Using Data to Find Order in the Chaos

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Is your mine site making sense of the chaos that a shift in mining brings? Is there a team that consistently produces while other teams are falling further behind?

Typically, during a "good shift" (when shovel headings are in place, and equipment reliability is high), the difference between teams is primarily a function of the operators' experience and is usually minor. However, when a shift is interrupted by downtime or suboptimal headings, this chaos magnifies team differences. In the journey to learn how to react and handle this chaos, sites can benefit from moving more tonnes without adding extra equipment hours.

Finding Order in the Chaos

At Outliers Mining Solutions, we strive to help find order in that chaos. We achieve this by utilizing the data output of fleet management software and have developed tools that visualize the mining process through our dashboards. Our combined 100+ years of mining experience provide our consultants with real-world knowledge to empower your site to interpret this data and make data-driven decisions.

With exposure to a Short Interval Control dashboard or our Visual Management framework, sites gain an understanding of the data that leads to answering three key points.

  1. Does the site understand what drives productivity?
  2. Is the site reacting correctly to interruptions?
  3. Is the site normalizing complacency?

Empowerment through Real-Time Data

Looking at what drives productivity, we can visualize the business cost of the cycles of shovels or trucks. This helps reinforce the attention brought to improving mere seconds into a unified language: lost tonnage. Knowing what part of the mining process is causing the most significant potential losses with real-time data empowers dispatch and supervisors to triage effectively, allowing them to identify and prioritize their daily tasks.

By design, the dashboard must display all the necessary data to interpret a shift simultaneously. We must understand the overall site scenario when interpreting key performance indicators on a dashboard. Is the site under- or over-trucked? What is the bottleneck to production right now? Is improving "here" going to have the biggest net gain? Applying a general rule might not be an effective solution. Improving the load times at a single shovel in an under-trucked scenario wouldn't improve productivity as much as improving wait times at a busy dump. Mine sites have many moving parts, and effectively managing all the pieces becomes a more significant burden. Visualizing the impacts of inefficiencies can guide supervisors systematically to areas needing attention.

How Reactions Impact Interruptions

This leads to analyzing the data to judge how our reactions impact the interruptions. Are the reactions fixing the problem, or are we moving the problem elsewhere? Using trend recognition, we challenge the supervisors to view our dashboards and see how short they can allow trends to occur, shortening the intervals so that they don't trend for hours.

A supervisor can glance at these dashboards and see if something is starting to impact the site. As an added benefit, we can begin to gamify the mining process. We notify leaders that actions are needed, leading to engagement with a "history."

This can be reflected upon and help coach for future scenarios or even become a proud story moment with data to help support the cause and effect. This also leads to time-saving for field leaders; if they have multiple geographical areas they are in charge of, instead of just driving back and forth without direction, looking at the dashboard can guide their focus and give them the ability to triage what area is most important to see first. Imagine a crossover with data to help guide the oncoming shift to conditions in the field.

Payload compliance, for example, can benefit from historical trends. Imagine starting the shift as a supervisor, looking at the payload trends and seeing in the last half hour that all the trucks loaded at a particular shovel have been underloaded. This can start the conversation to find out that a soft spot has occurred in the way of the trucks, and to prevent haulers from sinking and getting stuck; the shovel operator has opted to light load until shift change so the hazard can be addressed. Now, armed with the knowledge to notify the area's operators and prioritize support equipment to fix the soft spot.

Measure, Interpret, Manage the Mine

With all this data being captured and displayed in a manner that we can measure and interpret, we can more effectively manage the mine. In mining, we accept that as work continues, things change; shovels burrow in or leave tails behind, headings become tighter, and cable is left in sub-optimal placement as the shovel digs away. Instead of just blindly accepting "it is what it is," having historical data to compare, we can initiate conversations and ask operators respectfully why things are occurring negatively. Imagine a shovel operator digging in the same area for an extended period, but their load times steadily increase. If using a camera to observe the area, it isn't apparent why it would take longer. It is not like the face is lower or anything else is apparent; the supervisor might be at a different location dealing with a pressing matter and unavailable to get eyes on the scene.

A dispatcher can notice that trucks are beginning to wait longer than usual; how often have we heard, "It's just a blip, so and so just got go, or a truck just got out of fuel." Looking at the trend of the shovel times, we can see that the shovel itself is taking longer to load, causing a traffic jam. With this knowledge, we can speak with the operator and ask, "Hey, I have noticed that in the last 30 minutes, things are starting to slow down. Can you make a short move to get back to better digging, or do you need time to clean up the tails?"

Seeking to understand what's happening can lead the dispatcher to plan accordingly, or sometimes the operator will respond with nothing needs changing, BUT afterward, their load times magically speed up, and from a short two-minute conversation, an improvement has been made. That is the holy grail of solutions, and they can happen, so long as the conversation is conducted respectfully. Without measuring the data, we cannot manage our sites effectively. As the focus is on a new KPI, we can passively observe past KPIs and ensure that improvements are sustained.

Using the data a mine site has, we strive to find a solution to the chaos. Demystifying the mining process into key areas that can be targeted and solutions applied, we help mine sites use what they already have more effectively. To ensure that the results are sustainable, we constantly use the data to evaluate how the pendulum of change management swings. This ensures that past improvements are maintained and carried forward, keeping the momentum going.


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