BHP Billiton has revealed plans to double its permanent IT workforce globally as it nears the first anniversary of a major operational restructure.
The company has spent the past year building out parts of its new technology function, which provides “operational and information technology services to the company as well as ... technology innovation”.
Much of that work has centred on the integration of information technology and operational technology (IT-OT), which has been seen as a goal for industrial companies for at least a decade.
However, the miner is now ready to substantially build out the function as part of a “technology revolution”.
“We are doubling our permanent workforce across the globe and have roles in Australia, Chile (Santiago), Singapore and The United States (Houston) across a range of disciplines,” BHP Billiton said.
“BHP Billiton's global technology team is the coming together of a dedicated, innovative team focused on identifying and implementing new ways of raising standards and improving productivity, safety, environmental impact and being first to embrace new technologies to lead our industry globally.
“Our vision is to enable a fully integrated and highly automated business from resource to market.”
In Australia, the miner is now ramping up resources around a new “industrial decision automation” capability that appears to formalise BHP Billiton’s adoption of industrial IoT and machine learning.
It is in the process of recruiting “architecture ninjas” to form part of a “software engineering tribe influencing the way we build and ship code, the frameworks we use and mentoring others within the team to think differently when problem solving".
The company has earmarked areas as diverse as filling blast holes with explosives to “influencing operator behaviour on a 300t truck”.
Like its main rival Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton has adopted automation and sensor-loaded equipment at some of its mine sites; however, it appears to now be interested in how it can derive more value from those environments.
BHP’s expansion signals the end of a bleak period for IT in mining since the sector’s downturn, and puts IT front and centre in how Australia’s big miners plan to make money.