Scheduling tech and short interval control provide a high return on investment, says mining industry report

A high-profile report on technology in the mining sector has identified optimised scheduling and short interval control as two of the best investments for mining companies who are committed to digital transformation.

According to McKinsey & Company’s 2018 report, Behind the mining productivity upswing: Technology-enabled transformation, mining is already reaping the benefits of technological change, and mining productivity is on the rise.

The report stresses, however, that technology needs to be part of a holistic approach to transformation that extends across every facet of a mining organisation. Companies who invest in tech without a broad, organisation-wide strategy may not see the improvements they’ve been hoping for.

“There is no technological silver bullet that companies can buy to achieve their goals,” it states. Instead, transformation depends on the success of three interdependent engines, described below:

1. Harnessing tech

Harnessing digital, analytics and automation technology across an organisation can support productivity, safety, customer satisfaction, and supply chain management.

New technologies are already helping mining companies in many ways, including:

  • Improving throughput and recovery by using data and advanced analytics to inform decisions and improve processes.
  • Optimising maintenance, so it’s performed when needed rather than on a fixed schedule, thanks to sensors and machine learning. Phone- or tablet-based systems also help by giving maintenance workers the info they need while they’re on the job.
  • Reducing operating costs – especially through the use of robotics and autonomous machines.
  • Boosting productivity by coordinating activities. In underground mining, where this has always been a challenge, WiFi or 5G wireless tech on mobile devices allows supervisors to communicate with work teams in real time and adapt plans using short interval control to suit conditions.

2. Adapting management systems

A mining company implementing new technologies also needs to modify the ways in which its employees operate “to embed the new tools and insights into their daily workflow”.

Sometimes the organisational structure may need to change too. Traditional siloed teams typically lead to “slow and inferior decision making. Each team sees only its part of the whole, and when problems arise (as they always do), it works against collaborative and cooperative thinking and action. Most importantly, teams that work in silos know only what they know; they are isolated from the data that drives innovation”.

3. Overhauling culture and capabilities

Breaking ingrained habits is the third part of the puzzle; mining companies need to manage a change in mindset, behaviours and capabilities, formally and through modelling by managers. They will also need to train, retrain and upskill employees, and hire others to fill new roles as technologies are harnessed.

The role of better scheduling and control

The report lists optimised scheduling and control as “a use case that will provide a high return on investment” for companies embarking on tech-enabled transformation.

Commit Works’ Fewzion and short interval control systems are tech solutions that act across all of McKinsey and Company’s “three engines for change”:

  1. They harness mobile technology and analytics to support productivity, transparency, safety and decision-making.
  2. They modify the way that employees work together by giving teams access to a single plan in real time and enabling progress to be tracked – breaking down silos, allowing plans to be adjusted as necessary and making people accountable for the work they do.
  3. They change the behaviours and mindsets of teams and supervisors, through a system based on commitment, trust and accountability.

Commenting on the opportunities provided by mobile solutions for underground mining, the report notes that enabling supervisors to communicate with work teams in real time lets them “react and adapt to changing conditions, allowing an underground mine to function like a modern, sophisticated open-pit operation”. Furthermore, short interval control allows companies to “examine where decisions are made, and by whom, and empower their workers to make informed, data-driven decisions, quickly and safely”.

We’re proud to be delivering products that are so central to the practical digital transformation of the mining industry. Contact us to find out more about how Commit Works can help optimise productivity and safety on your mining operation.

Short Interval control system

Pathways to a Mine that is in Short Term Interval Control

A few nights ago I had a call with Leon Cosgrove from Wipro about short interval control. We discussed the different ways miners can go to improve performance in their operations. Perhaps it was because we’re both involved in the consulting industry but somehow a 2 by 2 matrix appeared as we spoke. See below, we both thought it was helpful for describing the journey to a high performing operation.

On the Y Axis is the extent to which the mine can measure and see where all their equipment is and what it is doing. There is a big range of technologies here but to keep it simple these range from sites with no way of knowing where anything is or what it is doing through truck counts and radio based tools like PitRam up to high precision fleet management systems like Modular, Newtrax or MobileARIS. Telematics and measurement are one thing but getting the data out of the pit is equally challenging, again simplifying terribly, technologies used range from nothing to radios, to leaky feeder to wifi and daisy chaining to LTE.

On the X Axis is the extent to which the mine is planning and scheduling frontline operational work. On the left are operations that believe that a good mining schedule and perhaps a maintenance plan are able to be simply handed down to the operation to execute. On the right are the operations who have the frontline management systems and behaviours necessary to describe in short intervals what needs to be done each shift for everyone on the site. These operations engage religiously in the Plan Do Check Act cycle and use variances from the plan each shift, day and week to drive performance improvements continuously.

Short Interval control

Three routes to high performance

With the matrix above it was interesting to think through the different routes to becoming a high performer, we came up with three options.

1.Technology first. Many operations have invested heavily in connectivity and fleet management systems that tell them where alShort Interval Controll their machines are and exactly what is happening. When these operations want to move towards the high performer quartile they have lots of high quality data but they still need to break their silos and perform short interval, integrated planning and scheduling.

2. Management first. Traditional management operating system (MOS) consultants have done huge numbers of projects with miners getting them to improve their frontline management planning and coordination. Short interval control is a tool often implemented during these projects. However, without an easy to use and integrated frontline planning and short interval control system (most of these consultants still sell spreadsheets and whiteboards) the mature management behaviours they have implemented are very hard to sustain. Operations that use these old fashioned MOS “systems” are very difficult to move into the “High performer” quartile in a sustainable way as the tools often break when the consultants leave.

3. Management and Technology together. The most direct route to the High performer quartile is by integrating mature management practices with mature technology. This way the behaviours of the organisation can be directly supported by and embedded in the way the technology works. Critical to this transition is the use of a fully integrated frontline planning and short interval control system that can connect the enterprise planning systems to the operational technology that runs the mine. Done well this type of project uses mature management consultants to improve management practices while the technologists wire the system together to support mature management behaviours. This approach delivers rapid and sustainable results for much lower cost than option 1 or 2.

Commit Works has been working with some of the largest and the smartest miners in the world to deliver massive production and safety improvements.

Our fully integrated frontline planning, scheduling and short interval control system, Fewzion, has helped miners deliver 25% to 50% improvements in performance in less than 3 months from the start of implementation on site. Many of these sites have sustained their results for over 4 years through successive changes in management and ownership.

To find out more contact us at or call 1300 33 99 46


Short Interval control app

The three ingredients of a Short Interval Control (SIC) sandwich

The team at Commit Works have been implementing Short Interval Control (SIC) systems for over 20 years in mines, workshops, factories and even an insurance company.

The central idea behind SIC is that when supervisors are more AWARE of how their process is performing during the shift, then they will be able to ACT to keep the process on course to hit its target each shift.

This is a simple idea, right? All you do is get supervisors to check at regular intervals throughout their shift if they are on target and to act to improve the situation if they find they are off track. In reality, however, the success of SIC depends on multiple factors.

What’s in the Short Interval Control sandwich?

Whether it’s mining or another industry, there are three key ingredients that go into Short Interval Control – we call it the SIC sandwich.

  • The top piece of bread should be an agreed and a realistic frontline plan for all work that the supervisor is responsible for.
  • In the centre (the filling) is the tool supervisors or crew use to record (in short intervals) whether they are on track or not.
  • On the bottom is the method for knowing how much ore, cubic metres, drill metres, work orders, widgets or insurance claims have been moved or completed at points throughout the shift.

Each of these elements makes the supervisor more AWARE of the performance of their process compared to the agreed plan for the shift. Given this awareness, the supervisor must then ACT appropriately to bring the process back into control and ideally describe what actions they took in a shift report.

The top of the SIC sandwich is the frontline planning and scheduling (or work management) system, which takes plans from systems like SAP, Deswik, Xact, MS Project, rosters, and leave and service schedules and makes them into a coordinated plan that can be committed to and executed on the shift. In most operations this is done via spreadsheets and whiteboards.

The centre (sandwich filling) has, for a long time, been A3 sheets of paper for supervisors to complete at two- or three-hourly intervals during a shift. In general, supervisors dislike these tools with a passion and seldom complete them properly or sustain them after consultants have left. More recently, some major mining firms have attempted to build software tools that supervisors can use in the field. These have been fraught with usability and connection issues, which have prevented most of them from being successful.

The bread on the bottom used to be provided through paper truck counts or radio calls but, more recently, has relied on fleet management systems (FMS) to give up-to-date information about the measurable raw tonnes, metres, cubic metres etc. coming off each machine. To be successful, the data needs to get from machines to the supervisor quickly. In a small opencast mine this can be achieved by the supervisor standing on the highwall observing operations; in a complex underground mine it could require a well-designed system of sensors, tags and communications infrastructure.

Why most Short Interval Control sandwiches fail

In our experience, most SIC sandwiches don’t work because of weakness in the top two layers.

Without a reasonable and agreed shift plan, the crew doesn’t have realistic targets to aim for, so there is no point breaking those targets up into smaller intervals to track against. “But”, you say, “we have the weekly plan (from Deswik, EPS or Xact etc.) which sets the targets.” Dividing a weekly production plan target into 14 even shifts is a convenient and easy shortcut to take but is destined for failure because it doesn’t take into account the variability in the workplace (conditions, maintenance, sick leave etc.) that the supervisor has to cope with.

Dividing the week up into shifts without taking all the other work and conditions into account means the supervisor and crew will never have a plan that actually makes sense on their shift – some shifts will have low targets and others will have unachievable targets, there will be services or sequence work that needs to be done and machines will need to be maintained, making the plan impossible.

Send a crew to work over and over again with a plan that doesn’t make sense and it’s likely they will lose respect for the plan (and their leaders) and choose to do things their own way.

Making SIC work

The holy grail of SIC is to have a single system that enables you to bring all planning information into an integrated shift plan that can be agreed at weekly and daily commitment meetings. This plan can then be:

  • reviewed, adapted and committed to before the crew go to work
  • used to assign work to people
  • used to brief the crew at pre-starts/line-ups.

The same system can either print or deliver the plan to supervisors or crew on a phone or tablet at the face, and throughout the shift the work being done can be “closed off” in short intervals so that the control room, general foreman, shift boss, undermanager etc. and planners know that the right work is getting done.

This can integrate with fleet management systems to bring real-time data back to the supervisor through a tool, or regular radio calls can be made to check in on progress. At the end of shift, the supervisor and crew will have closed out most of the tasks and already written most of their shift report in the app, so a quick conversation around a touchscreen is enough to close out the shift.

All the data collected ends up in simple reports for use in daily review meetings to identify variances and plan corrective actions. This data is then available to business improvement people for analysis and continuous improvement work.

Commit Works has the only enterprise-quality system that makes this possible. It can be set up and implemented on your site in a matter of weeks and fits easily into operational expense budgets.

Global examples

Anglo Dawson OC, whiteboard daily planning meeting to set targets for the shift, paper based A3 SIC sheets, radio calls to each machine and supervisor at 3 hour intervals to say whether they were on plan or not.

Glencore Sudbury, UG Nickel mine planning development sequence work and tracking actuals from the face using an offline app.

Rio Kestrel, Fewzion work management planning system, crib room PC for entering actuals data, view of SCADA system and work orders from trades to tell how shift was progressing.

Anglo, Zibulo – Fewzion work management system, underground WiFi phones with a Fewzion SIC App to record actuals at the face.

Commit Works- Mining Technology

What to consider when implementing new technologies

What to consider when implementing new technologies

In previous posts we’ve discussed how vital it is that mining companies invest in technologies that enable them to keep pace with the industry’s innate challenges. In short, mining’s future prosperity relies on improving productivity by making use of innovative digital solutions.

But how do you know which solution is right for you, and what should you consider before investing company money in new software?

Paradigm shift

Perhaps the most important point to make is that embracing technology needs to happen as part of a broader change in the way mining is envisioned and carried out. The McKinsey & Company report How digital innovation can improve mining productivity argues that innovation needs to be seen by industry leaders “as an undertaking that encompasses all aspects of the business, rather than a technology effort”.

This fundamental shift is necessary for mining companies to draw real value from digitisation: “In particular, much of the value creation in mining will shift from how well the operation moves material to how well it collects, analyzes, and acts on information to move material more productively”.

Rather than investing in technology and hoping it will create value on its own, mining companies need teams that are able to understand both mining operations and technologies, so that new tech can be integrated effectively into operations and the results measured.

What about the people?

McKinsey & Company note that technologies are of limited help if they’re implemented without regard for the people who’ll be using them:

“From our work on big data across industries, we know that technology – data, analytics, and systems – is only part of the answer. Changes are needed in processes and people to most effectively implement technology and the new ways of working that it makes possible. Successful miners will set an integrated vision from data to systems to core processes to people capabilities, recognizing that new technologies only create value if they change the way people work and make decisions.”

A large part of the responsibility for integrating technologies with processes, decision-making and people must lie with the top executive team. McKinsey & Company stress that clear ownership of innovation needs to be built into the upper rungs of management, which means “refining the organizational design to create meaningful senior roles for people with technical skills, and redesigning the annual planning and performance-management process to create space for innovation”.

The Commit Works approach

At Commit Works, we’re passionate about showing our clients how to get the most from our software. Our demo sessions provide an opportunity for prospective users to explore how Commit Works can drive measurable business value. We’ll show you how our technology is reshaping business models and enabling companies to gain a competitive advantage.

Contact us to see how we can help you plan, track performance and stay on budget to improve your bottom line.

Scheduling Software Fontline Shceduling software

ABC’s and the psychology of operations improvement

The “Antecedent, Behaviour, Consequence” (ABC) model is a well used psychological approach for understanding what drives human behaviour good or bad, desired or undesired.

In a panel discussion about building trust, commitment and results in operations a few weeks back Andy Greig (former President of Bechtel’s Mining and Metals Business Unit) said that 80% of human behaviour is driven by consequences (despite most engineers believing “Antecedents” instructions, process and procedures to be the biggest driver).

“Think about it, it doesn’t matter how many times you tell your child not to touch the stove (antecedent) it’s only the pain of being burnt (consequence) that really drives the child not to touch it next time”

Andy believes this is true for the work place and that the managers’ role is to therefore apply positive and negative consequences in order to drive the behaviours required for safe and productive performance. (Watch a short video of Andy describing the ABC model).

So, how can this be used to manage an operation? The Management Operating System (MOS) or Commitment System (CS) (What the hell is a Commitments System) approach works by ensuring the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle is running at every level of a business. The ABC model can be successfully applied to ensure these approaches have a positive effect on results, in doing so leaders will be called to hold their people to account for behaving in line with their commitment system and for their performance against the plan.

Operations that have successfully implemented and sustained a commitment system almost always start by focusing on the creation of a good plan that supervisors can confidently lead their team with. This is important because without a good plan before the shift starts it is impossible to know whether the team has performed well or not. In addition to this planned work is both safer and more productive than unplanned work. (Watch a short video of Andy talking about planned work being safer at Bechtel).

However, as important as planning is, it is simply an antecedent to the core activity of improving operational performance.

The critical core of operations improvement is the learning that happens when variances from the plan are identified, root causes understood and actions taken to remove the causes of variance. In operations where a commitment system really takes hold and delivers improved results it is the dedicated and systematic removal of the causes of variance that delivers these results more than anything else.

This is where the ABC model connects to the commitment system. With the “antecedent” planning in place the application of consequences, positive and negative requires leaders to choose to hold their people to account both for the observed variances and for following the planning, review, action behaviours described above. Sadly, whilst simple, this can be very uncomfortable and difficult for managers and frontline leaders to do in reality. A couple of practical examples will help to illustrate this

Example 1. Planning
Imagine for a moment what would happen if a planner turned up to a planning meeting without having done any pre planning work to get his plan ready for the meeting. The manager could:

a) let it slide – in which case it’s unlikely that others will plan prior to their planning meetings as there is no direct consequence.

Alternatively the manager could:

b) send everyone back to their desks to complete their plan, delaying the meeting an hour – in this case the poor planning behaviour would be met with a sharp comment from the manager and an uncomfortable “consequence” of wasted time for the planner and his peers.

In option b) all planners will be much more likely to turn up prepared for the next planning meeting.

At daily review meetings a skilled operations manager will expect their superintendents to know what their variances are, to have understood why before the meeting and to have an action for each variance. They would also expect to hear that any actions assigned to each person in the room were being completed when expected.

Example 2. Review and Action
Imagine what would happen if a superintendent came to a daily review meeting with long stories about why they didn’t hit their targets and no actions to fix the causes of their underperformance.

The operations manager could:

a) Listen to the stories and engage in the conversation that they create never getting to an action, i.e. let it slide again as the meeting drags on and wastes everyone’s time.


b) Cut the story off and ask “what’s the variance” and “what action will you take, by when”.

The outcome of not applying a consequence in option a) is going to be lots of time wasted in meetings, low levels of action to resolve the causes of variance and continued poor performance.

However, because the operations manager applied a consequence in option b), creating an uncomfortable feeling by challenging the superintendent to behave in the desired way, it is likely that the desired behaviours will become more regular, meetings will become shorter and performance will improve. The consequence for superintendents that behave in the desired way will be a growing confidence from their manager, quick, focused meetings, a high performing team that delivers results.

In conclusion, given the antecedent of a good plan, operations managers and superintendents that reliably choose to hold their people to account by applying consequences, are many times more likely to build a high trust, high performance team that reliably delivers sustainable results. Doing this will earn them the confidence of their leaders and increase the likelihood of getting promoted or receiving a bonus.

Commit Works makes software (Fewzion and Visual Ops) that helps operations to out plan and out manage uncertainty. Talk to us or one of our partners about implementing a commitment system in your operation.