ERG

ERG title here

Client: ERG

Category: Azure, Kubernetes, Nimble

Date: January 2019

Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) is a leading diversified natural resources producer. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ERG Africa mines cobalt which is then transported by truck to various ports in Africa, one being Richards Bay, South Africa, after which the cobalt is loaded into containers and then shipped to China.

Africa due to its unique environment offers challenges in logistics in that security and the quality of the raw materials in transit are a major concern. Additionally, the ERG Telematics application solves a unique problem in the supply chain, being proof-of-custody. This allows companies to prove the origin and handling of the materials in the supply chain.

Business Challenge

Besides for the self-evident importance of security and tamper detection there are two important additional elements regarding the transportation of the cobalt from the DRC to South Africa.

Proof of Custody has become an increasingly important conversation due to ethical consumerism and the broader awareness of end-consumers. Customers of the raw materials such as Apple and Samsung want to know that the raw materials that are being utilized in their products was sourced ethically and not from the grey market or companies where worker welfare is not at an acceptable level e.g. below minimum wage payments or the utilization of child labour.

Another challenge to ERG was the weight of the cobalt at the source would differ to the weight of the cobalt entering South Africa. This can be due to inaccuracies in their logistical process, theft or humidity (cobalt is hydrophilic and thus absorbs water and can dramatically increase its weight). By having accurate data gathered at the loading zones, weigh bridges and being constantly aware of the state of the bags in distribution allows ERG to avoid financial shocks either through loss of stock or due to excessively high duties at the ports.

How we helped

The ERG Telematics application provides insight into the bagging and tracking processes of minerals from a mining and bagging facility. Bags are loaded onto the system by capturing their weight and the sensors on the bag through an application on an IPC (Industrial PC). These bags can then be assigned to a group which will then be loaded onto a truck for export.

The trucks and warehouses are equipped with aggregators which poll the sensors and send their data to the backend. This allows us to constantly monitor the location of the bags, as well as checking if the sensors have been tampered with.

Scymyn acts as the aggregator of the data stream and the event originator. Scymyn transforms the data allowing the Tangent to display meaningful dashboards and alerts to the ERG users.

Our dashboard constantly reports the information from these bags to the user, showing valuable information such as the value of the minerals currently in transit, the locations of all the trucks with minerals, as well as any alerts that may have been triggered by bag tampering and theft.

Smart IoT devices were locally designed and produced in South Africa

Results

ERG ran a successful pilot for 2 months and is onboarding the solution to manage and their full fleet. Initial focus was placed on accuracy of the dashboards and alerts which performed to expectation. The size of the data and analytics of the stream was made significantly easier through the use Azure ensuring complexity was managed and costs contained. The IoT devices despite initial concerns on signal strength loss due to being placed in the cobalt and interference due to the amount of blue tooth devices per truck exceeded expectations.

Conclusion

This project demonstrates how, through IoT, high-value products can be monitored and tracked in real-time, across various countries. The constant data stream combined with validation points throughout the journey allowed ERG to offer their customers the unique value proposition of Proof of Custody. Due to Scymyn and IoT being startups within the Tangent Group costs were contained and a sufficiently robust architecture was deployed which has 99.9% uptime and an automated disaster recovery.

Technologies Used

  • Nimble
  • Kubernetes (AKS)
  • Azure Functions
  • Redis Cache
  • Postgres-as-a-Service
  • Kassandra
  • Docker
  • Python,
  • Vue.JS
  • Azure DevOps
  • Ubuntu Linux
  • Windows 10
  • UWP