The 4 keys of Operational Excellence in Mining

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As stated in my previous blog entitled, “Mining operational excellence…shoot for the stars, but be happy to land on the moon,” Operational Excellence can broadly be defined as a state when efforts throughout the entire organization are aligned to achieve a desired outcome for all stakeholders and is supported by a corporate culture that is unified through a commitment to continuous improvement.

I know, it all sounds a little convoluted, but upon closer examination it really isn’t all that complicated.

For starters, it’s obvious that operational excellence is not one dimensional, but in fact, multi-dimensional, and impacts every aspect of your organization.  And it’s not something to be taken lightly. But apparently many companies do take it lightly because they often fail at achieving lasting results.  Why?  Primarily because they do not identify all the key aspects required for success, and even when they do, they don’t ensure that they are addressed in a cohesive and integrated way.

So how can mining companies improve their chances for succeeding at the Operational Excellence game?  It starts by addressing the following four pillars of operational excellence:Operational Excellence image

  1. Business
  2. People
  3. Assets
  4. Technology
  1. The business aspect of operational excellence forms the foundation of the strategy and has the largest impact on determining overall results. Yu have to recognize that an operational excellence strategy can be quite disruptive and it will impact organizational culture, behavioral norms, processes and procedures, as well as operating philosophies.  As such, operational excellence strategies require complete support, leadership and commitment not only from management but from all stakeholders.Oper Exec 1
  1. Next consider the people within an organization. After all, they form the very heart and soul of any operational excellence strategy and they are the ones responsible for making it successsful.  However, this responsibility can be quite challenging thanks to the disruptive nature of such organization-wide changes, many of which require employees to modify their behavior, acquire new skills, or even take on completely new roles.  Therefore, a good operational excellence strategy also focuses heavily on change management in which employees are supported throughout the process.
  1. Now we come to the engine of the mining operation, the plant’s physical assets. These assets must perform at the highest possible level of productivity, yet this engine of productivity is not comprised of just a single component;  it consists of many different parts that must work together efficiently.  And only when everything is working together smoothly can they effectively power the vehicle.  In the same way, the physical assets of a mining operation help to power the overall operation, and therefore, in an operational excellence strategy, it is critical to ensure that each asset not only operates at maximum efficiency on its own, but also contributes to optimizing the overall performance of the entire operation.
  1. Last but least, we must consider the technology that drives operational excellence since it plays a vital role across the all the other aspects (people, business, and assets) of operational excellence. The type of technology required for each can vary substantially.  For people, technology can include training simulators, business process systems, or providing better situational awareness of mining processes. For business, it might include social media that allows management to clearly communicate strategies to staff across a wide organization.    For assets, it can ensure that assets operate correctly, such as by minimizing downtime, improving asset management, or providing advanced process control systems.  No matter what technology is required across the organization it needs to be integrated within, and contribute to, the overall business objectives.

And to be perfectly clear, operational excellence can’t be achieved, let alone sustained, through a one-dimensional, one size fits all strategy.  It requires a multi-dimensional, adaptive strategy that must be embedded within the DNA of the entire organizations.

In upcoming blogs I will dive deeper into each of the four key aspects of operational excellence and discuss how each of them can be achieved.   Hope to see you soon!


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