May 17, 2020

Up-Skill Your Procurement Team and Reap Group Wide Results

Ben Ludik
Goldfields Australia
Bryan Scruby
6 min
The procurement funtion in the mining sector is more important than ever
The mining industry is under increasing pressure to deliver value with limited resources and thus procurement and contracts teams are more important tha...

The mining industry is under increasing pressure to deliver value with limited resources and thus procurement and contracts teams are more important that ever. Strategic purchasing and technology are central factors when it comes to cost efficiency - so too is process management - however investing in human capital should, theoretically, drive savings across all areas. Therefore the importance of up-skilling procurement teams is vital. Mining Global considers ways you can empower and up-skill your procurement team in order to catalyze cost savings and efficiencies across the board:

Share Your Company’s Goals

Sharing the goals of your company and the reasons behind them is very important when it comes to motivating employees and getting them on board with new initiatives. This is important for a number of reasons – not only does it give employees an understanding of where the company is heading, but also it could lead to more ideas being brought to the table regarding process improvement.

The feeling of being privy to important information and of being given opportunities to participate in decision making often reduces stress; it also creates trust and a culture whereby people want to take ownership of problems and subsequent solutions.

Furthermore, leaders need to show that they value their employees in order to achieve maximum buy-in, and sharing goals is one way of demonstrating they value the views and opinion of staff on the ground. After all, employee-focused initiatives such as profit sharing and implementing work–life balance schemes are important. However, if there is no trust and mutual respect between staff and managers, then no amount of perks will persuade employees to perform to the best of their ability. Employee engagement is vital when it comes to making positive changes at a business.

Give Employees the Opportunity to Progress in Their Careers

Good leaders provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities for career advancement. Most people like to be challenged in the workplace and successful managers challenge employees while at the same time, instill the confidence that the challenges can be met. Not giving people the knowledge and tools to be successful is unethical and de-motivating; it is also likely to lead to stress, frustration, and, ultimately, lack of engagement.

Bryan Scruby, Head of Department – Procurement, at Parsons Brinckerhoff shared his thoughts about people management and development with Mining IQ: “As with most things in life, there are few substitutes for experience and procurement is no exception. Giving procurement staff the opportunity to pursue purchasing projects within clear and relevant contracts and procurement systems and process, is a proven way to build capability. Less desirable is the unleashing of inexperienced procurement staff on ungoverned procurement projects, where the unfortunate employee is forced to make it up as they go along. That is a fast track to disillusionment with the profession and a great risk to the company,” he says.

Giving employees the opportunity to develop their careers not only develops the talent pool at a business but also motivates people to work hard. Its important that employees are given the support and tools they need to succeed through mentoring and training and by clearly outlining goals and by checking KPIs regularly. On the same tack, promoting from within is also a good way to garner respect and to ensure hard work from your employees.

Exercise Control and Accountability

Ben Ludik, Vice-President and Head of Contracts and Supply Chain at Goldfields Australia believes that, “process and procedure discipline,” is key when it comes to up-skilling procurement teams. In other words, leaders need to set clear expectations, create robust processes and procedures and ensure employees follow them.

Leaders need to clarify their expectations about employees and provide feedback on their functioning in the organization. Good leaders establish processes and procedures that help people master important tasks and facilitate goal achievement, but further, they hold employees accountable once a new process has been put into place.

Highlighting KPIs and holding quarterly reviews is one way to share expectations with employees. In her book Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, Rosabeth Moss Kanter explains that success is based on three cornerstones: accountability, collaboration, and initiative.

Nurture a ‘team-focused’ environment

Studies show that, when employees work in teams and have the trust and cooperation of their team members, they outperform individuals and teams that lack such relationships. Great leaders are team builders; they create an environment that fosters trust and collaboration.

Surveys indicate that being cared about by colleagues is a strong predictor of employee engagement. Thus, a continuous challenge for leaders is to rally individuals to collaborate on organizational, departmental, and group goals, while excluding individuals pursuing their self-interest. Taking this back to accountability, people that work in team are more likely to meet deadlines and goals owing to group answerability. When others rely on your input and actions there is more reason to succeed.

Ongoing Training and Open Communication

Finally, one of the main aspects when it comes developing your procurement team is ongoing training and communication. The procurement function is developing alongside the needs of the industry and thus managers need teams that are diverse and that can use initiative when it comes to making decisions.

A great strategy for ensuring successful development of staff members and therefore the procurement function as a whole is to invest in training beyond the realm of employees ‘actual’ jobs. Expanding employees’ skills beyond those usually considered “required” for the role, e.g. communication, leadership and project management can create a much more intuitive and flexible team, which is capable of thinking outside the box and coming up with new processes and solutions.

John Howarth, Business Manager at Jacobs, formerly a Manager of Contracts and Procurement for a large mining firm told Mining IQ: “This is an ongoing requirement. Perhaps a greater focus should be on associated behavioral skills such as relationship management and business analyst type skills. The technical components of procurement are both class based and desk based (on the job) training and this should happen year on year to both develop and refresh skill sets. The soft skills often translate to how the procurement professional actually perform these skills, and during tight economic times more effective use of soft skills makes a tangible difference to the procurement outcomes.”

The procurement function is crucial to the success of any mine and the importance of the department will only increase as budgets are tightened. In order to stay ahead of the curve, mining firms need to ensure their procurement teams are given adequate training and are set firm aims and objectives. Team need to be given the tools to succeed, but also need to be held accountable for their actions. And finally, employers need to make sure that open communication is promoted on a daily basis in order to open the floodgates for fresh ideas and input regarding continuous improvement.  

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May 6, 2021

Copper, iron ore surge as Chinese investors unleash demand

Iron ore
3 min
Iron ore broke $200 a tonne for the first time, while copper approached a record high as Chinese investors unleashed fresh demand following May holiday

The reopening of major industrial economies is sparking a surge across commodities markets from corn to lumber, with tin climbing above $30,000 a tonne for the first time since 2011 on Thursday.

In the wake of mounting evidence of inflation fuelled by higher raw materials prices, investors are also increasingly focused on when the U.S. Federal Reserve might start throttling back its emergency support.


Many banks say the rally has further to run, particularly for copper, which will benefit from rising investment in new energy sectors. Copper is at the highest in a decade, fueling bets it will rally further to take out the record set in February 2011. Steel demand is surging as economies chart a path back to growth just as the world’s biggest miners have been hampered by operational issues, tightening ore supply.

“The long-term prospects for metals prices are ‘too good’ and point to higher prices in the next few years,” said Commerzbank AG analyst Daniel Briesemann. “The decarbonization trends in many countries, which include switching to electric vehicles and expanding wind and solar power, are likely to generate additional demand for metals.”

Trading house Trafigura Group and several major Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. expect copper to extend gains.

Copper rose as much as 1.6% to $10,108.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange before trading at $10,080 as of 4:07 p.m. in London.


Iron Ore

Benchmark spot iron ore prices rose to a record, while futures in Singapore and China climbed.

The boom comes as China’s steelmakers keep output rates above 1 billion tons a year, despite a swath of production curbs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and reining in supply. Instead, those measures have boosted steel prices and profitability at mills, allowing them to better accommodate higher iron ore costs.

Spot iron ore with 62% content hit $201.15 a ton on Thursday, according to Mysteel. Futures in Singapore jumped as much as 5.1% to $196.40 a ton, the highest since contracts were launched in 2013. In Dalian, prices closed 8.8% higher.

Erik Hedborg, Principal Analyst, Steel at CRU Group commented: “Recent production cuts in Tangshan have boosted demand for higher-quality ore and prompted mills to build iron ore inventories as their margins are on the rise. Iron ore producers are enjoying exceptionally high margins as well, around two thirds of seaborne supply only require prices of $50 /dmt to break even.”


Still, some analysts including Commerzbank’s Briesemann expect a short-term correction as metals become detached from fundamentals. There’s also a risk that China could engage in policies that may cool demand for iron ore and copper.

The metals rally has boosted concerns about short-term Chinese demand. Some manufacturers and end-users have been slowing production or pushing back delivery times after costs surged, while weaker-than-expected domestic consumption has opened the arbitrage window for exports.

Tin climbed as much as 2% to $30,280 a ton on the LME, boosted by rising orders for the soldering metal. Tin is at the highest since May 2011, with a 48% gain this year making it the best performing metal on the LME.



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