A Dispatcher’s Viewpoint | Using Training & Data to Improve Decision Making

by Terry Tutak

At Outliers Mining Solutions, we always counsel our clients to make data-based decisions. The trap we frequently encounter is mine leadership fixating on certain KPIs without creating a broader understanding of operating philosophy and what drives production in the truck and shovel fleet. This singular focus can produce unintended behaviours and decisions that hurt efficiency rather than improve it. Expanding the mine dispatcher’s viewpoint is a key that can unlock significant productivity increases.

When mine sites are looking to boost efficiency and productivity through dispatch and fleet management, they outfit their truck and shovel fleet with hardware, set up the wireless networks and create a dispatch office equipped with a dispatcher and a workstation with the chosen fleet management system.

The data generated from this system gives the dispatcher the information they need to make decisions that positively affect the fleet’s overall productivity. Once this information is available, operating strategies and guidelines can be implemented, such as “Shovels must never wait to load a truck- there must be less than one minute of hang per load.” Or, in a truck constrained mine, “The truck queue on average per load should be under 2 minutes.”

These general rules give a great fundamental foundation for success, but narrowing the dispatcher’s focus to a couple of key performance indicators can begin to foster behaviour that distracts from or conflicts with the mine site’s goals.

Imagine a mine site that only focuses on the truck queue. The easiest way to prevent truck queues from rising is to park haul trucks. If leadership’s message is to reduce truck queues at all times, dispatchers may fear explaining why they have an above-target truck queue more than why they parked trucks.

This narrow view can create an environment of fear rather than fostering an informative, collaborative environment needed to understand the needs of the mine site. Dispatchers are at their best when they know the site’s overall goals, not fixating on ‘flavour of the month’ KPIs that can be manipulated or hidden by the dispatcher.

Dispatchers need a broader understanding of site performance to see all the factors impacting production in real-time. Dispatchers with a narrow viewpoint tend to focus on preventing negative discussions with operators and leadership. Managers operating with a broader view can become frustrated when mine site goals aren’t met, and explanations from dispatchers on the shortfall reflect a lack of fundamental understanding.

Providing the dispatcher with all mine site data would seem to address this issue. It would pull the dispatcher out of a narrow viewpoint, but this can also lead to analysis paralysis and overload the dispatcher through the sheer volume of information provided.

Educating dispatchers to interpret broad-view data across the entire mine fleet is crucial to improving the quality of dispatching assignments and increasing productivity. A dispatcher that understands shovel and haul cycle factors can identify patterns that lead to more educated decisions. A review of decisions made during the shift with dispatchers and reflecting on the shift’s performance gives further insight into how the dispatcher came to their decisions and whether the right choices were made given the operating circumstances. This collaborative environment enhances the understanding of both dispatchers and management, leading to data-driven conclusions that the dispatcher understands, can define, and defend.

Mine conditions change minute by minute, and the speed and accuracy with which the dispatcher reacts to these changes can mean the difference between achieving daily production or not. Pulling back and looking at the big picture instead of a narrow focus on specific KPIs will improve the quality of allocations a dispatcher makes. A single mine dispatcher directs hundreds of millions of dollars in mine equipment. Providing training and information to understand the broader view will ensure they get the most out of the fleet.

To learn more about how Outliers Mining Solutions can help optimize your mine site and fleet management system visit https://outliersminingsolutions.com/increase-mining-production