The application of mobile data sharing technology to Fortescue's mining operations in the Pilbara is expected to save the iron ore stalwart millions of dollars via gains in productivity.

Fortescue introduced the new data sharing system to its Cloudbreak mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region toward the end of 2013, giving managers real-time access to productivity data via mobile tablet devices.

The new mobile dashboards can be used by managers to identify and address productivity issues almost as soon as they arise, with the potential to radically increase efficiency. Fortescue said that the system could achieve productivity gains in excess of 10 per cent and save the iron ore miner around $30 million in costs per year.

The data is gathered by means of fleet management systems responsible for tracking the performance of mining equipment such as trucks and diggers, and the SCADA systems entrusted with managing the operation of fixed plant facilities.

Whereas supervisors previously needed to wait until work shifts had concluded to get their hands on the latest up-to-date productivity data, invariably in the form of a daily report, they can now use tablet technology to see quantitative breakdowns of mining operations with near real-time rapidity.

The system is also capable of communicating information in a manner which is more intuitive and direct than the traditional Excel spreadsheet, displaying it in the form of rich data or visual dashboards.

The technology was developed in-house by Fortescue’s own IT team in collaboration with its business improvement team, with critical feedback provided by operations staff throughout the course of the development process to ensure the final product would suit their needs.

The system has already given a significant boost to the efficiency drive launched by the miner in response to tepid ore prices and Australia’s high cost operating environment.

During the first quarter of 2014, the data sharing system raised the production volume of Fortescue’s fleet of RH340 diggers by 11 per cent to hit 5,500 tonnes per hour.

The iron ore miner’s trucks are also performing more efficiently as a result of the system’s introduction, with each vehicle increasing its weekly haulage volume by over 70 ton-kilometres.

These accomplishments have garnered advanced recognition in the form of a business process management award for the project from research advisory Gartner.

Vito Forte, Fortescue’s chief information officer, said that the technology would also be used to generate benefits in other areas of operation.

“The lessons learned from this project are being applied to numerous other projects that can have direct, measurable benefit to Fortescue,” he said.