Automation is already a reality in the jewelry and gem industry. What is being discussed now is how the jewelery supply chain will accommodate the advances of new technologies. The concern of some industry leaders is focused on the impact that automation will have on diamond workers and how long until we get to complete process automation.
According to technology experts, in the next few years, diamond mining companies operating autonomous trucks will be able to transport their ore to the processing plant, where rough diamonds will be separated from the waste and arranged in their rough form in sizes before being sent for further aggregation. Products will be fed into machines that determine their color and clarity potential and, at the same time, evaluate where the stone fits best among the many assortment options. Diamonds will be cut based on the company’s computer planning engine, which will analyze how to get the best polished yield.
From there, the stones will proceed to the polishing department, where the machines use artificial intelligence (I A) to perform the cutting and the polishing process. The resulting diamond will be graded through automated systems covering the 4 Cs. It will then be sent to the jeweler or end consumer and all its information will be loaded into a blockchain or cloud-based traceability program
Today, it takes about a year for a rough diamond to reach the market, and technology can shorten the cycle, helping trade tailor the rough to what the consumer wants. Speeding up the manufacturing process is an opportunity that De Beers has already recognized and embraced in its innovation strategy.
Looking for ways to be more efficient, the company found that the biggest obstacle between mining and consumer was in cutting and polishing. This led the industry giant to acquire a 33.4% stake in Synova, as the Swiss company’s microjet technology had the best chance of being adopted by the industry as a long-term solution. According to the researchers, this tool can speed up the manufacturing process 10 to 20 times.
All of this has implications for the manufacturing workforce. In the past, De Beers has deployed driverless trucks for certain parts of the mining production process. Today, the company is looking at loading, hauling and drilling machines that make decisions without human intervention. The result, according to the company, is a safer and more efficient process that allows the industry to tell a better story.