Competitiveness is the name of the game. It certainly is in telecommunications and there’s no question that building new levels of flexibility and efficiency is imperative for business right across the global economy.
In Australia, by far the largest contributor to our national economy is the resources sector – led by iron ore, coal and gold exports. This has long been the case, but in recent years exploding demand in Asia has driven unprecedented levels of growth. Mining and drilling operations are spread across the country, serviced by vast workforces that often fly-in and fly-out on extended periodic shifts.
But like all businesses, resources companies are asking the question of how to thrive in the face of changing market conditions, now and in the future. Part of the answer is to increase the productivity of existing operations and smarter players are realising that the strategic application of technology is a key enabler to achieve that goal.
Alcatel-Lucent in Australia has been actively engaging with the resources sector, highlighting the important role of ICT in the competitiveness equation. Earlier this year we secured significant deals to deliver network infrastructure for Liquefied Natural Gas processing plants at Wheatstone (press release) and Gladstone (press release), and this week we were thrilled to announce a milestone agreement to support Rio Tinto with 4G LTE technology at its Pilbara iron ore operations.
Rio Tinto is one of the world’s leading mining groups. Significantly, it has set industry-leading standards for innovation and new technology in mining, and has a clear vision for technology (see this article from The Australian) to put it ahead of competitors.
Business needs to be bold and strategic when it comes to technology. As our Smart.Digital.Connected research found earlier this year, 76% of Australian business respondents have already recognised productivity gains from their digital investments. However, 80% of respondents also called for more strategic attention to ICT at senior executive and board level. A separate Telstra study (PDF), found that businesses that act with leadership have the most to gain in the digital environment.
Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations in the vast Pilbara region of Western Australia
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations in the vast Pilbara region of Western Australia (see the Wikipedia article). This place is home to some of the world’s oldest rock formations and most significant iron ore reserves. Rio Tinto has 14 mines in the Pilbara and is taking bold steps to put the region at the forefront of the digital economy.
The thing that struck me about these operations is that they are not mining in the traditional sense, simply digging for a product. In fact, these are massive end-to-end logistic combines, incorporating machinery, plant, transport and skilled workers to extract, sort and move huge quantities of iron ore over hundreds of kilometres for shipping to Asia. In this environment, technology is a vital component to keep production on-line, all the time. In fact, it is the essential thread that keeps such a large scale and complex set of components together.
We’re really proud of our engagement in a sector of such importance to the Australian economy and thrilled to be supporting the future business needs of Rio Tinto through the deployment of 4G LTE. This is the first deployment of its kind in the iron ore sector and will provide a strong foundation for any future rollouts of private LTE networks in these environments.
Rio Tinto is at the cutting edge of digital service innovation and deployment. Its new 4G LTE technology will support the fast delivery of high-bandwidth data for in-pit mining operations, including asset monitoring and other production and safety systems, helping drive new levels of productivity and efficiency. It is a fine example to the resources sector and to businesses more broadly as they address the challenge of staying competitive in a changing world.