consulting, the call for digitisation only keeps getting louder.   Various service providers and business owners are shouting out their success stories in the media and at specialised conferences aimed at luring in the next wave of digital adopters.  Any successful journey starts with a clear and well-established need.  What’s our ‘Why’?  A lot of the time I see that the need is focussed around the tech. The glittering bits with flashing lights and fancy graphics. I often hear that businesses are not getting the value from digitisation that they expected, and this doesn’t come as a surprise.

If it’s not about tech and software, then what is it about? It’s about people and solutions that will help to create real and lasting value. Our people are what keeps the wheels turning. With skills becoming scarcer, business becoming more complex and the marketplace more competitive, our people need solutions and tools to find and unlock value faster. Too often do we create digital solutions without first thinking about our people, and how this will make their lives easier. How often do we see solutions that put significant stress on our people? It is not uncommon for some solutions to eat up to 40% of our operational people’s time. This can surely no longer be acceptable in a world where skills are in short supply?

Moving forward, our focus should be on the journey not the destination.  Because in the world of tech, the destination is a constantly moving target.  In my team, we have realised that the journey is a set of sequential, logical steps towards a world where people have better, faster, and more effective solutions that add sustainable value to the bottom line.

After the year we’ve had, there’s no doubt that committing to a digital future is the right move. However, the decision on how to construct your digital journey should not be taken lightly.

There are a few aspects of the journey to consider:

  • Ready-made solutions (Total solution in a box): Remember this is a journey, do not reach for “easy solutions”. Although this might take a bit longer to achieve, the results will be more meaningful and sustainable in the long run. Select partners that your organisation and people can grow with.
  • Proprietary black box systems: Some proprietary solutions are very valuable and will offer you an advantage. However, ensure that you can keep control of the system to avoid your IP being lost to someone else’s system.
  • Analytical “snake oil” potions: Whoever you get to look after analytics should be well versed in your industry and processes. Also, ensure that data and statistical science is integrated into your solution so you’re always able to understand what the data is telling you. Because, solving the wrong problem is often worse than not solving the problem at all.
  • Change management: I often see digital solutions introduced that aren’t utilised by employees. It’s important to take your people on the journey with you from the beginning. Establish behaviours required to ensure a successful uptake and have adequate change management in place.
  • Enable your teams: Einstein said: “technology and data in the hand of a fool is used in the same way a drunken individual would use a lamppost for support rather than illumination.” Build your teams up to use technology to its full potential. When your team and technology are working together, problem solving will improve and you will have access to insights that you didn’t have before.
  • Agility: Set clear objectives and keep moving forward. There are no perfect solutions, and some refinement will be required to fit the uniqueness of your operations and culture. But stay agile and keep at it.

Once you’ve decided to undertake on a digital transformation, here are seven steps to help you get started:


  1. Make sure that you understand why you are doing this. Create a clear strategic plan and follow it.
  2. Engage your people. Test your ideas with employees before committing to anything, get their buy in, provide education and training, and show them how this change will benefit them.
  3. Make the flow of value visible. Aim to understand flow and how bottlenecks impact performance. Define how the technology can assist you to make this visible and reduce the effect.
  4. Identify areas of concern. Prioritise specific target areas that will improve flow.
  5. Solve these issues one by one in a structured and systematic way (be agile in your approach and keep on moving forward)
  6. Ensure solutions are sustainable. Ensure required enabling systems and behaviours are in place and set required controls in place. Keep on educating and enabling the team to work with the new solutions.
  7. Commit to agility. You will have to change what you do often, so get used to it! There will be changes required during the deployment as technology is constantly evolving, so keep your eye on the ball.

At Minopex Advisory, we subscribe to a simple, logical, and fit for purpose approach. Minopex has partnered with various companies like 4Sight OT and BluESP (one of the international leaders in the mining optimisation space). With the convergence of more than 2 decades of mining and mineral processing expertise from Minopex, and the leading digital competence of 4Sight Operational Technologies (BluESP & SETEC & AGE), we provide the right digital solutions, deep experience and expertise in mining operations and technical mining advisory. This creates an unrivalled offering to our clients that spans the technical, digital and analytics horizon.

The need for digitisation is here and accelerating.  How you approach the journey could result in creating lasting value or agonising frustration. A recommendation is to partner with those who understand mining and the benefits of digitised solutions in mining. Make sure they have deep and proven technical expertise. Find those who have real operational experience, preferably across the mining value chain and life cycle and avoid generalists with an inch deep knowledge.  Beware of those tied to specific technologies that do not fit – find a partner who is ‘tech agnostic’.  In short, choose your travel companions wisely.

Minopex and DRA will provide a practical approach to extract value through bespoke and fit for purpose digital solutions.

To learn more about how we do it, contact