Productivity and efficiency – the mining industry’s buzz words for the past three years and they’re still going strong. Every project wants to be more productive for less cost. But is the industry running out of solutions? Well, that most likely depends on who you’re talking to.
The opportunities to make operations smoother, sleeker and more profitable are most definitely there. It all comes down to whether you have the desire and ability to identify them and act on them.
The best options are those that get the mine producing more with the same resources. For example, instead of buying more drill holes and explosives to produce more broken ground, the existing plan and budgeted resources can be optimised. The focus needs to be on quality of output instead of quantity of input.
Start with the small stuff
In achieving this goal, the small stuff shouldn’t be overlooked. Making small changes across drill and blast – and indeed the operation as a whole – can lead to big benefits that can have a profound effect on the entire operation.
By simply improving communication and motivation within the team, minor efficiency gains can grow from minutes or dollars per hour, to hours per day, to saving whole shifts of labour time – and the related saved dollars in extra revenue or reduced costs. These gains are free; they require no extra employees or equipment – simply better planning and motivation.
Showing the whole team the improvement path – that is, how investing time gained into taking better care of machinery and implementing other initiatives will achieve greater competiveness in the market means more jobs rather than less jobs – is important. If the understanding and incentive is there, workers are more likely to look for opportunities and reveal their ability to do better. They will be motivated to use spare time productively while on shift. With an integrated drill and blast service, any spare time can be spent learning more about other roles.
A driller can assist the fitter on a breakdown for example. This not only increases the driller’s ability to recognise issues before they happen but it can also help get a drill back up and running more quickly.
Operators making the effort to sit with other drillers and share each other’s skills and experiences will improve drilling efficiencies.
An integrated team with an innovative and team-based approach and a dedication to doing things better means that the same work, or even more work, can be done with fewer people and less cost.
For further detail on the benefits of upskilling and multiskilling to improve drill and blast outcomes, check out the next article on managing drill and blast demand variance.
To be continued