Industry Q&A: Asset Utilisation and Productivity
At a time in the mining sector when CAPEX projects are relatively non-existent in Australia, and focus falls onto OPEX, Austmine wanted to catch up with one of our members who operates in just that space. Joe Clayton, CEO of SubZero Group has an impressive history in the sector, having worked previously for the Shenhua Watermark Project, Centennial Coal, BDM Resources and Idemitsu, to name just a few.
As an Australian owned METS company, who are recognised as an industry as the world leaders in innovation and technological advancement, how important is it to keep innovating and collaborating within the industry as a whole to ensure its future? How does Subzero drive innovation within its own organisation?
Innovation and collaboration with the mining industry as a whole is extremely important. With the mining industry in NSW currently experiencing a down turn, any opportunity where we can provide innovation in operational efficiency, reliability and safety will ultimately result in cost savings for that company.
SubZero Group thrives on innovation. We have a dedicated R&D facility at Rutherford NSW where we develop and market innovative mining products. Our two most recent products currently being used in the Hunter Valley are the ‘Harness Master’ and ‘Hydraulic Isolator’.
We work closely with OEMs and mining companies to develop low-cost purpose-built electrical harnesses that are manufactured in a facility in the Philippines. We also have a product that enables the isolation of all the hydraulic circuits on a machine from one central point to ensure the machine is totally deactivated for safe maintenance.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the mining industry in Australia in 2015 to improve productivity?
The biggest opportunity for mining companies to improve on productivity is by using specialist labour services. Mining companies are paying too much for inflexible fulltime labour. Mining equipment maintenance shutdowns on mine sites requires a peak of tradesmen for a short period of time; it is too expensive for mines to maintain these levels of workforce.
Labour productivity is enhanced by casualising the workforce and engaging a company like SubZero Group to manage the labour peaks in maintenance and production requirements.
Carrying out offsite mining equipment repairs and maintenance in our workshops enables our business to maintain the specialist labour required for this work at labour rates currently not achievable by mining companies.
Many mining companies are focusing on their fleets, both light and heavy, as a significant area for improvement. Would you agree with this? How can miners optimise their fleet availability?
Mining companies are very good at optimising fleet availability. It has been their staple for decades. Rather than undertaking this work onsite and employing a team of professionals, a lot of mining companies are now using local suppliers to carry out this work off site, resulting in significant cost savings.
Where do you see miners falling down on their asset maintenance and utilisation? Do you have any specific advice to miners looking to drive down costs further on how to improve their asset lifecycle management to achieve this?
The best advice I could give in regards to improved asset management is to have a long-term plan. For example, given the current downturn in the industry I can understand why some companies may want to defer any maintenance requirements in the short-term. However, the cost to outsource repairs and regular maintenance will be significantly cheaper in the long-term than committing to new capital expenditure.
To learn more about SubZero Group, you can visit their website.