We sat down with Lourens du Plessis, Modular Mining’s new Vice President of Customer Value, to learn a little more about him and his vision for the future of our customer services and support.
Modular Mining (MM): Congratulations, first of all, and welcome to the United States! What excites you most about your new role?
Lourens du Plessis (LdP): Thank you! I’m excited to be here. When I started in Africa with Modular Mining 11 years ago, it was a small office, which we grew into a much larger business; through working with our customers, having the best mine management systems on the market, and recruiting strong local talent from the mining industry, we were quite successful in our growth.
With this new role, I want to do that again, but on a grander, more international scale, and in a different environment; it’s not just about selling products anymore. It’s about focusing on solutions, capabilities and services – the whole package, to achieve sustainable results for our customers, and increasing value delivered to our customers over the life of their mines.
It’s exciting to be a part of an organization that has the ability to make a profound impact for companies who have an instrumental role in our society. The emphasis they place on the value we provide is amazing, and underscores the importance of working with our customers to deliver solutions and services that continue to improve safety, productivity, and efficiency in their mines.
MM: How has Modular Mining’s customer service evolved over the years, and what drove that evolution?
LdP: About five years ago, we redefined how we approached customer service in Africa, and that’s become the global standard for what we’re now doing with the Performance Assurance program worldwide. The basis of Performance Assurance is to provide a different type of support to customers.
In the past, we were very much a closed-technology company (like most technology companies); we’d sell you DISPATCH, we’d sell you ProVision, we’d sell you MineCare – these are IT solutions, and with them, we’d include a service contract. With that service contract, we would make sure these systems were running nicely, from a technology point of view. When something hit a snag or you wanted a different report, you’d submit a ticket, and we’d fix it remotely.
But that model didn’t really provide the superior level of support that many of our customers were looking for. We realized we needed to do something differently and started thinking about ways that we could help our customers really use the technology that we sold them to address their specific needs. So, before becoming our CEO, Jorge Mascena helped to build the infrastructure for our Customer Value division, to be focused on results and sustained value for our customers.
Now our service model wasn’t just providing troubleshooting or technology support; it became more a matter of, ‘hey, you bought this really advanced process control tool (i.e. the DISPATCH FMS) – now we’re going to help you use it to maximize its value to your operation.’ And that’s how the whole Performance Assurance (which is part of the Customer Value division) approach started.
MM: Where do you see the direction of the Customer Value group going to help grow value for our customers?
LdP: We’ve realized we can really build on the success of the Performance Assurance program, so we started something called Remote Assistance Operations. It’s kind of like what we do with PA, but it’s done remotely, and uses more expert-type knowledge; we’ll monitor the data at a site, evaluate how the mine has configured and is currently using our system, and after analysis, we’ll deliver suggestions to improve what they’re doing.
During this activity, we’re not just looking at alarms. We are looking at trends and building suggestions to optimize operations – so in that sense, it’s similar to the RemoteCare service we provide for the MineCare system. But in this case, we also perform simulations to see how things may improve based on one or two key changes. Doing so allows us to give informed recommendations; if you simulate, your chances of getting it right are much higher.
We also have to look toward the future. The world is constantly changing. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary, and a lot has changed in the last 40 years – not just within Modular Mining, but across the mining industry. Maybe, in 10-20 years, the mining industry doesn’t even use trucks anymore.
Coal is currently the world’s most-mined resource, and while some coking coal will still be necessary for steel production, there’s no future in coal-powered energy stations anymore. Given that context, the mining world will likely keep changing – a lot. Mining equipment will change. But if we can position ourselves properly with technology and expert services, we can adapt to that change more rapidly.
There’s always going to be mining. But what I like about what we’re doing and where we’re going is that we’ll be flexible and adaptable for anything the industry throws at us.
Performance Assurance is offered to all of our customers as part of our Customer Care Program. Contact us to learn how you, too, can join the Modular Mining family and extract more value from your operation.
To learn more about our customer services and support offerings, visit our Services & Support page.