Using Information Technology to Increase Operator Engagement and Optimise Fleet Management Systems.
Has the mining sector actually improved performance over the last one hundred years?
How much value have we added to the original process of mining operations on a day to day basis?
And Have we really seen an efficiency improvement or for that matter any productivity improvement?
Increase Productivity They Say
Let’s be honest mining companies are generally trying to do this but are they really incentivised to improve productivity?
Where On the Mine Site Should You Start
Well my suggestion would be to look at that area that takes up the majority of the operating costs.
Productivity Improvements generally always start with the people and where do you have most the people on a mine site?
That is right in the Pit so Let’s take a look there!
Improving miners productivity through operator engagement and the optimisation of fleet management systems comes down to the use of information technology in the mining industry – through the use of data.
NO you DO NOT need real time data
So many people get caught up on this maybe it is the social impact of wanting immediate pleasure but getting your mine sites information delivered in real time is not going to help you. If you don’t start out by chasing this you will keep the bean counters happy as you won’t be submitting unnecessary capital expenditures.
Here is my overview of improving the use of your mining assets along with your teams productivity through operator engagement and the optimisation of fleet management systems. In short it really does just come down to crews being managed correctly.
The Basic Fundamentals of Mining Cycles
If you get this right the Commodity Prices shouldn't worry you too much
If we look at the loading and hauling function in mining, the material is loaded into a truck, or in some instances, continuous miners are utilised. Still, for the majority of operations across the world, load and haul configurations are used to load trucks that then travel to a destination and tip that load off.
Basic right and should be easy to extract these materials with a high degree of efficiency. Right?
Usually the dirt is delivered to a crusher or a stockpile or to a waste dump where that material is then discarded or put into the next stage of the process – this is repeated continuously.
So generally speaking this part of mining companies is pretty straight forward. Yet this is where some of the highest levels of variation exist and where the real efficiency gains can be unlocked.
If you look at that cycle, there are several moving parts—these activities determine how mining team performance can be improved. Now, many variables push into this, but the fascinating thing about the mining industry and optimising the mining circuit is as follows:
Unlike the transportation sector, for instance, trucks, trains or shipping, where there are a whole lot more external factors that influence the process, the mining industry is a little more straightforward.
Of course, you do have some external factors feeding into the load and haul operation or mining environment, but it is a lot more uncommon.
As a result, we can create real productivity gains and create consistency in our cycles through the smart use of information technology in the mining sector.
Let us look at the load and haul cycle to start with and unlock some productivity, cut costs increase focus and bring innovation into an essential part of our sector.
What Are the Big Levers That Can Be Pulled
Increased Production through Load And Haul Cycle to Improve Mining Productivity?
I remember when I first started as a mine production superintendent, I was told to focus on spot times because that is the tool or lever you can use to lift productivity and improve variation between operators, speeding up the cycle.
But it never made sense to me, Search productivity on google and it is not going to say go for the small wins! So why companies continue to go after this production lever just didn’t seem big enough to make a meaningful productivity improvement.
This led me to delve deep into finding the most effective tool for mining operator feedback – this is. We began to find ways to use in-depth data for mining operator feedback – to create a detailed review of team innovation, growth and productivity.
To give you an example of what that looks like, at one of our client’s sites, where we are going from A finger (high grade stockpile) down into the bottom of their North pit operation.
The fastest operator on their team was doing that section in five and a half minutes. But we found that over about 3000 runs, the slowest operator was taking up to 10 and a half minutes for the same section- almost double the amount of time.
We also found that during the time where operators were travelling, that they were taking over seven and a half minutes, 25% of the time.
Further to this, we found that there wasn’t any correlation between day or night shift. There wasn’t any sort of association with shift change or crew breaks – it was sporadic. And once we started to give mining operators feedback to improve their performance and improve the speed that they were travelling, we saw the average time drop right down to about six and a half minutes. The mine safety team also joined in to have a look if there were any safety related concerns but that was not the case.
So if you are really looking to improve productivity this approach can enable mining companies to focus on improving performance while also increasing mining productivity, reduce costs and not impact on mine safety.
So, by using technology, and using data to analyse performance, we gained almost 30% performance on the overall fleet. You cannot get that out of spot times.
Big Data for Mining Operator Feedback
When we approach the optimisation of mining team performance, we want to give good quality mining operator feedback that genuinely matters and makes a tangible difference.
Mining operators know that spot times are irrelevant because there is a much greater opportunity that sits in the overall haul cycle time – this is where MaxMine comes into play.
There are factors outside of the traditional fleet management system bubbles. For instance, you have got a beacon that sits around a loader in most systems, and if a truck isn’t in that bubble, then it’s not considered to have arrived. MaxMine looks at all these factors.
We use big data in mining to make sure that we can deliver high-quality value to our clients and mining operations. Big data is a term frequently used but only for the past ten years or so, when in truth, it has been around for at least two decades.
Big can essentially analyse processes down to a tenth of a second – that is how accurate it is. How useful it is, comes down to the quality of information captured.
So, you need to have a very clear time stamping of that data. It needs to be well cleansed; it needs to be highly accurate.
Empowering Mining Operators Through Technology
Through detailed mining operator feedback, your team will want to improve. By giving them individual feedback, it will lead to role mastery. They will have no choice but to ask themselves if they are the best operator that they can possibly be. They will set themselves benchmarks.
MaxMine as an example enables operators to see how far they have come and to see how good their performance is in comparison to others, but more importantly, look at themselves and reflect on their individual performance. Think Strava but for operator performance. Enabling operators the ability to look at their own performance and compare it with their team members.
The final step is understanding the impact that they have on the business—referring back to what we’ve touched on previously, focusing on spot times, insignificant time opportunities. Operators know that there is little value in that.
When mining operators are asked to focus on something that does not deliver a whole lot of value, they get frustrated. Imagine you could show them where the actual value is and show them that they can increase their output by 20 – 30% by decreasing the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B.
They will begin to see what that means tons wise. For an operation that might be moving a hundred million tons a year, that is an extra 20 million tons. This is the level of impact that the use of information technology in the mining industry can bring.
If an operator knows and understands what that looks like, then they will feel more connected to the improvement that comes from mining optimisation theory.
How Best Can We Tap into Human Behaviour To Increase Team Performance?
Ultimately, team performance can be increased by ensuring that we are treating our operators fairly, that we’re allowing them some autonomy, and giving them the ability to self-learn.
This way, operators can see how far they have come, they can identify if they have achieved role mastery, or measure how long they still have to go. This enables them to understand their impact on the operation.
The Wellbeing of Mining Teams
We also need to take into consideration the mining team’s wellbeing.
There are several elements that we look at in how we provide mining operator feedback to ensure that operators understand what they need to do to improve when it comes to their performance, but also that they feel comfortable enough to go and seek reassurance form those at the top of the table.
So How Many Mines Will Actually Implement This Productivity Innovation?
We hope this gives you an understanding of Big Data Mining and how we use it to improve performance. The use of information technology in the mining industry can have a considerable impact on conventional fleet management systems and therefore improving operator performance.
We’ve only briefly touched on the big levers and tools that can be pulled to improve the load and haul cycle times in a mining operation, but we will uncover more detail in a series of articles.
As you can see, there is nowhere near as much value in the spot and dump times as there is in improving the variation between operators travelling from point A to point B.
Data on its own is merely a bunch of facts and figures. With the right analysis, though, we can organise, interpret, structure, and present this data into valuable information that can be applied practically and immediately to your mining operation.