Trevali Mining Corporation recently set out to centralise IT, optimise operations, and make fast, informed decisions across data repositories and business processes at its offices and its four main mining sites around the globe. The company chose Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Microsoft 365, and Azure services to power its new operating platform and expects to realise $20 million in pre-tax, sustainable savings and efficiencies by 2022 from its Digital Transformation Program.
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Trevali Mining Corporation is a global natural-resource company engaged in the acquisition, exploration, development, and production of zinc, lead, silver, and copper deposits. In late 2019, the company launched T90, an initiative to reduce all-in sustaining costs (AISC) to $0.90 per pound of zinc. By 2022, the company expects to achieve $50 million in annual sustainable efficiencies, with $20 million of those savings coming from the Digital Transformation Program alone.
This Digital Transformation Program is a big component of T90—a way to help achieve best-in-class operational performance, especially across its four main mining locations in Burkina Faso, Canada, Namibia, and Peru. To improve communication and scalability, Trevali planned to deploy a single digital operating platform.
For underground operations, employees didn’t always have access to the most current information. Normally, they got a work plan at the beginning of their shift, but they had no reliable way to track their progress or receive new information underground. To improve connectivity and monitor equipment health and performance, including its location relative to people and other pieces of machinery, the company plans to add more Wi-Fi hotspots in the mines, issue more mobile devices, and start connecting equipment to an Internet of Things (IoT) network. Trevali will also automate selected processes to improve safety and efficiency, like managing mine ventilation and semi-autonomous loading from a surface control room during shift change, when the loading of blasted material is normally postponed pending adequate ventilation to clean the air.
Derek du Preez, Chief Technology Officer at Trevali, looks forward to the full implementation of underground tracking. ”It’s about safety,” he says. “We’ll use a combination of modern connectivity options underground for proximity detection, so we’ll know where people and equipment are in relation to each other, to more safely clear shifts. We’ll be able to warn people of possible interaction with underground mobile equipment.” Whether above or below the ground, the company set out to improve connections among its IT systems and processes, centralising operations and enterprise information to support data-driven planning, control, and decision making across the organisation.
Trevali already used Microsoft Project Online, SharePoint Server, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems SAP ECC6, Syspro, and Sage Epic. For its digital transformation, the company chose a Microsoft cloud solution. According to Antonette Coleman, Group Lead Business Intelligence & Applications at Trevali, “Going with Microsoft products made sense because they work seamlessly with our connected applications. It’s empowering us as a business.”
The company got support from Microsoft, like recommendations for IT partners. Trevali turned to partner BDO Canada to update its CRM and ERP functionality and deploy MineX, a specialised offering built on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management. These cloud services work seamlessly with Office 365, Power BI and Microsoft AI products to support a unified working experience across locations and business processes. Trevali will use built-in collaboration and communication capabilities in Office 365 and a single database in Dynamics 365 to quickly consolidate information from multiple sources to support its offices and its remote mine sites. The company will also streamline manual processes around requisitions, procurement, and its supply chain with advanced automated workflow review, approval, and security tools.
MineX also includes Dynaway Enterprise Asset Management, a module in Dynamics 365 that ties together finance, inventory, procurement, projects, and production. Using its built-in AI capabilities, the company will analyse huge volumes of data across the organisation. Trevali will also use Dynaway capabilities for remote equipment monitoring and proactive repairs. This part of the digital transformation kicked off in Vancouver, British Columbia, in February 2020, with two mining sites scheduled to go live in Q1/Q2 2021, and the remaining sites in Q4 2021.
To update its workplace IT environment, Trevali engaged Microsoft partner Bulletproof. In late 2019, the partner started helping the company to rely less on VPNs and deploy Microsoft 365 across software-defined networks, to reduce the costs of supporting a mobile workforce across platforms. Trevali is currently using Azure SQL Database and collects data from the operational environment making data available for decision support and analytics. The data and transformed information are presented through Power BI.
Microsoft consulted with Trevali on overall data strategy and provided onsite training to help people get the most out of the company’s Surface deployment—including Surface Hub for meetings and collaboration and Surface Laptop 3, Surface Book, and Surface Pro for the leadership team, with plans for more Surface devices in the future. Bulletproof and AVI-SPL has set up Crestron Flex-P series devices to natively run Microsoft Teams on selected devices in the Canadian conference rooms, in conjunction with Teams voice and video calling. One-touch start to meetings is very valuable in terms of simplifying meetings as well as being able to invite additional attendees from the integrated directory of internal users.
IT integration plays a big part of the Digital Transformation Program. Antonette Coleman says, “Before, we struggled to consolidate data from various systems for monthly reporting. It was time-consuming. With Dynamics 365, we have one solution to run our business processes on, without silos. The data is all there, the interface is engaging and familiar—people like using it. It’s a perfect fit for our IT ecosystem.”
Before the Digital Transformation Program, different company locations maintained their own PBX systems, servers running Microsoft Exchange, calendaring and conferencing solutions, and other related solutions. Now that the company has a single tenant, Walter Coleman, Group IT Lead at Trevali, appreciates the cohesive communication environment. Teams also works very effectively in low bandwidth environments for calls and video conferencing. “It’s really helpful to have presence information for people in different time zones,” he says. “I can’t stress enough how valuable Teams has been for us, like the ability to chat instantly with people on the other side of the world. The other day at 11:00 PM my time, I needed to talk with one of my team in Namibia. I saw that one of them was online; boom, we were able to collaborate on the fly. In the past, we wouldn’t know who was available, so chatting was not as simple.”
To administer and coordinate core aspects across its cloud solution, the company uses Azure Sentinel as a SIEM for security and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for identity management. Trevali has simplified IT management with federated single sign-on (SSO) in Azure AD. “Before, having independent domains meant that when people wanted to share a resource like an app, there was no way to apply SSO. Now, we have SSO for many different applications. We basically only have one identity to manage—each person’s Office 365 identity,” he says.
Fast deployments and compliance on specific rule sets are another benefit. Walter Coleman continues, “With Microsoft Intune, through one dashboard, I get an overview of what’s happening across all the hardware in our organisation—I can make sure we have encryption enabled on all of it. I can check conditional access, making sure that if someone isn’t using a trusted device, they’ll need to use two-factor authentication to get to sensitive resources.”
Using Azure Sentinel security features, Trevali collects data at cloud scale across all users, devices, applications, and infrastructure, both on-premises and in multiple clouds. Walter Coleman streams audit logs from Office 365 into his Azure Sentinel workspace on the same tenant to get statistics across hundreds of thousands of records, to see whether a sign-in attempt is safe or a medium or severe risk. “Using Azure Sentinel to manage security across our Microsoft environment saves me a significant amount of time,” says Walter Coleman. “The safety net it provides with custom automated alerts versus the possible human error of manual monitoring is a big bonus. Coupled with the 24h Security Operations Centre maintained by our Managed Services partner, Bulletproof and using Microsoft 365 SKUs for all users across the organisation, we have had great success maintaining our focus on cybersecurity.”
Trevali’s AI and IoT solution is scheduled for deployment in late 2020. It will cover planning, production, inventory, warehouse, and transformational management processes across the company.
A project of this size relies on clear communication and engagement with employees and partners. “It’s important to take everyone along on this journey together, especially the people using the new applications,” says Antonette Coleman. “We set up a transformation office to lead change management.” Du Preez adds that getting user feedback early on is another crucial component for improving solution design.
Technology partners play a big part in the success. Walter Coleman points to Bulletproof, which provides a 24-hour helpdesk for English and French speakers. Bulletproof also manages Trevali’s infrastructure, helping upgrade the physical IT components and ensure the company stays current with its solution licensing. “Bulletproof acts as my IT team for our Canadian operations. For our networking, Windows, and Office 365 components, they manage and administrate our Azure tenant. The advice and guidance they’ve given us have been invaluable,” he says.
After the company finishes installing a core network infrastructure layer across its mines, Walter Coleman says, “I can see people using Dynamics 365 or Teams on mobile devices underground. Instead of coming up to the surface, they’ll be able to attend meetings remotely, from underground. Improvements like these across all processes will add up quickly to help us reach our T90 goal.”