Inside Mining recently sat down with members of the South African thyssenkrupp management team to gain some insight into the company’s product and service solutions to drive sustainable mining in Africa in 2019.

Philipp Nellessen, CEO, thyssenkrupp South and Southern Africa, unpacks the latest and upcoming developments at thyssenkrupp.

In line with the rapid digital transformation the mining sector is undergoing, and as a market-leading technology company, thyssenkrupp has come to be known for offering a host of digital solutions. Can you discuss some of your digitalisation initiatives?

PN  We are quite happy with how far we have come; we have two types of digitisation initiatives. One is the focus on improving plant performance, where we usually achieve between an improvement of between 2% to 5%. It starts with the digital modelling of the plant, then we do some optimisation of the plant, but it all ends up going through to an artificial neural network to evaluate online plant performance and optimise plant quality. So, it is quite a broad range of tools we use.

Besides that, we offer developments that are aimed at speeding up decision-making – e.g. we have a drone for mine planning that flies over mining sites, then instantly creates a model of the mine, which is far quicker than the historical way of measuring a mine, and accurate.

What are some of your latest developments and what customers can look forward to in the new year?

PN:  Digitalisation is the main driver of our latest innovations that straddle the mining, power and chemical sectors. What we try to do with our digital solutions is really combine our expert know-how with the latest technology. We find that we produce really amazing results when we do that. We see increase in productivity and we believe it is a substantial business case for the customer.

With the upcoming launch of your Technical Training Academy in mind, please discuss the importance of training for thyssenkrupp and in the industry.

PN:  We are very proud to be launching this training academy. Our success is based on the exceptional skills of our people – so, for us, it was a given that we need to develop them and expand their horizons. Thus, we invested more than R20 million into our academy. We didn’t just build it for the company’s sake, but did it for the market too.

A third of the graduates of the programme will be taken into full-time employment by thyssenkrupp, whereas the remaining two thirds will be released into the market after completing the three-year programme.

It is a very detailed, very well-designed programme that has been accredited by a number of agencies. It is based on what the Germans call a ‘dual programme’, where companies and schools work together to build world-class artisans. This is our goal.

Sustainability is essential to the future of any mine or plant. How does thyssenkrupp contribute to customers’ sustainability programmes?

PN:  We put a lot of effort into sustainability. One of our leading focuses is energy-efficiency technology, which looks at making equipment more efficient and minimising environmental impacts. For example, we have solutions like the consolidated solar architecture where we use solar beams to also heat up boilers and produce more steam than usual on our sugar plant operations.

We then also have solutions that look at the reduction of emissions (carbon to chemical), where we use not just carbon dioxide like you would in any exhaust to extract chemicals, but also a number of other chemicals that come out of the exhaust to convert them into a sellable product.

Tell us about your strategy for the African continent.

PN:  We are adamant that we want to continue our growth trajectory by going further into the continent and getting closer to our customers – not just for proximity’s sake but also to partner with customers. We see it too often where an EPC is not seen as a partner. We want to change this.

We also want to focus on key strategy partners and discuss R&D pipelines and needs to help us in continuing to offer holistic solutions. It is very important that we bring technologies from our global network into Africa, like biomass power plants, for example.