A Prelude to the 2022 International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC)
As 2022 neared its end, I had the opportunity to speak in Sydney, Australia, at the 2022 International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC).
For me, one of the most exciting things about events like this is that it brings together the entire mining ecosystem: the mining operations as well as the investors, contractors, equipment manufacturers, logistics providers, and service providers, like TBM, who support the companies doing the work in the pits and underground. IMARC has long been a powerful and effective forum for the larger community to discuss how to drive profitable and sustainable growth in mining. And right now, with so many macroeconomic headwinds at play across the globe, that discussion is shifting toward lean and continuous improvement—concepts that are squarely in TBM’s wheelhouse.
Traditionally, there has been some resistance to lean concepts in the mining industry and it simply hasn’t been as widely understood or embraced as it has been in other industries like manufacturing. But that’s changing as mining companies are feeling the effects of inflation like everyone else. Given that delays and cost overruns are so common in the industry, costing companies tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues and extra expenses, industry leaders are rapidly realizing that the keys to profitability and success over time lie in stamping out the waste inherent in processes. They are becoming more willing to embrace operational excellence, lean tools, and operating system discipline as means of optimizing resources, accelerating lead times, and executing effectively.
Fortunately, significant gains can be realized in relatively short order and for minimal investment for many of these mining operations. I had the opportunity to dive into this with Andrew Scott of Proactive Investors —one of Australia’s fastest-growing and most influential financial media portals—in a brief pre-conference interview. I shared what I’ll be addressing in greater detail in my presentation, which will focus on three areas where we see the most opportunity for improvement in mining through the proper understanding and application of lean tools.
Here are the main takeaways from this interview:
- How to increase the efficient movement of materials. Our research shows that only 2-3% of mining material contains high value product. The rest is waste that companies spend a great deal of time, effort, and money moving around sites. Worse, the waste often turns into a literal roadblock, preventing teams from engaging in productive work and costing companies even more money in idle resources. The conversation at IMARC will center on how to optimize the use of equipment such as trucks and conveyors to minimize wasted movement of invaluable material and quickly generate bottom-line results for businesses.
- How to improve mining equipment availability. Good maintenance practices are a hallmark of any lean initiative as they are the key to optimizing assets. Even a single or couple percentage point improvement in the uptime and availability of critical equipment can have a dramatic impact on operational costs. This portion of the presentation will hone in on how to develop robust and proactive maintenance plans for the mining environment and how operators can leverage corrective and planned preventive maintenance to cost-effectively keep their equipment operating reliably and efficiently.
- How to align mining organizations around shared goals and results. Mining is unique in that there are often multiple teams working side by side in the mine under different contracts and incentive plans. This can make collaboration and coordination much more challenging and often leads to situations where one team is inadvertently undermining the work of another group. We’ll explore how to introduce traditional lean concepts like plan of the day and war room to bring all parties together and keep the full team, including senior management, working in tandem to solve problems as they arise, identify and address the root causes of issues, and achieve shared targets and goals on a daily basis.
It’s time for a lean revolution in mining.
While lean was born in manufacturing plants, it is just as applicable in mining environments where there is a significant need to keep projects on schedule and control the costs involved in the process. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet with other businesses involved in the mining community, discuss the integration of lean in the industry, and learn from colleagues and peers about where they are seeing the greatest lean successes. Stay tuned for my post-conference recap where I’ll be sharing more details from my presentation and the conference and diving deeper into the operational excellence practices that can be quickly deployed to define winning organizations in the industry.