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.  

Share article

Jun 29, 2021

Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations

battery metals
2 min
Vale’s $150mn investment in operations at Thompson, Manitoba will extend mine life by 10 years

Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.

Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel

The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.

“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.

“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”

Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba

Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.

“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.

“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”

The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history.  Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.

“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.

Share article