• Tom Jordan

The Importance of Technology Training for Operators - Run a Safe, Productive and Healthy Mine

Running an efficient mine is a team sport. Each individual has a part to play and needs to perform at their best, or else problems will arise. If blasting is poor, bench control and load/haul times will be compromised and slow down production. If the Fleet Management System isn’t maintained properly, the dispatch system will be unable to provide the optimal routes. And if operators don’t know how to use their in-cab systems, serious mistakes can be made during the shift.

For this reason, it’s vital that operators are trained to use technology effectively. Operators with a full understanding of their in-cab systems are able to solve problems as they occur, rather than relying on a ‘post mortem’ at the end of the shift. Yet operator training is often inadequate, typically focusing on the functionality of the truck, shovel or dozer whilst failing to discuss technology in any detail. Technology and screens are commonly retrofitted, suddenly appearing in a cab with little - if any - training or change management being provided for operators.

Why is it so important that operators are trained to use technology?

Effective use of technology has a compounding effect. Mine planning, geology, dispatchers and maintenance all benefit when operators use their in-cab technology effectively.

At Mine Tech Services, we have experienced increases in productivity of 10-15% by crews that have been trained to use in-cab technology and adopted it into their work, with no increase in unsafe behaviour or increased payloads.*

What problems can occur if operators are not properly trained?

Below are just a few examples of problems which commonly occur on sites using Fleet Management Systems, high-precision GPS machine guidance systems or similar, when operators are not adequately trained.

1. Loading tools: Incorrect material selection leads to the material being dumped at the wrong location. Blocks are consequently under-mined or over-mined.

Result: Ore dilution or lost ore (into waste dumps).

2. Haul trucks: Assignments are not followed. This results in routes and/or dumping being incorrect.

Result: Slower cycles and possible incorrect blending, which leads to lost production.

3. Dozers: The operator struggles to control the floor or bench to plan. This causes under-mining or over- mining, and can potentially push different materials into each other.

Result: Ore dilution or lost ore.

What should be done to ensure operators are skilled?

There are many steps managers can take to ensure operators have sufficient technology skills:

1. Explain why, not just how. To drive the adoption of new systems, it is essential that operators understand why the systems are important and what effect they can have on a mine.

2. Embed technology into operator training program. These systems are an integral part of the machine and should be treated as such. Operators require the systems to perform their duties effectively and safely, and should therefore be trained to use them from the outset.

3. Implement classroom training. Cover the theory in a classroom while operators are not under pressure to operate equipment. This helps to build confidence in a low-risk environment.

4. Introduce in-cab mentoring. Follow up initial training with ongoing in-cab mentoring, ensuring that correct screen usage is reinforced.

5. Provide reference material. Give operators a ‘cheat sheet’ or similar which they can keep in their cab for quick reference, covering the main functions and scenarios.

How can I measure whether operators are using the systems effectively?

Current Shift Live Truck Operator Performance Dashboard

Most systems create large volumes of data including items which can be used to assess an operator’s proficiency. For example, any of the following observations would suggest the operator is not using the systems effectively:

  • Dumping at the wrong assigned location

  • Not following the assigned route

  • Going to a loading tool they weren’t assigned to

  • No material type being assigned to a cycle

  • Excessive overriding of the system

  • Production occurring during a delay or down

Identifying the key measures and making them visible on scoreboards or dashboards can help operators to understand what’s important on an ongoing basis. It also creates a sense of ownership and competition; everybody wants to be a high performer. Operators who frequently fall below targets can be easily identified and provided with additional training to bring them into line.

Dashboards like the above can be created using Business Intelligence tools such as SAP BusinessObjects, Tableau and Microsoft PowerBI. They are automated so require minimum admin input.

Finally, remember that it is important for scorecards to be balanced. Pushing purely on production, for example, could lead to unsafe operations and poor material control.

Want to find out about training offered by Mine Tech Services? Contact us

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