Translated by
2019/08/21 18:20:45

TAdviser Interview: The chief information officer of Norilsk Nickel Yury Shekhovtsov – how the company takes a way of deserted production

In Norilsk Nickel the program of information technology development till 2023 assuming widespread introduction of IT in production processes is approved. The company experiments with technologies of deserted production, robotization, Internet of Things and many others. In detail the director of the department of IT of Norilsk Nickel Yury Shekhovtsov told about the program in an interview of TAdviser.

"Deserted mine" is other reality, a culturological revolution in the true sense of the word.

In Norilsk Nickel new strategy of IT for the term of 2019-2023 is developed. What its main directions?

Yury Shekhovtsov: The accepted strategy completely supports the key purposes of the company: increase in efficiency and long-term growth of production based on the existing assets. We have two main directions. The first, we will call it, conditionally, "The program of development of IT", provides project completion of basic automation and increase in efficiency of business processes. Till 2023 we should complete replication of a SAP template, finish work on creation of the corporate data warehouse (CDW), finish a system concept of the uniform integrated document flow (KASUD+) which provides digital signatures, digital exchange, paperless document flow. We complete upgrade of DPCs and construction of the modular center of processing and data storage in Moscow and also projects on ensuring corporate security, separation of technology network of MES level below.

Besides, we have rather large volume of works connected with the reporting: rapprochement of managerial and financial accounting, acceleration of process of closing (fast close). It is some kind of signal to our investors that we are capable including technology, quickly to be closed in reporting period. Continuous work on increase in level of a servisooriyentirovannost is conducted (in what OTsO – the joint center of service directly is engaged), and operational efficiency of the provided services.

One more working vector - advanced automation which provides growth of efficiency due to increase in standardization of processes within the implemented centralized corporate prototypes, the same SAP, KHD and so on.

The second large-scale direction, we will call it "Digital transformation", is a preparation for the following technology breakthrough. We strenuously work on transition to the program of digitalization - to implementation of the innovative technologies which will help to implement strategic tasks of the company.

This stage includes three large blocks. The first - Digital laboratory (R&D-подразделение) which represents bottom-up solutions, industrial replication of the initiatives approved by laboratory. The second - initiatives of business blocks and digitalization of such processes as possible deserted mines, predictive repairs, prereplaceable medical examinations, digital treasuries, automation of back office processes and their robotization (RPA robots in OTsO). And, at last, digital infrastructure: "lakes of data", the additional integrated sensors for collection of information of production processes, both current, and additional.

If to sum up the result, then till 2023 we should complete projects of basic automation and create premises for further transformation. Those digital solutions which, from our point of view, will be brought to us by economic effect and will form the basis of the following cycle.

How do you estimate the current level of digitalization at the companies?

Yury Shekhovtsov: In general, we achieved enough great success, but we are not going to be satisfied with what has already been achieved. Already now we locate rather large volume of data as technology, and in SAP, and the workflow system based on which it is possible to carry out changes and to perform further breakthrough.

What tools "Industries 4.0" Norilsk Nickel now does use?

Yury Shekhovtsov: Based on our Digital laboratory we try and partially we apply actually everything: machine (digital) computer vision, "digital double" technologies, data analysis, industrial Internet of Things, RPA and VR and many other things. Also we work on application of exoskeletons.

In IT strategy it is said that Norilsk Nickel is going to provide increase in production for 5-8%. At the expense of what you is going to achieve it?

Yury Shekhovtsov: Projects of the production block take the main place in our software package. Respectively, growth will be provided due to the technologies directed to process optimization of production and enrichment.

Technologies are very different. For example, "The automated control system of mining operations" (GR ACS) - equipment by sensors and the additional hardware of the loading and delivery equipment. With their help managers on mines remotely and in real time obtain information on accomplishment of a replaceable task. "The system of a radio communication and positioning" allows the manager to know exact location of people and the equipment underground.

Now we very attentively study a possibility of use of pilotless trucks. For example, we see that the mine dump truck (ShAS) does not transport required amount of ore. In this case we or add the additional number of the equipment on this section, or we do ShAS pilotless that allows us to save time on a shift change. Thus, time between changes turns into effective working time, the plan for transportation is implemented, the bottleneck "is embroidered".

The Mining-and-geological Information System (MAGIS) project is a software package which creates a mine 3D model on the basis of data of geological exploration. A system demonstrates bedding of layers, helps to conduct extraction of ore in the necessary volumes and the necessary quality.

After start of an ACS of GR we are going to implement Scheduling and network planning which will allow to obtain in real time data according to the plan of works on change and the actual working off, to see the reasons of deviations from the diagram. Plus to it we develop infrastructure projects - we continue to develop networks in mines. Further it will allow to do video analytics, to expand the systems of positioning.

All mentioned technologies will allow to achieve a bigger operational maturity of management of mines.

It is focused on optimization of mining, but not enrichment processes?

Yury Shekhovtsov: Mountain repartition for us is the basic. It is important to lift not just dead rock, but ore with the highest content color and precious metals. But, certainly, we develop and we implement technologies for increase in efficiency of production processes on all repartitions.

At what stage work on creation of the "deserted" mine?

Yury Shekhovtsov: At present we carry out digitization of excavations on sections of conducting mining operations and also shooting of not digitized excavations. Digital laboratory studies a possibility of use of robot surveyor technology (the robotic complex equipped with means of laser scanning, positioning in the mine and with a possibility of autonomous movement in development).

This robot will provide us qualitative surveying 3D - shooting including hard-to-reach spots. We will be able to use data retrieveds for integration with GGIS and also when forming base for simulators of virtual reality.

One more project - robotization of the mountain equipment. We test a possibility of equipment of the underground equipment means of remote control. It will allow to lay off the number of workers in the mine and will raise the security level of underground works.

Also will lead to the fact that need for miners will disappear?

Yury Shekhovtsov: Now we speak about use of technologies for the solution of single tasks, but not about transition entirely to absolutely deserted production. Besides, our mines function already long ago, they are not new. To make production on them the most deserted, enormous investments will be required.

So absolutely deserted mine is newly constructed?

Yury Shekhovtsov: Or the most suitable mine remade in deserted. For example, if we consider, is conditional that the Rocky mine gets the richest according to contents and on structure ore, and if we supply it with deserted technologies which will bring to us even more added value, then, probably, it makes sense to convert it.

I speak "probably" because for adoption of the similar solution serious economic calculation is necessary.

It is a question only of cost efficiency?

Yury Shekhovtsov: It is a complex question which will also demand complete retraining of both a production, and managerial personnel. It not absolutely "is simple to tire out UAVs under the earth", this understanding of how we service this equipment because it in a different way works. And if we in the mine after all have people, a question in how they interact with this pilotless equipment.

Right now completely "the deserted mine" is other reality, a culturological revolution in the true sense of the word. We should have governing bodies which influence the pilotless equipment, to be able to repair quickly it because differently there is a threat of a stop of production. Respectively, highly skilled engineers and repairmen come to the forefront - the pilotless equipment itself will not repair.

And in general what employees of specialties, from your point of view, will become less demanded against the background of automation, digitalization and robotization of production processes?

Yury Shekhovtsov: I consider that all employees will be anyway demanded, but their retraining can be required. If we suddenly deeply go to pilotless technologies, then, most likely the profession the driver can be transformed to a profession, we will call it, conditionally, "gamer". Skill of control of the dump truck on the joystick in the remote mode - almost game skill, it is not necessary to feel the dump truck here, other skills for management are necessary here.

I assume that we will not be able to make all equipment completely pilotless. And in this case highly skilled drivers will be demanded.

In general, I would wait for improvement of competition among representatives of similar professions.

Returning to strategy. One more target indicator – performance improvement of work for 15% due to what technologies it will be reached? Why, for example, not to raise by 30%?

Yury Shekhovtsov: Labor productivity can be raised infinitely. For example, to perform it is very productive transactions which do not bring added value.

Not that how often and many you do in terms of performance and how often and many you do transactions which add value is important even. Respectively, it is necessary to exclude those which do not bear value, and remained to make the most productive, to automate. It can be the mass of things, including infrastructure, and actually on each repartition. For example, if we understand that we can make loading and delivery transport pilotless, then we do it pilotless and we remove from this transaction of the person.

I was among those who participated in the program for increase in efficiency on the Rocky mine in Polar branch. And we considered, in terms of efficiency, all process, beginning from detonation and finishing with skipovy raising of ore upward. I can tell that about 3% of effective transactions counted while in the world good practice – 6%.

In some aspects we can raise performance twice, a question only in what purpose. There are processes where it is possible to increase performance even not by 15%, and many times. Simple example: on routine office transactions we put the robot. He does not eat, does not sleep, does not go to a holiday, it has no shift change, smoke breaks and so on. Not to compare the capacity of the robot to performance of the person. The only thing - it needs to be serviced if something exchanged in the program. It is not so difficult.

You had a project with use of drones. What development did it gain? What plans for their application at you?

Yury Shekhovtsov: The task to fulfill a possibility of use of the unmanned aerial vehicle for inspection of excavations is set for Digital laboratory: for photo and video filming. These shootings are necessary for the analysis of a status of developments including in especially hardly accessible sections.

We successfully carried out the first tests in vitro, tests in the mine are planned for September and October. Use of drones will allow to reveal and eliminate different defects of excavations at early stages, to avoid potential emergency situations, safely and qualitatively to perform inspection of clearing cameras and vertical excavations.

Besides, we study different options of use of pilotless devices and for land surveys.

What else projects of Digital laboratory underwent prototyping and are already implemented in operation or are close to it?

Yury Shekhovtsov: There is a lot of them. For example, we complete implementation of IT - "optimizer" of the main flight of melting workshop at the Copper plant in Norilsk ("digital double" technology). A system models optimal scenarios of work of workshop and provides the maximum capacity of converter repartition. The optimizer helps the shift supervisor to minimize variability of work of converter repartition, offering optimal logistics of delivery of copper matte from melting furnaces to converters (furnaces for production of blister copper).

At the same plant the project on system implementation of identification of short circuits of the cathode and anode in electrolysis workshop which will help us to increase performance by 2.5% prepares for implementation. Video cameras, the thermal imager and a laser ranging sensor will be used for this purpose. The thermal imager defines the short circuit fact, catching heating of metal plates, the range finder reveals that section of an electrolysis bathtub, where exactly there was a short circuit. Then the operator interferes with process and recovers electrolysis.

On Kola MMC computer "machine vision" technology it is used for control of process of briquetting of a copper-nickel concentrate before its sending to the melting furnace. The innovation helps to analyze the production process course, to control observance of the technology modes, to affect characteristics of products.

At enrichment factories we are going to start the system for fight against abnormal idle times of crushers which is also developed on the basis of "digital sight" technology. Video cameras are directed to pipelines with ore for the subsequent image transfer on the central processing computer. The computer analyzes data and reveals foreign objects, for example, of a part of an armature which in case of hit in a crushing drum could lead to its breakdowns.

Also at all enrichment factories we are going to start "the digital assistant" who helps to optimize flotation process (one of ore processing stages), to increase efficiency of extraction of metal. The project already went through a stage of trial operation.

In the Norilsk Fuel and Energy Company (NFEC) the technology Internet of Things will be implemented. The NTEK has substations which require the round-the-clock bypass: it is necessary to take each two hours readings from manometers - devices on measurement of pressure and temperature. We will deliver sensors which, first, increased frequency information transfer about a status of substations on substations, secondly, their application will allow to exempt people from routine work.

On what new projects does "laboratory" work at the moment?

Yury Shekhovtsov: In development there is the whole complex of projects on "The intellectual tailings dam". It any solutions which using digital technologies will help to trace a status of tailings dams (constructions for storage of the fulfilled industrial wastes or "tails").

Also we work on creation of a robotic autonomous complex with functions of studying of a relief of a bottom, navigation and mapping. The robot will allow to carry out autonomous monitoring of tailings dams on the basis of bathymetric shooting, to obtain more detailed and exact information on a status of their bottom. Thus, we will lower labor costs at simultaneous increase in frequency of carrying out monitoring, we will simplify calculation of stability of dams of the tailings dam.

As far as it is expensive technology?

Yury Shekhovtsov: The solution economically not costly - the technologies connected with bathymetry are popular in many industries. However, the technology yet is not used by the large companies. Possibly, we will be the first.

In a prototype – "the digital assistant driver" - the predicative analysis of the technical rolling stock. Its application will facilitate work of locomotive crews, will increase safety of works during the maneuvering and a hitch of cars, will allow to inform on high-speed restrictions, technical condition of nodes, etc.

There are several projects connected with increase in labor safety on production. At a prototyping stage - the system of video fixing of violations of use of individual protection equipment. The technology fixes absence at workers of overalls, helmets, goggles and even not buttoned podborodochny belt.

There is a project on localization of "land" personnel – technologies which will allow us to define provision of the person as inside, and out of the building, with a possibility of a feedback. It becomes to trace a physical status of the employee, to notify people on location in potentially dangerous production zone.

The active test stage is gone by smart contracts (blockchain technology tools). In the long term they will help us to increase transparency of business processes and to considerably reduce the number of manual transactions. Just these processes, from my point of view, also need to be done by most "deserted" – where the digital signature, there automatic reconciliation. It allows to get rid of numerous approvals, rearrangement of documents, manual signatures and a nazhimaniye of buttons.