One of the key goals of an operations manager is to maximise productivity – defined by output produced per unit input resource – while producing goods to meet customer demands (in terms of quality and quantity). In order to achieve this, managers constantly assess appropriate equipment and their capacity, organize and schedule resources, skill/train staff for higher efficiency, ensure quality of product/process, etc. Different operational metrics are derived to monitor if all the above are as per plan.
In a typical open-pit mine, output is saleable mineral and resources include staff (operational: drivers, operators, site supervisors; maintenance: mechanics, engineers), equipment (excavators, trucks, drills, dozers, crusher or crushing plant, etc.) and management including process monitoring, quality control and safety of operations.
Usually, fixed resources are provided for predefined production and operations managers are responsible to adhere to a standard process so maximum production is derived using given resources. In order to do this, certain policies & practices are defined and communicated to supervisors and operators so that entire value chain functions smoothly.
In order to manage operations smoothly, visualizing all operations, understanding interdependencies of tasks/equipment/resources, relating/redefining process metrics are critical. Productivity is improved with change in policies, practices, training staff etc. for given set of resources and output. It can also be improved by identifying non-productive (not directly contributing to output) activities and eliminate/reduce such activities. Identifying such activities demands detailed visibility into operations, analyzing patterns over a period.
The good news for new age mine operators is that with the significant advancements in technologies, it has become easier to monitor and manage operations enabling manager spend time for productivity enhancements quickly. It also helps managers, monitor and assess impact on productivity due to implementation of any process/policy/practice changes. These technology solutions also come with the best practices in the industry helping mines adopt them quickly in terms of automation of routine activities, auto-scheduling resources, simplification of communication, establishing standardization of practices etc.
These solutions for open-pit mines are referred as Fleet Management System, Mining Tracking System, Mine Management System, Truck Dispatching System etc. Read article “…” for how Mine Management System can enable higher productivity. Such solutions also simplify managers to monitor increasing fleet over larger areas, which otherwise is difficult to monitor and manage.