A Dispatcher’s Viewpoint
When attempting to increase the efficiency of a mine site, most sites set up a dispatch office equipped with a dispatcher and a chosen fleet management software suite. This gives the mine-site a central hub to analyze data and improve the effectiveness of their fleet through allocations of trucks to shovels. Giving the dispatcher a large amount of data to make decisions affects the fleet's overall productivity. General operating strategies can sometimes be in place, such as; “Shovels must never wait to load a truck; therefore, they must be under 1 minute of hang per load on average.” With the ever-rising costs of fuel and other consumables, truck queue can lead to, “Truck queue on average per load should be under 2 minutes”. These general rules give a great basic foundation for success, but narrowing the dispatcher’s focus to a couple of key performance indicators can start to foster behaviour that conflicts with the mine-site’s goals.
Imagine a mine-site that only focuses on truck queue, the easiest way to prevent queue from rising is to park the trucks. Now, this is the easiest and most accessible way, but depending on how the message is being given to the dispatchers, they may fear explaining why they have above target queue more than trying to explain why they parked trucks. Now the truck efficiency is in a target zone, but the tons moved does not reflect the trucks' efficiency. Looking at the shovels now, they hang more than before. Pulling the dispatcher's attention to a broader view is needed to see all the factors involved. This cat and mouse game of chasing the new “flavour of the month” leads to frustration for everyone involved. Dispatchers with a narrow viewpoint tend to focus on preventing the negative “talks” they have to explain themselves. Management operating with a broader view becomes frustrated with the goals not being met, and the answers tend to be short-sighted and sometimes reflect a lack of understanding.
Helping the Dispatcher Out
Giving a dispatcher a report with all the data at once is an excellent thought; it does pull the dispatcher out of a narrow viewpoint. However, this could lead to analysis paralysis or overload the dispatcher with the sheer volume of information. Educating dispatchers to understand and interpret the data and how it's all related is crucial to improving the quality of assignments and increasing productivity. With an understanding of all the factors of the shovel and haul cycles, the dispatcher can start to see patterns that lead to educated decisions. Supporting the dispatchers afterwards by reviewing and reflecting on the shift’s performance will give insight into how the dispatcher came to their decisions. Coaching a dispatcher becomes more manageable with this understanding of their thoughts. This elevated understanding leads to data-driven decisions that the dispatcher can explain and defend. Instead of giving narrow goals that often clash with particular scenarios, the dispatcher becomes capable of making these decisions on their own; through discussions, they can begin to learn and understand the needs of the mine site.
Imagine a dispatcher understanding a pit development plan and its timeline, comparing their allocations against this, knowing the need to sprint versus full out run to keep a mill fed, or advancing drill headings versus derating a shovel heading until a blast. Then communicate this effectively so that all are aware of the why. This changes the game of cat and mouse into providing a healthy challenger of productivity. One who understands the mine plan and can make decisions at the moment when interruptions occur and reduce the impact of unforeseen disruption. Sometimes problems are not visible to all levels of an organization, and having a healthy challenger of the plan is needed to succeed.
Big Picture Thinking
Mine conditions change minute by minute, and a dispatcher must understand the subtle changes and required actions. Pulling back and looking at the big picture instead of applying generalized rules will improve the quality of allocations a dispatcher makes. The sheer dollar value dependent on the dispatcher’s decisions can justify investing in their education. Pulling a dispatcher from a narrow viewpoint into a broader understanding is critical for a successful mine-site.
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