Adapting to a new normal in mining

Arjen de Bruin, Managing Director at OIM Consulting

Words: Dineo

With the slow reopening of the economy, mines have found themselves having to navigate a host of new challenges, not least of all being unfairly perceived as an epicentre of COVID-19 in South Africa.

A recent poll by Verdict revealed that the mining industry had, in fact, responded adequately in safeguarding their workers against the virus. According to Arjen de Bruin, managing director at OIM Consulting, stringent safety processes are entrenched in the industry’s very DNA. 

“There are inherent health and safety challenges associated with a large amount of workers operating within a confined space, and thus mines are extremely diligent in enforcing adherence to protocols, which are there for the protection of workers. If a concern around safety arises, mines are geared to respond quickly and effectively – making the industry better equipped than most to handle the new complexities around Covid-19,” he says.

He believes that the pressing concern mines now face is the increased pressure to rapidly ramp up production, in an effort to recoup output lost during the hard lockdown.

The slow return of migrant workers – which make up a large contingent of the industry’s workforce – has had a knock-on impact on production targets. “In addition to this, mines are now faced with an entirely new operating environment. Physical distancing, concerns within communities around Coronavirus infection and changes in day-to-day operations have altered existing team dynamics.”

Capex, digitisation, and transformation projects have taken a backseat. as the urgency to rapidly meet new production targets moves to the fore. “We’re back to basics, and the emphasis is fixed firmly on output,” says de Bruin.

De Bruin sees the supervisor as being key to accelerating production within this new context. and thus maintains that it is critical for senior leadership to understand what their frontline leaders are thinking, and how they’re dealing with their new reality.
“With less on-site senior leadership representation, supervisors ultimately become the organisation’s primary culture carrier: responsible for motivating teams, instilling company values, ensuring adherence to new safety processes – and importantly, meeting production targets.”

A possible response what has become a complex new operating environment is the Supervisor Operational Readiness Diagnostic(SORD). Developed by OIM Consulting, SORD is a rapid diagnostic product that assesses the operational capabilities of supervisors, through identifying their current competencies and how effectively they execute tasks, whilst simultaneously reviewing the tools they use to achieve their goals.

“We understand the business need for rapid adoption, with time being of essence. Thus we have designed SORD to supply findings in only three weeks, after which we will have access to the necessary data that will enable us to structure a programme that addresses three core components to enhance output – namely culture, performance and ability.” 

De Bruin maintains that SORD will merge leadership development with operational competency. “Mobilising supervisors and frontline leaders is the quickest and most sustainable way to obtain business results over the next two quarters.”

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