Sustainability in the back office helps transform the entire operation

Mining is essential to modern life worldwide — supplying essential components for computers and smartphones, electric cars, and the green technologies that fuel today’s economy. Historically, however, the industry’s reputation and environmental record have suffered. But today, Canadian mining companies are taking bold steps to claim their place among the leaders in sustainability — in fact, Canada has set the world standard for sustainable mining. Naturally, much of the focus surrounds field activities, but a mining company’s back office can also be a source of sustainability. What can mining companies do to rethink their operations, generating consistent and profitable growth while making the world a more sustainable place?

Reduce your footprint

Progressive mining companies are working to reduce energy consumption, recover waste energy, and decrease the environmental footprint of their mines. It’s part of an overall move toward zero waste. ReThink Mining is an organization dedicated to addressing the challenges the mining industry faces today and helping the industry move to a zero-waste model. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but miners are ambitious by nature.

In the back office, reducing your footprint involves embracing the technologies that help you do more with less. Less personnel, less paper, less time, and less money. Automating procurement workflows can save money, time, and paper — and help optimize inventory holdings. It’s estimated that using a procurement solution to automate purchasing steps can save 40 to 70% over the costs associated with a manual system.

Connect your operations

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a transformational technology for mines. Driverless vehicles and autonomous drilling systems can operate safely around the clock, increasing productivity. Sensors on equipment can detect wear and tear and recommend preventative maintenance, lowering costs. And sensors within mine shafts can help identify instability, improving safety.

Similarly, connecting the back office eliminates the inefficiencies, redundancies, and potential errors associated with a siloed system. When data is scattered throughout the organization, it becomes a challenge to draw meaningful information and insight. Called an integration gap, it can contribute to a 10 to 20% productivity loss for companies in the mining sector. An ERP application capable of managing all aspects of financial operations is an excellent way to connect the organization.

Gain visibility and accountability

No sustainability initiative can succeed without visibility and accountability. Mining companies must set goals and continually monitor their progress towards those goals.

The same visibility and accountability are crucial for the business side of mining as well. Across all phases of the mining operation, beginning with exploration and continuing through discovery and assessment, production and operation, and on through closure and reclamation, visibility and accountability form the foundation for success. Many accounting and ERP applications provide reporting and analytics tools that deliver visibility along with KPIs that can help measure your progress against your business objectives. For additional power, a business intelligence (BI) application can bring together data from accounting applications and other business software to provide broad, enterprise-wide visibility.

Embrace new technology

In some fundamental ways, mining hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. In other, very visible ways, the industry is embracing new technologies that are allowing it to transform.

Savvy mining companies are already stepping up their investments in back-office technology. Starting by  “modernizing their digital core,” adopting mining ERP applications, mine maintenance software, investor relations applications, and human capital management systems, mining companies recognize that investing in the technologies that help sustain their financial operations makes smart fiscal sense.

Rethink and take action

There is a tremendous opportunity for mining companies to rethink and take action — to embrace sustainability throughout the organization and become leaders in the industry. The movement is quickly gaining traction, and mining companies are building sustainability into their operating models. Sustainability improvements benefit not only your organization’s employees and bottom line, but also the environment and communities in which we work and live.

Paul has been involved with Sage 300 software for almost 30 years. He brings a well-rounded perspective to business management software implementation projects. His depth of knowledge and expertise in business process analysis has benefited several clients.