GMG Future Mining Forum Write-up - Collaborative Planning and Execution: Liz Deucker, Principal Engineer: Operating Systems, Gold Fields
The recent GMG Future Mining Forum in Brisbane hosted a number of industry innovation leaders who discussed pathways towards achieving a strong and sustainable mining industry. The afternoon of Day 1 saw an excellent presentation from Liz Deucker, Principal Engineer: Operating Systems at Gold Fields on Collaborative Planning and Execution. Liz discussed the challenges of short term planning in the Australian mining environment, creating and executing a good plan and system design and communication.
Liz began by describing the strategic decision-making environment within mining companies and emphasised the need to align long term planning, which is designed to extract maximum value from mines, with short term planning, which is what is actually delivered. This has typically been difficult in mining, where maintaining sight of the long-term drivers of value is often difficult. Further to this, the underground operational environment is highly variable, with issues such as ground conditions and equipment breakdowns affecting the plan and needing rapid responses. With both easy headings close to the cross cut and long headings that are hard to turn over but prioritised as part of the long-term value plan, Liz emphasised that mining companies must manage spatial compliance to plan, and not just get tonnes and ounces, but get them from the right place to maximise value.
For Gold Fields, their large and complex underground mines create greater potential for disruption. Critical paths to value have significant constraints and extreme depths of mining has influenced planning needs, meaning that Gold Fields’ just in time sequenced mining cycles must be closely managed.
Liz documented Gold Fields planning mechanisms with an overview of their Management Operating System (MOS) project in 2014, which was designed to align mine planning and management processes across the sites. They found that short term planning was their priority, with each site having their own system in this space with varying levels of science behind it and that was disconnected from long term planning.
There were a number of common themes across the business found during this project. Plans were developed to reflect medium term goals like drill metres and tonnes, but they don’t necessarily reflect the needs of supervisors. At pre-shift meetings focus is on jumbo box moves and cable bolting rather than a drill already in the site. In larger mines it was found that things fell through the cracks and led to operational losses. On top of this, operators had a separate tab for drilling, bogging, backfill and more, making it hard to identify areas of interaction and evaluate the potential consequences. This led to delays such as backfill lagging and holding up the system and jumbo box moves not being factored in. The quality of the system was often hugely dependent on junior individuals.
To move forward Gold Fields’ discussed ‘what makes a good plan?’
They decided it should be achievable and practical, utilise equipment efficiently, max out the critical path and have a smooth pathway to production.
The next question was ‘how do you execute a good plan well?’
This was more challenging with the need to bring together people and processes. It is critical to monitor the progress of the plan and when change occurs, implement corrective actions that drag the operation back to plan.
Liz then moved on to discuss the sources of variance for the plan. The quality can be impacted by inputs and data, thoroughness in planning and the timing of output communications. Once the plan is developed, people need to come together to support it.
Gold Fields then brought all the information together and designed a new plan format to help them systematically develop good plans, support execution and manage sources of variability. Systems have now been put in place to track activity and to provide short interval control by management.
For example, the above image is the location-based format for all interrelated stoping activities. This gives a quick visual about how far ahead or behind Gold Fields are and what potential interactions may occur as the week progresses.
Effective communication was the next challenge for Gold Fields. They had to boil operations down to provide critical information in a manageable format. Issues surrounding effectiveness of this include shift changeovers, interface between technical and operations and the variable environment. On site personnel are given a step by step plan at the start of the week, but due to variability, it will always be “wrong.” Gold Fields use their daily meeting as the key engagement point for managing plan execution and for factoring in variances and implementing changes accordingly. This is how critical information is communicated effectively.
In summary, Liz found that Gold Fields achieved significant productivity improvements through a holistic approach to planning, communication and execution. Culture was changed to focus on spatial compliance, plan driven execution and for planners to engage with operators beforehand. Gold Fields also recognised that having appropriate software was a key enabler to supporting goals in collaborative planning and management of mines.
To view Liz’s slides and see examples of the Gold Fields system in action, login to the member portal and select ‘Presentations.’