Kazakhstan turns to Google and McKinsey to mine big data

30 May 2016 Consultancy.uk

The Republic of Kazakhstan has enjoyed strong growth in its mining industry over the past decades on the back of high commodity prices; however, following a recent downturn in prices the country has decided to place more efforts on improving efficiency. For the job, Kazakhstan’s policy makers have called in Google and McKinsey & Company to introduce the Industrial Internet of Things in its mining ranks. 

The Republic of Kazakhstan is the world’s seventh largest nation, and is situated in northern Central Asia. The country has enjoyed strong economic growth over the past decade, building on high oil and mineral commodity prices, both of which are abundant in the country. Its main mining activity is in uranium – Kazakhstan is the world’s largest supplier, and a is also major producer of copper, zinc and ferrochrome.

In recent years the falling commodity prices, like in a number of countries whose books lean heavily towards the export of natural resources, have resulted in a steep decline in Kazakhstan’s growth – which is expected to stagnate this year. In a bid to counter the effect of a protracted period of low commodity prices, and increase the attractiveness of the country to mining investments, the Kazakhstani Government has launched a series of plans aimed at cost-cutting and efficiency improvements. The focus however lies strongly on driving up efficiency, says the government, as cost cutting is not deemed in the interest of its people.

Kazakhstan turns to Google and McKinsey to mine big data

To support the transformation, policy makers have called in US giants McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, and Google. The tech player and consulting firm will draft a strategy on how efficiency across the mining industry can be improved, and establish an approach on how leveraging big data analytics techniques and the application of Industrial Internet of Things could drive maturity wins. The partnership between McKinsey, Google and the Kazakhstani Government will see the collection and analysis of data from across the mining sector to a new centre, based in Almaty, the country’s commercial capital. A number of large mining operators, including ENRC, and London-listed Polymetal, have already signed up to participate in the data centre.

The technology being implemented involves Google installing an ‘industrial internet of things’, through which a range of sensors are installed on mining and processing equipment around the country, which, once analysed in the new “mining industry competence centre”, will provide insight into where bottlenecks occur, and this allow for real time efficiency implementation. McKinsey, which is said to be taking a 50% stake in the project, will provide the analytical and consulting skills to unravel improvement areas, and oversee execution. According to a spokesperson of the consultancy, the comprehensiveness of data availability would make the Kazakh initiative “unique in the global mining industry.” 

According to a recent report from Accenture, the potential of the Industrial Internet of Things is massive – the technology is expected to add $14 trillion to the economies of 20 major countries by 2030. 

“It’s not a secret that the mining sector has been a little bit neglected in Kazakhstan in terms of technological development,” Asset Issekeshev, Minister of Investment and Development, told the Financial Times. “We are trying to depart from the inheritance we got from the Soviet system. We are transforming our mining sector closer to the Australian model that allows you better access to information, and gives transparency.”

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How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.