The Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on the local mining sector have highlighted the importance of supervisory-level staff using organisational, analytical and problem-solving skills in mining operations, says heavy industry business consulting company OIM Consulting MD Arjen de Bruin.
He adds that some local mines have had to deal with drastic changes to their operating environments and processes, owing to the physical-distancing measures and safety regulations that had to be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus.
This often requires the accurate and stringent scheduling of shifts and other operational processes, as employees are constantly moving on and off site, as well as handling equipment and tools.
Further, De Bruin points out that, in certain instances, management cannot provide assistance or tend to any incidents on site, owing to rotating shifts.
This, he says, places extra responsibility and strain on supervisory-level staff to instil and enforce physical distancing and other safety regulations while maintaining steady production rates to meet the operation’s targets.
“In a Covid and even a post-Covid environment, supervisors need problem-solving skills to address unique challenges, and organisational skills to plan more efficiently. Any room for error has become a luxury they no longer have. They need to be more efficient and safer, and there must be a constant reinforcement of this need”.
To address this need, the local mining industry can benefit significantly in terms of productivity by focusing on developing the skills and competences of supervisory-level staff in mining operations, states De Bruin.
“We’ve proven this with the clients we’ve worked with. If you can impact and empower supervisors, miners can realise a throughput improvement of between 12% and 25%,” he states.
OIM Consulting specialises in business performance improvement and, as implementation consultants, assists companies in organisational restructuring and implementing development programmes for supervisors and other staff.
The company has been focusing on servicing the local mining and heavy industry sectors since 2011.
De Bruin highlights that the company is involved in local miners such as gold miner Gold Fields, diversified miner Rio Tinto and platinum miner Anglo American Platinum (Amplats).
The company has been involved in Gold Fields’ South Deep gold mine since 2018 and has assisted in implementing a transformation programme to make the operation more sustainable and profitable. This focused mainly on improving the competences of employees at supervisory or frontline level.
While the programme was undertaken from January until December last year, De Bruin adds that OIM is still involved in the operation to ensure sustainability and assist in maintaining the aspects implemented throughout the programme.
Meanwhile, OIM Consulting began working with Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals operation in March this year to improve productivity. OIM is implementing a development programme for three management layers at the operation, which includes supervisors, superintendents and heads of departments.
While the operation was initially disrupted, owing to the hard lockdown earlier this year, work has since resumed and the programme is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.
De Bruin adds that this programme will also serve as a pilot programme for Rio Tinto to determine if these development programmes can be implemented at other Rio Tinto mines, which are primarily based outside South Africa.
Moreover, OIM has received approval to implement its supervisory development programme at all Amplats’ local mine sites, starting in January next year.
“This year has given us an opportunity to relook at our methodology and make improvements in terms of cultural change and digitalisation. Our goal next year is to launch ourselves internationally,” De Bruin declares.
OIM Consulting is involved as a premium sponsor of the Joburg Indaba mining conference, which will be hosted as an online discussion on October 7 and 8.
The company will take part in a panel discussion pertaining to the future of mining in South Africa.