How do you buy technology? How are you certain to obtain optimal results, get your project and purchase approved and look like a star implementer afterwards? This often requires a team. It takes a group of stakeholders to obtain a well-rounded perspective to ensure safe, effective and continued use of technology of any kind and to avoid problems such as misuse, garbage data, low utilization or shelving of the investment. To avoid these problems there is a very achivable process to save headache, failure or purchasing of the incorrect or misconfigured technology. Where do you start? Brainstorming.
The group brainstorming session regarding the application and technology in question is effective and saves time. From this session, it is important to determine:
- primary and secondary needs,
- less obvious benefits and tradeoffs
- workflow in conjunction with best practices
- who will be responsible for the technology for maintenance, on-going training and implementation
- cost benefit/return on investment
For ease of explanation, we can base this discussion around a commonly used piece of technology, portable x-ray fluorescence a.k.a. pXRF. In the exploration and mining industry this technology is commonly used for geochemical analysis of rock, soil or laboratory pulps (prepared samples) where portability and fast testing are important.
The group assembled in this example could be:
- purchasing (especially if they are looking for competitive quotes)
- data management
- geology (mine and exploration)
- QC people
- expert consultants – geometallurgy, economic geologist, QP
I know what you are thinking. That is a lot of people who do not speak to eachother unless it is at a Christmas party. The benefits of going through this effort are abundant and when the company pays for a technology and expects to have full value and ROI, responsibility for effective and full-value implementation supercedes the inside-the-box thinking and tendancy for lack of communication across a business unit.
What happens in the brainstorm session for technology adoption?
- Primary and other needs are identified to ensure these objectives are met going forward
- Alternative technology options (first pass) are shared or identified
- Increased base understanding of the technology and its primary appliction
- Production of a valuable set of questions for the technology provider
- Use these results as checklist for configuration and implementation
Information gathered without brainstorming session:
|Party||Uses||Reservations||Questions for provider|
|Geologist/Engineer||Detection of Ag, Pb, Zn in underground grade control||
Information gathered from brainstorming session (very short list to be brief – think of the potential):
|Attendee||Uses||Reservations||Questions for Provider|
||Detection for lithogeochemical elements||
||Changes in operating procedure not same as before and do not fit experience||How has the technology changed? Maybe how will it change in the near future?|
|QC Person||Run comparative analysis with lab||Develope procedure for quality control||
|Data manager||Data types & format||
|Geometalurgical Consultant||Bringing XRF data from exploration to the mine …additional elements possibly provided and ideas for using resulting data exploration side for improving processing||
The benefits of the group brainstorming session are evident. Whether all departments use the technology in the end or not, there is a larger set of questions for the provider, a more comprehensive understanding of the technology and a more robust configuration and implementation. You will have a potential for broader applications leading to higher daily utilization, greater engagement, accountability and reduce probability of abandonment of the technology. Finally, the technology can be duplicated in other departments with this process having been completed and an installation in place, this lowers the over all cost and increases cost benefit for both installations.
As you can see above, many of the elements listed by different people would not have been included in the configuration leading to an instrument that was either underutilized or sent back to factory for reconfiguration for extra time and cost.
To take this one step further, look internally to other units in the business to share these results or include them if they already have experience with this technology. If you can, create a centre for communication and experience like a centre of excellence for the use of the technology company-wide.
The next entry in this series will be regarding maximizing ROI, return on investment. Please share your comments, experience and questions about this section in the comment section below or email us so we can adjust the blog post to better explain the process.