Competence. Innovation. Solutions in Mining.

Sudbury Mining Solutions

Commentary

Best practices for commercializing products and services

In most cases, if I ask our SAMSSA (Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association) member companies how they are structuring their company to become more innovative, the reaction is either a puzzled look or a smile. The usual, universal response is, “we are innovating everyday based on requests from our clients that improve our products and services.”

You can’t argue with this response if it works in the long term and there is an increase in sales. But the world is changing dramatically in the mining sector and most major mining companies are looking for products and services that are dramatically innovative, reduce their costs and increase efficiencies with new, proven technology. This is a hard task to fulfill if you are only focused on the pull of your historical clients for incremental improvements because it becomes slightly narrow and linear.

There is an attempt being made in Canada to find an answer for small and mid-sized mining supply and service companies to extend and refine their capacity in order to actively supply the market with multiple technology advances.

The Centre for the Commercialization of Mining Technologies and Services (CCMTS) is becoming a focus for defining best practices that will help companies compete in the global market. Facilitated by Gary Svoboda of the Conference Board of Canada, CCMTS members include SAMSSA, CAMESE, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Lake Shore Gold, MacLean Engineering, Marcotte Mining Machinery Services, Mining Technologies International, the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Rock-Tech Sales and Service, The Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology, The University of British Columbia’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining, Vale Inco Thompson, Xstrata Nickel Sudbury Operations, 3M Mining and Extraction EBO, Barrick Gold, CUBEX, Export Development Canada and FNX Mining.

This is a serious attempt by important players to establish, support and improve our Canadian mining supply and service sector’s innovative products in the global mining industry.

Major study

CCMTS recently commissioned a major study of CAMESE and SAMSSA members.

One hundred and fifty nine respondents were asked to rank their use of 18 commercialization business practices. Small companies (less than 50 employees), medium-sized companies (50-500 employees) and large companies (more than 500 employees) participated in the study in February.

The best practices included: leadership, research (basic and/or applied), research linkages, product idea generation, intellectual property (trademarks/patents), market research, product development, technology transfer, market testing, market launches, marketing trade shows, advertising (Internet/journals), sales personnel (domestic/international), annual strategic plan and customer satisfaction measurements.

Indicators for success

I liked the list of best practices as indicators for success to improve innovation. They are a valuable tool for future discussions as we move forward with our smaller-sized SAMSSA members.

There was consensus that some more obvious best practices were reinforced, but some interesting insights were also obtained.

The study observed that “The medium and larger-sized companies have implemented a number of the best practices likely because they have more money, more resources and are more mature.”

It also found that “Smaller companies have less established commercialization practices in 17 out of 18 categories, thus reducing their ability to implement innovative products and services….”

There is much more detail in the study, but the final insights were also enlightening.

Canadian mining supply and service organizations that concentrate on establishing the following practices are more likely to be successful at new product commercialization:

Leadership – dedicated management function for new product commercialization

Product development – budgeting for spending a certain amount annually for new product development

Research linkages – participating in external partnerships where feasible and available

Product idea generation– dedicate resources to identify new opportunities

Export sales – dedicated international sales representatives/distributorships/agents/service centres globally

This study is a great first step forward in helping us expand a truly innovative mining supply and service sector and a valuable contributor to wealth creation for Canadians. The CCMTS group will be building on this work and continuing with its vision of “developing action plans and strategies to improve the competitiveness of Canadian providers of mining technologies and services to the mining sector.” Organizations interested in further information on the CCMTS can contact Gary Svoboda at 519.824.7456 or [email protected]

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About Dick DeStefano

Dick DeStefano is Executive Director of SAMSSA [email protected]

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