Kalev Ruberg, vice-president of digital systems at Teck Resources. Jon Benjamin Photography

With experience spanning academia, the private sector, government and even a start-up, Kalev Ruberg came to the mining sector rather late in his career. When he arrived 12 years ago, he found a “very fractured landscape” from a technology systems point of view.

“Independent development may result in a one-off success, but being entrepreneurial and working in silos is the biggest challenge we all have,” said Ruberg. “We need to govern the way innovation proceeds into production. The innovation success we’ve had at Teck has come from a very disciplined platform approach because it has staying power.”

Ruberg joined Teck in 2006 as chief information officer (CIO) and was named vice-president of Teck Digital Systems last December. The common theme that runs through Ruberg’s wide-ranging career is designing systems that connect human behaviour and technology.

In the late 1970s, Ruberg earned a master of architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he used machines to optimize building design for energy efficiency. He studied under the guidance of renowned professor Nicholas Negroponte, who founded the MIT Media Lab, where the technologies that enabled the digital revolution were born.

He continued to design energy-smart buildings at what is now the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, and taught knowledge-based systems and computer-aided design at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He then spent eight years with the National Research Council of Canada, where he developed a system for using artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose problems with buildings, and later joined IBM, where he helped build “the world’s largest real-time object-based control system for manufacturing electronic boards.”

Related: Copper, zinc drive Teck's strong sales performance to start 2018

For a change of scene, Ruberg spent two years as assistant deputy minister and CIO with the Government of Manitoba, before trying his hand with a tech start-up. Then, after building the TELUS Health platform, which uses technology to connect doctors with patients, he joined the mining industry as CIO of Placer Dome in 2004.

So far the work of the Digital Systems team at Teck is yielding practical results. In the first half of 2018, the major miner announced the implementation of a number of technologies at its operations, including a machine learning system that predicts when trucks will need maintenance and a heads-up display for shovel operators. His team has also worked with the technology and innovation team, led by Greg Brouwer, and the operations team, led by Shehzad Bharmal, to deliver shovel-mounted sensors that separate ore from waste rock and a six-truck autonomous haul truck pilot planned for later this year.

The complex intersection between people and technology remains Ruberg’s focus today at Teck. His priority is “building a team capable of doing the analytics in a way that is woven into the fabric of how we operate,” while at the same time nurturing people who “think broadly at the system scale and balance that with people who have deep knowledge.”

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