Q&A: Optimizing Your Mining Workforce for Efficiency and Productivity Gains
With the news this week that Fortescue Metals Group could potentially slash roughly 700 jobs through their roster changes, workforce planning and management has never been more on the tips of everyone’s tongues across the industry. Austmine caught up with Osmotion’s Peter Collins to get his insights into what mining companies can do to really make the best use of their workforces. Peter worked with the building industry for 20 years before joining Osmotion three years ago to work with the mining and resources sector.
What are the biggest challenges for mining companies nowadays with remote workforce management?
Complexity of travel. Today’s FIFO workers now have a multi-step travel itinerary to get from Door to Ore with connecting commercial flights and charter flights on a repeating roster pattern, which is very complex. Coordinating this to deliver the best utilization of your flight and village accommodation capacity is the other big challenge in today’s “efficiency for cost saving” drive.
How important is it for mining companies to be able to fully utilize their assets in relation to FIFO workforces and optimize the travel management of staff? What kind of efficiency gains stand to be made?
It is much cheaper and achievable for an operation to use technology to utilize the allocated number of seats on a plane than to contract an extra in and out flight. Another option is to fully optimize the rooms in the village, as opposed to building more rooms. What is more financially frustrating is to have empty rooms due to poor management, while workers could have been on site.
When you start to add up the cost of empty seats or vacant rooms, over catering and a mismatch of workforce numbers to assets, there may be millions to be gained in cost saving. For example, the number of empty seats due to no shows at an airport has been proven to be massively reduced with an online workflow management system and notifications to ensure clear communication to the traveler. For a big site, just a five percent decrease in your No Show numbers has a multiplier effect in efficiency.
Who within a mining organization benefits from a workforce management platform? How can companies make sure it’s used to full effect across different departments?
We try to drive the message that it’s not just a camp management tool for facility managers and it’s not just a flight system or roster tool. The basis of our products success has been the synchronization of these different functions so the automation and usability is of value to the Site Travel and Accommodation Administrators. However, the beneficiaries of the data and the reporting capability stretches right across the business, including HR, HSEC, Site Supervisors and IT Departments.
That is why we see the most successful clients with Osmotion Workforce Management applications are the ones who recognize the multi department benefits and assign an enterprise owner as a single business improvement manager--someone who is genuinely looking at cost saving opportunities.
The amount of data that sits in a workforce roster makes Transport and Accommodation system a powerful source of truth for the business.
Australian METS companies are recognised world-wide for their innovation. How does Osmotion work to incorporate innovation into your business?
As the first business to develop software for remote workforce management 15 years ago, innovation is at the core of our culture. We have a team of developers, dedicated to working on improvements and enhancements or on new products. However, innovation at Osmotion goes beyond continuous improvement. For example, currently we are working with James Cook University funding research into the use of artificial intelligence in workforce logistics management for METS companies. We are very excited about our progress to date and look forward to revealing our results soon.
Unmanned train to allow Vale to reopen iron ore plant
Brazilian miner Vale SA will be able to resume operations at its Timbopeba iron ore dry processing plant in up to two months thanks to the use of an unmanned train, the company said in a statement this week.
Vale - Timbopeba iro ore plant
With the train, Timbopeba will be able to operate at least at 80% of its capacity of 33,000 tonnes of iron ore “fines” per day, reports Reuters.
Vale was forced to shut down the plant in the Alegria mine complex recently after labor authorities in Minas Gerais state banned activities close to the Xingu dam due to concerns of a risk of collapse.
Vale said access by workers and vehicles continues to be suspended in the flood zone of the dam due to the ban even though it remains at emergency level 2, which means there no imminent risk of rupture.
But some workers are allowed entry under strict security precautions and they will get the unmanned train going once it has been tested, which would take between one and two months, the company said.
The unmanned train will travel automatically along 16 kilometers (10 miles) of track operated by a system that can control the speed and activate the brakes, Vale said.
Vale announces first ore at Voisey’s Bay mine extension
Vale has reached the milestone of first ore production at the Reid Brook deposit at the Voisey’s Bay mine expansion project in Northern Labrador, Canada - recognised as the safest mine in Canada.