New technology development in the primary sector
An Anglo American case study

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Page 2: New technology development

New products, processes and services are created through innovation. Anglo American focuses its research on improving the performance of its existing processes, developing new competitive processes and supporting the wider organisation through specialist mineralogy and analytical services.

This enables its customers to benefit from shared best practice, as well as from the development of emerging technologies. These are new, often specialised technologies that may be used in mainstream business applications to improve safety, reduce energy, increase water usage efficiency, lower overall production cost, enhance product qualities or increase a company's ability to recover value from its activities.

As organisations develop, they are constantly looking for new ways of doing things and of meeting customer needs in a better way. There are many different sources of ideas for new products and processes.

Before a new product or process is launched, it has to go through a series of phases of development. These phases may take place over a number of years:

  • The development starts with a well-defined problem that the business needs to solve.
  • Once a new idea to address the problem has been identified, the next stage is to produce a structured development plan.
  • The development plan will identify what business need the new product will fill.
  • The plan will also identify many of the features and benefits the innovation will deliver.
  • It also involves estimating the costs of testing an idea, which sometimes means that alternative solutions have to be evaluated and compared for cost-effectiveness.

 Anglo American uses a 'roadmap' to show the stages from problem to implementation. This helps to assess at regular intervals whether the idea helps to solve the problem. The red arrows on the diagram indicate specific milestones when the technology under development is reviewed. At these points, a decision is made whether to progress to the next stage or not. If, for example, the technology does not meet expectation or is too expensive, then the plan may have to change or stop altogether.

Undertaking research requires considerable expertise. Anglo American has its own research division called Anglo Research. Anglo Research aims to spread and apply best practice in existing technologies across the Group and to identify emerging technologies. It engages in technology transfer across the whole organisation to make sure all parts of Anglo American use the best technologies in the best way. Anglo Research pioneers new technologies in order to improve the performance of Anglo American as a whole.

Anglo Technical, a sister organisation of Anglo Research specialising in various engineering fields, also develops new products and processes. One important field involves geoscientists, electronic engineers and various specialist consultants working together. They aim to enable Anglo American to develop innovative methods of exploration, such as in the use of magnetic sensors.

These sensors help to minimise the impact of Anglo American”s activities on the environment. For example, by conducting initial exploration from the air, testing on the ground is reduced. At the same time, the work of these teams ensures that Anglo American can mine and develop the supply of raw materials that it needs.

Anglo American | New technology development in the primary sector