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Frontline scheduling - short term interval control

Dead ends on the road to integrated planning and short term interval control

At Commit Works, we’ve spent nearly a decade building and implementing integrated planning and short term interval control (SIC) software to bridge the gap between monthly plans and the work done by frontline teams.

The hours we’ve worked with teams on mine sites have given us a comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing operations and the results that they need to achieve. Throughout the years we’ve watched mining companies invest significant amounts of money and time with consultants, software companies and internal teams to develop solutions to this problem – in most cases, they have run into dead ends.

We’ve written this article to share our insights and guide you through the reasons this kind of project often fails to deliver a useful tool to the team at the frontline.

Common approaches

Why are they falling short? Let’s take a look at the three approaches we’ve seen used, which try to build tools for frontline planning and scheduling and short term interval control (SIC) on mine sites around the world.

The MOS consultant approach

Almost every mine we’ve been on has a set of whiteboards, spreadsheets or paper tools for planning, doing, checking and acting on site. Most of the time these were developed and implemented during a Management Operating System (MOS) project.

In one project we recently helped on, the mine had over 65 spreadsheets stitched together with pivot tables and macros. No one on site really knew how all these were supposed to work together and when one thing stopped working the whole system was broken. A massive amount of time was wasted on this operation in pre-planning, planning and lock-in/commitment meetings in the quest for a plan everyone could agree to – and most weeks the plan was wrong within hours of starting.

Spreadsheets and whiteboards developed by MOS specialists, even if they continue to be used on an operation, require considerable manual work in order to keep them going. Their biggest failing, however, is in their inability to produce real cross-functional/integrated planning and scheduling. This is not a safe or reliable way to coordinate a mining operation, and it doesn’t have to be the case.

In-house IT approach

Sometimes, mines or their head offices choose to go it alone, using an internal IT team to build a solution for the sites. Some of these are successful at delivering useful tools to the front line to meet the particular needs of that mining operation.

However, three things are difficult:

  1. The tool is normally very specific to one operation so can’t easily be used on other operations in the group. This means the whole development cost is covered by one site.
  2. In-house projects are often plagued by issues around product design, software integration, scope creep and change management. Many are ultimately left unfinished following changes in organisational structure or redundancies in the company. This is because effective software in this space takes years to get right and many corporate IT departments don’t last that long without change.
  3. To continue to provide value to an operation, certain support infrastructure and people need to be employed. We have heard of mining companies employing customer success and DevOps teams to look after the software they have built in-house. This can last for a while but recently we have seen these teams being disbanded by new leaders looking to save head office costs. In these cases, sites are left with an unsupported system that no one knows how to fix or improve.

Software mashup approach

Often a number of systems are pulled together into an uncomfortable collaboration, or a systems integrator is brought in to create a “system of systems” for work scheduling and production reporting. They might bring planning and Short Interval Control systems with them to implement in the operation, or they may work with a software company to build a customised solution for the specific need.

A recent example in North America saw no less than six software and consulting organisations engaged to collaborate and deliver a planning and Short Term Interval Control solution. They experienced all the integration and “turf war” issues you would expect and, in the end, spent over $14m to deliver something that can now be bought off the shelf from one vendor (us). The team involved in this work were made redundant recently, so the sites have a system without the support they need and the system is, as far as we know, likely to be replaced.

Another angle on this is the “wrong tool forced to work”. For example, it has been suggested by some that “mining is just like maintenance” so you should be able to set up standard jobs in SAP and schedule them using Prometheus to enable frontline planning. Although there have, no doubt, been some successes in plant environments, where the majority of work is maintenance work, it is very hard to get frontline mining teams to use SAP for this kind of planning. You have to look very hard to find a real mining operation where this toolset has been able to provide frontline teams with a shift plan to deliver each shift.

Why is this so hard to get right?

In spite of good intentions, smart people and big budgets, so many projects fail to deliver a long-term solution. Here are some of the reasons why.

Mining is complex and software people seldom understand how mining operations really work

Consider all the moving parts and processes in a mining operation: production, maintenance of equipment, projects, geology, survey, rehab, safety and hazard management, reporting and analysis. And then there are people too: planners, schedulers, coordinators, control room personnel, site supervisors, operators and tradespeople.

Without a comprehensive understanding of how all of these elements fit together, it’s impossible to develop effective software for these people. Our team has spent years consulting, doing “day in the life studies” and coaching supervisors in the field. We understand what they need because we’ve been listening for more than 20 years.

Inadequate feedback from real users

You need to spend a lot of time with users (and care deeply about what they say) in order to build a system that is both powerful and easy to use.

Good software takes a long time to get right and consulting teams charge too much each day to justify having their best consultants help on software development projects. Neither mining companies nor consulting firms are good at software development or support – it’s not core business – so they tend to be expensive and fail to deliver what the site really needs.

Restructuring means short-lived internal software teams

Most internal software teams don’t stay in their roles for long enough to develop, implement and support a system that can achieve effective integrated frontline planning and short term interval control (SIC). Company restructures generally mean that projects are disrupted or the people that built the system will no longer be around or working in the right department to look after what they built.

Too many point solutions

Point solutions concentrate on fixing one specific problem quickly but often fail to connect with other systems. While many mining software suites perform well in their specific areas of influence (such as operational planning, maintenance, reporting, fleet management, safety monitoring, or analytics) there are no other software or technology firms that can provide an end-to-end solution that connects mine plans to all the frontline work that needs to be performed to deliver the plan.

Most of these point solutions are designed the way they are for good reasons, so it can be very hard to get the busy software companies that provide them to adapt their solutions to meet the needs of frontline workers.

There are many solutions available today that support frontline teams – this diagram shows some of the major ones. But note the lack of connection between the various solutions as you proceed from monthly plans through to the detailed work schedules used by crews.

Lack of adoption

To truly get the benefits of planning and Short Interval Control software it’s vital that implementation, change management and adoption of the new system is managed effectively and that ongoing support is available.

What should you do?

So, what is the best approach? Should you pay a software developer or outsourcer to build customised software that works around your mine’s current systems? Or start from scratch with an integrated provider of planning software? Or would a MOS consulting firm give you the spreadsheets you need to streamline the management of your mining operations?

The technology and innovation projects in the above examples have struggled to deliver tools that the crew at the frontline actually use in the way they were intended to be used.

It pays to avoid these kinds of mistakes, but how?

How Commit Works has succeeded where others have failed.

Commit Works is the only provider of a comprehensive, fully integrated frontline planning and scheduling system (Fewzion) that works with a short term interval control (SIC) app and visualisation software (Visual Ops) to give a complete picture of mining operations, every day, every shift.

In developing our Commit Works products, we built a minimum viable product (MVP) of Fewzion for Anglo American’s Moranbah North mine in 2011. We have continued to develop, support and improve it since. We’ve completed successive implementations for other Anglo American, BHP, Glencore, South32, Peabody, Rio Tinto, Mastermyne and Barrick Gold sites over the past six years. Implementations have taken six to 16 weeks to complete and have all delivered significant improvements in production and safety metrics. Crucially, we continue to support each of these sites and regularly release new features (our latest release is version 19.1) so that they get the benefit of the experience we are always building.

From monthly scheduling of personnel and resources all the way through to the most granular task-based details of a single shift, our mining software allows management to see their operations clearly and make better decisions, whilst empowering frontline teams to get the job done more efficiently and safely.

Implementations of our software have helped deliver massive production and safety improvements for some of the world’s largest mining companies. Most recently a site experienced a 45% increase in mucked tonnes per day within weeks of everyone using the system. You too could get these kinds of results.

Want to hear more about our mining software and how we’re making mines work better? Get in touch or watch a video to see how we do it.

 

Mining Software - Integrated Mine Planning Software

Fragmented frontline mining technology leaves mines short

Seeing the whole: systems that only focus on a segment of your operation can’t deliver top quartile results

Lifting performance and productivity in a mining operation is no small task. Mines are complex, and require an extremely high level of planning, scheduling, coordination and reporting if they’re to run as well as possible.

Across all industries, software companies are promising to transform efficiency levels and boost profits. In mining, the sheer scale of operations can make the task of finding smart, resilient and effective solutions daunting to say the least. Added to this, most mines are already dealing with legacy systems that are failing or limping along with unsatisfactory results.

Investment in technology that delivers results is crucial if mines are to compete and remain profitable – the good news is that technological advances are giving us unprecedented opportunities to improve operations. But not all solutions are created equal.

Consider all the moving parts and processes in a mining operation… production, maintenance of equipment, projects, geology, survey, rehab, safety and hazard management and reporting and analysis. And then there are people too: planners, schedulers, coordinators, control room personnel, site supervisors, operators and tradespeople.

This diagram is an attempt to capture this complexity and the lack of connection between the various solutions available today.

Any mining software that hopes to significantly improve the coordination and performance of a mining operation needs to consider all of these parts of the process and make it easier for the people on site to see reality, make plans and execute on them.

While many mining software suites perform well in their specific areas of influence (such as operational planning, maintenance, reporting, fleet management, safety monitoring, or analytics) there are no software or technology firms that can provide an end to end solution that connects mine plans to all the work performed to deliver the plan at the frontline.

So what’s the best approach? Should you pay a software developer or outsourcer to build customised software that works around your mine’s current systems? Or start from scratch with an integrated provider of planning software? Or would a MOS consulting firm do a better job of streamlining the management of your mining operation?

Recent examples have sought to “mash up” a number of the “point solutions” into an integrated whole, kindly assisted by “smartest people in the room” consultants. These “technology / innovation projects” have really struggled to deliver tools that the guys at the frontline actually use, the way they were intended to. Basically, because it’s really hard to get busy software companies to adapt and integrate their solutions to meet this need, change management can be forgotten and at the same time technology and innovation projects seldom have the hard-operational edge they need to deliver results for the site. These issues lead to poor adoption and mean that the expected benefits aren’t delivered.

So, it pays to avoid these kinds of mistakes, but how?

An approach that is paying handsome dividends for those that have invested in it is to ensure that everyone on site has a well-coordinated and easy to understand plan each shift, that this shift plan is visible to everyone (so that they are all on the same page) and that actual results and shift reports can be fed into it to facilitate the plan, do, check, act improvement cycle. This approach is making it possible for mine sites to (for the first time) do effective integrated planning and short interval control. This has resulted in massive improvements in the coordination of work on site, reduces waste and delivers upward of 40% improvements in production or development results.

The only holistic solution – Fewzion Frontline Planning Software

Commit Works is the only software provider of a comprehensive, fully integrated frontline planning and scheduling system (Fewzion) that works with a short interval control app and visualisation software (Visual Ops) to give a complete picture of mining operations, every day, every shift.

From monthly scheduling of personnel and resources all the way through to the most granular task-based details of a single shift, our mining software allows management to see their operations clearly and make better decisions, whilst empowering frontline teams to get the job done more efficiently and safely.

We have delivered massive production and safety improvements for some of the world’s largest mining companies. Our easy-to-use, complete solution has:

  • helped large miners and small contractors to deliver 25 to 50 percent improvements in performance less than three months after implementation on site.
  • And, enabled many mines to sustain their results for over four years, through successive management teams and ownership.

Want to hear more about about our mining software and how we’re making mines work better? Get in touch.

 

Jhon Ansley - Commit Works COO

John Ansley New COO

Global technology leader John Ansley joins Commit Works as Chief Operating Officer

Leading mining technology company Commit Works announced today that it has appointed John Ansley as its new Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Joining Commit Works is a natural progression for Ansley, who has a deep understanding of the information technology (IT) landscape and a background in chief information officer (CIO) roles across the mining, logistics and pharmaceuticals industries in Australia, the United States, South America, Asia Pacific, Europe and South Africa. As Commit Works COO, he is enthusiastic about the opportunity to work at the leading edge of tech for the mining industry and beyond, as Commit Works pioneers a new standard in frontline planning, short interval control and site visualisation.

“Commit Works products solve the ‘last mile’ of technology, from enterprise systems right down to the tasks within a shift,” Ansley said. “Unlike many IT solutions, Commit Works has a fast return on investment, with a clear and measurable impact on key elements for companies – such as employee engagement, improved planning, and increases in productivity and safety.”

“The Commit Works team is also 100 percent focused on the success of its customers, which makes it a company I’m keen to work with.”

Ansley’s extensive international experience spans a diverse range of industries, and includes chief information officer (CIO) roles, advisory roles, business development, strategic consulting, digital transformation programs, creating new international information communication technology (ICT) organisations, and developing and managing large project teams.

He joins Commit Works at an exciting time, as the company expands in the wake of a strategic investment from Jolimont Global Mining Systems (Jolimont), which will accelerate its growth in Australia and internationally. “The appointment of John Ansley strengthens the Commit Works team in line with Jolimont’s commitment to the growth of the company. Having a world class team enables acceleration of the application of the world leading Commit Works technology, which benefits the industry.” said Lyle Bruce, partner at Jolimont and newly appointed Commit Works board member.

Andy Greig, Commit Works board member (the former President of Bechtel’s Mining & Metals Global Business and founder of Brisbane startup incubator, ACAC Innovation) said, “I am delighted John has joined the team. He is a talented executive with a great experience mix for his new role. He and CEO Paul Moynagh will complement each other very well.”

Commit Works CEO Paul Moynagh said that John would be an important asset for the team: “The breadth of his understanding and expertise will strengthen our business as we continue to develop our products and our reach.”

About Commit Works

Commit Works believes that successful organisations are built by people who make commitments to each other and deliver on them. Doing this consistently improves productivity, builds trust and helps frontline teams to out-plan uncertainty.

Its first product, Fewzion, was developed in collaboration with Anglo American to replace the cluster of whiteboards and spreadsheets traditionally used to prepare shift plans on site. A mobile app allowing real-time tracking of shifts connects to Fewzion, so that progress is regularly measured against plans.

Commit Works again worked with Anglo American to develop their Visual Opsproduct, which improves site safety and productivity. Visual Ops displays the near-real-time location of hazards, people and equipment on an operation. It is integrated with Fewzion as a holistic, easy-to-use solution for frontline teams, instantly synchronising information across devices, so that teams are always on the same page.

These unique innovations have delivered results beyond expectations, creating safer workplaces, streamlining projects, achieving record-breaking tonnages and empowering workers.

www.commit.works

For all sales, partner or media inquiries please contact Emelia Chalker – Marketing and Communications Manager:  emelia.chalker@commit.works (0414 652 637).