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Coal Mining XML Project

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Published: July 04Project Number: C13035

Get ReportAuthor: Christian Larsen, Ben Axford | Runge

This project has investigated the benefits of using XML (eXstensable Markup Language) as a protocol for exchange of data between software applications and the merits of generating a public Schema for standardising XML for the coal mining industry.

This project has successfully implemented the first phase of a complete schema for the coal mining industry. The XMML project, managed by CSIRO, was extended, allowing for re-use of already tested structures and formats. Close consultation with Dr Simon Cox, the project lead for XMML allowed the cmXML project to focus on issues that are primarily in the domain of the coal mining industry. A web site (http://www.cmXML.org) was developed, allowing the public to examine the results of the project. Industry attitidues and practices were then assessed via a series of demonstration and one on one interviews. The interview process targeted four stakeholder groups:
  • Mining company IT managers
  • Mining company end users of ICT products.
  • Suppliers of ICT products to the mining industry
  • Government

Based on the development of the demonstrations and costed examples from a range of technology providers, use of XML for developing a regular transfer of information between two applications reduces labour costs involved between 50% and 80%. As a rough rule of thumb savings from initial configurations and ongoing savings from maintenance were estimated to produce beinifts of approximately $10,000 to $20,000pa for each permanent data transfer protocol.

Apart from cost savings, a public XML standard will provide industry wide benefits which are harder to quantify. The most important from a mining industry perspective is that data standards will lower barrers for adoption of new innovations which are fundamental for future productivity improvements.

Runge polled a number of mine operations and software vendors and found that organising and standardising data definition is a common issue across all respondents. All respondents were either in the process or have previously engaged in the process of defining data dictionaries for their specific areas of interest. All respondents gave at least in principle support to the development of an industry XML standard. All the technology vendors indicated that a public standard would only be adopted if driven and supported by mining companies. Without such intervention proprietary standards (already under development) will emerge and likely become dominant.

The study determined that while support for the concept of a XML standard is high, significant barrers to its development and adoption exist. The most important issues were switching costs in adopting a new protocol, perceived loss of competitive advantage, and lack of clear quantifiable commercial benefits.

It is a reccomendation of this report that a public industry XML schema be developed on a not for profit basis with the mining companies themselves leading the initiative. The management of the schema is best handled by committee of representative stakeholders which includes the technology vendors.

Structurally the schema should be developed under an inheritance structure that recognises two levels of data definitions illustrated in Figure 1-1. This structure ensures extensive reuse of data definitions but includes the ability to generate data definition extensions and exceptions that relate to specific commodities. In such a structure XMML could be incorporated into a mining industry schema and cmXML can form the basis of the first commodity specific extension.

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