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The Process of Technology Adoption – Series Part 2 of 2, Getting Better Return on Investment

From the process in Part 1 you have a more robust configuration and implementation of the technology. Where practical, you can have a basis for increasing applications and increasing daily utilization. It is important to evaluate the tradeoffs between which applications are most important and maximizing utilization over time. There are many ways to consider Return on Investment and they can include social impact or benefit, present and future value and more. In this next post we will talk about maximizing utilization and suggest a few numbers to indicate value for basic applications of the technology, pXRF (defined in Part 1 of 2).

The cost benefit of this technology can be a seemingly priceless value in enabling efficiencies such as:
simplifying or improving workflow
reducing labor costs
improved testing – a more pleasurable and therefore more effective process for grade control (lugging kilograms of samples from underground vs direct testing)
ability to test more area quickly
reduction in staff underground
reducing wait times for decisions
more rapid economic actions
checks against laboratory results and more

Let us take a look at maximizing usage based on the following options for applications on site.
Results from brainstorming and subsequent consultation with a provider in Part 1 would tell you that the instrument could be shared amongst the following applications:

Lead paint analysis (environmental and safety benefit)
Engine wear metals in oils (great cost and time savings)
Dust wipe analysis (air quality)
Fire assay (health and effective testing benefits)
Process control/metallurgy (check process, fast testing on night shift)
Geomet (economic and efficiency or planning benefits)
Pre-screening samples in the lab or before the lab (economic benefit)
QC of the lab
Analysis for elements the lab may not effectively detect with chosen methods (Cr, Zr…etc)
Scrap metal testing
Soil contaminant and acid rock drainage

In this first example in examining whether we share an instrument to maximize value, let us say we have decided to use one instrument for grade control undergound in the mine.

If we take a look at percent usage could we share the instrument with another department? Maybe at the end of the day when the instruments surfaces from the mine it could be used to run environmental samples, ARD or acid rock drainage samples, soil or water contaminate samples? These would most likely be collected through the day but could also be tested in situ. With this idea usage can go from say 70% up to 90 or 100%.

Consider a few points regarding life without this technology, portable XRF in the mine to understand ROI in this example:
misclasification of grade and stockpiles
lab turns around sample in 1 to 3 days
lack of confidence in the lab
requirement for 3 to 5 people to take samples
need to pull samples out of the mine (time, safety, labor costs plus lab costs)
extended time underground sampling
increase usage of transport for staff and samples

In the second case say we share the instrumentation with exploration for applications in soil, rock or drill core testing and in the lab for pre-screening of samples. Maybe we have chosen to locate the instrument in the laboratory. The usage might look like this next figure.

Conversely, if exploration is drilling, it may be of more value to guide the drill program with the instrument at site or in the core shack to enhance immediacy of lithogeochemical modeling or direct testing of metals and pathfinders to guide the process before the next shift. Perhaps those data can also be shared to the lab in real time to serve as a pre-screen or perhaps with that pre-screening we send 20% of the blank samples rather than everything.

Let us think about the numbers in bulk for a soil sampling program through one summer. Not counting the benefits of pre-screening to the lab, just in analysis costs alone:

Doing more for your lab budget:

Lab: 1000 soil samples @ $30 = $30,000
XRF rental: 1000 @ $3 = $3000 (now reduce the samples to the lab by 80% of the barren samples – send less or send more mineralized)

Now you are able to justify purchase or rental of the technology just considering our light monitary calculations for a monthly rental and not the considerations I share above for the priceless advantages. Imagine purchasing the technology will cost you even less.

Looking at the number of samples and cost of operating an XRF you can quickly pay for your instrument and increase efficiencies with immediate analyses. To throw out some numbers for an internal lab:

Internal Lab: 80 samples x $20 = $1600 per day to the lab (24 to 48+ hr wait)
XRF and 20% to Lab: 80 samples x $3 plus the 20% from the lab = $560 per day
You cut your costs by 1/3 plus shorten the wait time to make decisions

In summary, the idea is to consider ways to increase value:
increase the number of samples, test more mineralized samples and less blanks
increase applications for a unit (sharing)
increase usage over the life of the instrument (project sharing)

You can consider the per unit benefit, the cost over time and the % usage against the initial costs (or future value of that cost) to determine if you can benefit from more than one instrument, by sharing an instrument across applications or by combining with current testing services. Costs of implementing additional units of technology go down as does volume purchase pricing.

About the author, Cynthia

An advocate for creative, effective adoption of technology and its focused development around its users.