Mining company profits are being pressured by the uncertainty that remains in the global economy and by a cost and profitability curve that has grown tight over the past twenty years. This is why it is critical Operational Stability – the predictability of expected mine production, costs, and performance levels – be attained. Getting there requires mining and plant processing activities function at higher levels of productivity and efficiency so that conformance plan is always realized.
The quickest avenue to improved Operational Stability begins with reducing the variability in the planning and execution of mining and processing. This requires comprehensive planning, optimized scheduling, and disciplined work management.
Toyota is recognized as being one of the most efficient companies in the world. It is also one of the most studied since it pioneered key methods of reducing variation, with stability being the first and most critical step, because it underpins everything else that follows. Stability includes the general predictability and consistent availability in terms of manpower, machines, materials, and methods. Under each of these basic building blocks of these basic building blocks of manufacturing, Toyota tries to establish consistency and predictability.
Stability increases throughput, reduces waste and associated costs, and ensures production and quality targets are met. The key lies in harnessing operational data. While “big data” may be produced in mining in terms of volume, it must become visible, analyzable, and it must be made actionable to executives, mine management, and frontline workers. If it is, the path to Mining Execution Excellence, and eventually Business Agility, is paved. As we will see, enabling technology is one of the most important requirements to begin the journey.
Operational Stability is the first and most important step a mining company can take to begin transforming itself. It not delivers the benefits of greater productivity and conformance to plan; it ensures improvements gained are sustainable. Operational Stability is also the foundation for Business Agility and the Virtual Mine.
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