Impala Platinum ensures tight metals accounting processes with ApplyIT
Bar of platinum - Impala
Impala Platinum, the second largest platinum producer in the world, has been relying on the production and inventory module of the Infor ERP Protean system to ensure precise accounting during the refining process of its precious metals.

Maintained and supported by ApplyIT, the Infor ERP Protean system plays a critical role in ensuring the precious metals platinum, palladium, gold, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and silver are trackable at every point of the refining process.  Precious metals have a high value, not only as a result of their rarity but also because of their unique chemical properties, particularly as catalysts.  In addition the molecular properties of each of these metals are so similar that the process of refining or separating them is complex and costly.

“Impala Platinum refines precious metals to better than 99,95%, typically 99.99%, purity. Achieving this high standard is intense and takes time, which makes the process expensive,” says Pravin Naidoo, metal accounting manager at Impala Platinum. “Platinum takes three weeks to refine, while iridium takes about three months.”

With the value of precious metals being so high – the cost of platinum has been well over $2 000 an ounce, while rhodium reached as high as $9 600 in 2008 – there is a need to account for the metals through every stage of the refining process.

The production and inventory module of the Infor ERP Protean system was configured by ApplyIT, and monitors process performance and yields, identifies and assists in managing any decline in performance, and follows plant inventory and process levels at Impala Platinum’s precious metals refinery in Springs.

The system has been in successful operation at the refinery for more than 10 years, and typically registers 2 500 materials movement transactions a month.  ApplyIT principal consultant Tim Wickins is responsible for conducting a maintenance health check on the system every six weeks.

Business analysis

“Maintenance involves checking the hardware on which the system operates, as well as the software environment in order to do proactive problem prevention.  We also conduct a business analysis of the use of the system to identify any problem areas where training may be required,” says Wickins.

Over the years enhancements to the system have been developed, including custom integration to the laboratory information management system (LIMS). This enables the system to automatically send details of batches of material to the LIMS as they are produced, and capture chemical analysis results as soon as they become available and send them to the metal accounting database.

Another enhancement to the system is the automatic printing of an “authority to move pure metal” report when full analysis of a final metal becomes available. This ensures metals are made available timeously for dispatch to customers.  The system also produces an automatic analytical audit report detailing any changes in analysis of materials made during the course of a month.

“The most recent development has been a replacement for part of standard functionality that had become unstable in the Impala environment.  This facility captures details of production batches as they are produced and passes the information to the LIMS,” says Wickins.

Input to the system is performed by the process staff themselves, which eliminates the need to have clerical staff capturing the details of transactions.  Wickins says the Infor ERP Protean system is ideally suited to this production environment, as its design accommodates the variable quantities typically involved in production.  Information on batch movements and their chemical analysis is available interactively, online and in realtime to enable process managers to use the system reports to accurately monitor their processes.

“The Infor ERP Protean system has become an integral part of metal accounting at Impala Platinum. The cornerstone of the system is reliability, and we have complete confidence in its accuracy and dependability,” says Naidoo.