Boosting operational efficiency to lift production in mines

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In one of his addresses, President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted that rising commodity prices and increased global demand could help aid South Africa’s economic recovery, with mining being a significant contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In the coming months, mining has a critical role to play in getting the country back on its feet. According to Arjen de Bruin, managing director at OIM Consulting, the mining sector needs to lift the current production in order to take advantage of the opportune moment. “In order to do this, the not-so-little matter of operational efficiency needs to be addressed,” he added.

Research into mine operations

OIM Consulting, recently conducted research into the operations of some of the country’s largest mines, and found that among those surveyed, a staggering 78% of supervisors were revealed to be unstructured and reactive in their role execution.

Furthermore, only 19% of front-line leaders demonstrated the required proficiency in their roles, executing their daily tasks at only 51% effectiveness. And their direct managers are not in the dark when it comes to this competency gap: up to 87% said that they had low confidence in their supervisors’ ability to plan and execute effectively.

De Bruin believes that the role of the supervisor or ‘front-line leader’ is critical in increasing operational capacity while sustainably meeting production targets. “The supervisor is the hub of the wheel and is responsible for delivering on the organisation’s strategy. Yet this is the one area where we consistently see a glaring need for intervention,” he said.

But why is the performance of our mines’ supervisors so poor? The issue is largely down to lack of direct coaching and mentoring, and insufficient leadership training, explains de Bruin. “We regularly observe the promotion of technically strong operational staff into leadership positions, such as that of supervisor – yet competencies needed to lead differ significantly from simply being technically proficient. It’s a whole other skillset that is not being taught, meaning that the supervisor is hobbled from the outset.”

Understanding the drivers of supervisory performance

With this in mind, OIM Consulting has recently launched a free e-book aimed at mining organisations titled Understanding the drivers of supervisory performance, which it has neatly distilled into eight supervisor habits that dictate performance. “Ultimately, we have identified the underlying causes or poor operational performance in supervisors. Once these are understood and recognised, we can slowly start to address them, by flipping them over into best practises,” explained de Bruin.

These factors are all addressed through OIM’s holistic coaching programme, which marries competency development, theoretical training and on-the-floor application, with a focus on improving daily productivity. “Through application of our programme, we have seen a 37% increase in competent supervisors, a 39% improvement in the execution of daily tasks, as well as a 51% improvement in a structured approach to planning,” he said.  

This, in turn, will have a significant impact on a mine’s bottom line, with one of OIM’s mines reportedly seeing a 35% increase in the number of tonnes of gold produced per employee. 

“By identifying which key behavioural competencies are required at every level within the organisation – and by ensuring that people can deliver these competencies effectively – one can directly influence the organisation’s capability to deliver on its operational goals – which will help our sector take advantage of this opportunity we’ve been presented to play a key role in the betterment of our economy,” de Bruin concluded.