While automation is often seen as a silver bullets that can solve a range of mining’s problems, for Roy Hill’s Christine Eriksen automation is actually a holistic approach with the majority of the time, effort and funds to be invested in changing in the people working with the technology on the frontline.
You realised that silver bullet approach solely based on technology wasn’t going to work. That’s why Roy Hill has developed System Thinking,” said the General Manager Improvement & Smart Business during her “What’s happened since we embraced smart mining into our operations case study” presentation at International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne today.
While according to Erickson this approach is no different from working across a multi-disciplinary business without business units sitting in silos, it’s often difficult to implement on the ground.
“Technically we would look at the five system – supply, demand, people, governance and improvement – and how Automation would impact them. However we found that consequences began to appear generally when we start introducing people,” said Eriksen with a smile.
For Roy Hill, automation has the power to blur the lines between KPI’s and responsibilities from one area of the business to another.
The company began their autonomous drills journey in April 2017 and currently has a fleet of nine drills that have been retrofitted with automation.
When you introduce new technology, it can be seen as a magic tool however the new technology can end up causing problems due to the company spending more on the innovation rather than fixing the process, highlighting and developing the workforce and developing the communication between teams.
“A system thinking (like Roy Hill’s) has enabled us to understand the relationships between all the maintenance teams.
“There were at least seven different teams that were involved in delivering support and maintenance to the drills. Understanding those relations and hand offs was helping to build a sense of collaboration and had a direct impact on the availability on drills.
“We also had to adapt quickly and doing that and doing that involved using visualization techniques, which allowed out supervisors to easily see, understand and then report to their crew about the last 24-hours and what’s going to happen in the next 24-hours,” said Christine Eriksen.
The technology has also helped Roy Hill understand the less apparent implications such as drills were more productive than expected and encouraged mine planning to adopt more precise and faster planning.
Roy Hill’s change to a system thinking approach has given the workforce the ability to change for the improvement however to get there Erickson is quick to point out that implementation requires a 70 per cent change in management change and a 30 per cent change in technology. This involved communicating with those on the ground and encouraging people to have an open mind and be flexible to change.
“Our drilling and blasting precision is higher. In fact we’ve effectively realized 14 per cent increase with a small reduction in headcount in drilling but no redundancies,” summarised Mr Eriksen.
The International Mining and Resources Conference is Australia’s largest mining event. Bringing together over 6,000 decision makers, mining leaders, policy makers, investors, commodity buyers, technical experts, innovators and educators from over 90 countries for four days of learning, deal-making and unparalleled networking. IMARC will run from 29 October to 1 November 2018 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
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