- Changing commodity prices, this includes rising commodity prices because they are associated with supply chain cost increases (e.g. scarcity of tyres, spares, labour, and even fuel prices).
- You might experience a situation where resource data, which had previously been thought to be reliable, now turns out to be inaccurate or incomplete or incorrect.
- During the boom times, there is increased competition to attract and keep the best talent.
- Governments making environmental compliance requirements more stringent.
- Or, hell, it might even be a global pandemic. Who would have anticipated that?
A few years back, we had just helped one of our clients complete their digital transformation, moving all of their physical reporting, collaboration and action management tools and processes to the cloud. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they were in a much better place than their counterparts. They sent their engineers off-site, who continued more or less as they had before, while running skeleton crews on-site.
As the business leader, the first thing you require is the ability to recognise the need for change before it’s too late. You must be able to trust your information, accept the facts, and commit.
1. Early warning systems of trouble ahead
- Is the information trustworthy? The number of people we meet who are involved in capturing data and do not trust it themselves is staggering.
- Why don’t the people closest to the data trust it? I’m going to answer this question with another question: Which one is the single source of truth? Sit in any typical Daily Production Meeting and watch how the production, engineering, mechanical and electrical maintenance reps can’t even agree on what the right downtime numbers are. We often find the same for actual production figures, as they are usually tracked on numerous platforms and often not one of them is the official one. So everyone rolls with their own numbers! Yes, every site has a formal reconciliation process but it’s only as good as the garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) process allows it to be.
- The solution to this is surprisingly simple: ensure that there is agreement on the data collection process, there is a daily reconciliation process between the various functions, what the single source of truth is and who owns which data. These people then become accountable for data accuracy and timelines.
- Does your BI help you predict the future or simply confirm the past? If your BI system mostly focuses on historical information, your ability to predict the future will be limited to scrutinising trends. On the other hand, if your team starts measuring the health of your systems and processes, they will be able to deal with any deviations before they become problems and impact the bottom line.
- Do your teams all agree on what their end-to-end process steps really are? Hint: If these aren’t properly documented then what we’re talking about is opinions.
- Are upstream metrics monitored so their health can be tracked before they impact their downstream ‘customers’?
- Again, the solution is not rocket science: ensure the processes are mapped across functions and they think of every step in a process as both a supplier (upstream) and a customer (downstream). What are some of the metrics these customers require to be effective? For example, we have seen mining operations where the quality of the dozer operation before handing over to drill and blast was more often than not so poor it had to be redone, impacting schedule compliance every single time. Similarly, the quality and timeliness of engineering output (e.g. ’stope notes’ or whatever your company calls it) impacts downstream ‘customers’ (production in this case) far too often.
- You manage what you measure — once these steps are understood, standards agreed and tracked and poor performance is put in the spotlight they start to improve and so does efficiency. Cost per production unit drops, making you leaner and more competitive.
As commodity prices drop you cannot afford to be inefficient.
I cannot overstate the importance and benefits of making sure your teams are providing you with accurate data; analysing rubbish data is a waste of time! The examples above illustrate some of the benefits associated with simply increasing data accuracy, trustworthiness and an increased focus on leading metrics (see also The Only Metrics And KPIs A Mining CEO Should Care About).
2. Accurate troubleshooting. Finding the real causalities, quickly
The opposite to chaos is order and clarity.
3. Implementing controlled change, efficiently
As the CEO, here’s what you need to do:
- Assess the impact the change will have on your people: the higher the ongoing effort required to maintain current operations, while simultaneously dealing with change, the more change support will be required.
- Commitment from you and your C-Suite team: top-level commitment is critical to gaining commitment from those at the coal face. Don’t expect your employees to change if they don’t see that the company’s leadership is backing a project.
- Provide sponsorship:
- Make yourself available to the project teams; create a steering committee of key sponsors to monitor progress; remove roadblocks
- Provide Change Management (CM) training to everyone in a leadership position
- Provide clear direction and objectives for the project; describe what success will look like
- Communicate your ‘Why’, the business drivers for change and the risks of not changing
- Define expectations and accountabilities for the C-level and site level (GMs and HODs) and hold them accountable for results; these need to be part of the business’ strategic and tactical plans
- Provide resources:
- A competent project and change team (internal or external), who follow proven Project and Change Management methods; let them develop a project plan and present it to you
- Get your managers to select some of your most respected people from various levels and areas of the business and release them from their BAU duties to become the initiative’s champions. Yes, these are the people that no one wants to let go, but they’re the ones who will ensure success because they are respected and their example is followed
- Funding for training and other expenses
- Don’t let up until the initiative has succeeded and the new ways of working have become business as usual.
Insurance or investment?
- Business resilience is crucial for mining companies to survive and thrive in the face of economic headwinds.
- To make your company resilient, you need to recognise the need for change before it’s too late and have an awareness of what’s happening inside and outside of your company.
- You will also need early warning systems of trouble ahead and accurate troubleshooting to find the real causalities quickly.
- Implementing controlled change efficiently is critical to gaining commitment from those at the coal face.
- Business Improvement initiatives are not easy but when done well, always worth your time and investment.
- The best time to start is now! By following these steps, you can make your company more resilient and better prepared for any turn in the business.