Cloud-Based Simulation Software

Background

5% of the worlds total power use is devoted to turning very big rocks into particles less than 32 microns in diameter, finer than talcum powder. Only at that small size can valuable minerals be separated from ‘gangue’ or rocks and dirt to you an me The mining industry is incredibly costly and so mine planning is a hugely important area where any small increase in efficiency can mean billions of dollars in savings and make the difference between a profitable business and a disaster. JKMRC is a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) attached to the University of Queensland. They and their stablemate at UQ, CRC ORE have over 50 years experience in researching and implementing mineral processing improvements working with the majority of the worlds mining industry.

The Brief

JKMRC already has several technological offerings for simulating mining processes. However this software is incomplete and is desktop based, so it is limited in it’s simulation capacity (one CPU can only do so much) and has little to no collaborative abilities which hampers the ability of research experts and operations staff to work together across geography and time zones. The Integrated Extraction Simulator (IES) project was kicked off in mid 2012 to deliver an cloud based solution to meet the requirements of research, operational and executive needs in making mineral processing cheaper, more efficient and less energy and resource intensive.

The Result

I was hired as the UX Consultant and Front End Developer for an agile development team who were tasked with improving on the current technological offerings. After initial analysis a web application was planned that used Ext-JS and MxGraph Javascript Frameworks working with Java web services that would run the key IP supplied by JKMRC, the 50 odd years of research work in mathematical models that calculate individual aspects of the mineral processing cycle. The software is also intense to be model agnostic, able to take on as yet unthought of models as research continually finds new ways to best operate. We worked very closely with the research experts at JKMRC, who are a key user type. We also conduct stakeholder reviews and will undertake scenario based user testing, where a collection of experts will mimic a realistic mining company scenario where an actual process improvement problem is tackled. As UX consultant my challenges have been to derive the key functions of the very specialised domain in order to create an interface that makes working with the IES a default choice for all users. In effect our software is in competition with ad-hoc solutions that our user base are more than capable of ‘getting by’ with. To tackle this problem we have relied extensively on using primary materials such as excel documents and macros used by research experts, as well as reports and production meeting materials from participating mining companies. The response so far has been highly positive and it looks like we are on track to deliver a product that has the potential to revolutionise the day to day and year to year of the mining industry.

Note: This software is unreleased and subject to an NDA which means I can talk about it but cannot demo or show it publicly. The project is now in a commercialisation phase so it should be accessible soon.

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