6 Steps to Improving Your Dispatch Team's Effectiveness
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
With the advent of Mining 4.0, there has been increasing focus on mining technology. However, what is often missed are the people and processes behind the application of the technology. In particular, the link between dispatchers use of a mine's fleet management system and the resulting impact on productivity.
In this month's MTS blog, we outline 6 key items we see as important to help improve your dispatcher's effectiveness. In our experience, when successfully implemented, they can bring substantial improvements along with a quick ROI.
1. The Right Environment
Let's start with the basics. Having the correct working environment for your dispatch team will help enable them to run your fleet management system properly. An air traffic controller operates in a specially designed and highly disciplined environment. This clearly helps lead to the right results. A mine should strive for the same. So, what does this entail?
Silence! A room removed of attention sapping distractions and interruptions.
Remove all but key personnel access to the room.....remove as many reasons as possible for people to enter the room. (For example, does the kettle and tea bags really need to be located in the dispatch office? Does the dispatcher need to be the only person with access to the printer?).
Install a key pad or access card entry.
Have ergonomically appropriate chairs with monitors, keyboards and mice all located in the right position.
Explore using standing desks. There is growing evidence that working standing (or at least some of the time) brings numerous benefits including helping people remain more alert and productive. An excellent side effect is also that this can lead to a less sedentary working environment. The example below is from a police control room.....but you get the idea!
Finally, study after study shows that a clean, clutter free room brings tremendous improvements in the quality of work.
2. Training and Mentoring
The dispatch team is responsible for the safe and optimal running of the mobile fleet. Throwing a new dispatcher in at the deep end, will ultimately impact productivity and lead to mistakes being made. A lasting legacy on the individual will likely be bad habits and an incorrect outlook on how to run the system.
It is therefore paramount that new recruits receive the correct training and on the job mentoring. Prior to starting a position as a dispatcher, an individual must be trained, briefed on SOPs (see Step 3) and provided with substantial mentoring. This should be followed up by annual refresher mentoring or even formal classes.
3. Empowerment, Job Roles and Standard Operating Procedures
Many mines have multiple dispatchers. There are often ambiguities between who is meant to do what task. This should not be the case. Clear job roles should be outlined. The goal should be to ensure that the core team is 100% focused on the safe and productive utilization of the mining fleet. Work towards:
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) to help drive consistency in a shift as well as across different shifts. It also helps with on-boarding of newer team members. SOPs should be reviewed on a reasonably regular basis to ensure they remain in line with current business goals.
Identify low value tasks that are a distraction from the dispatcher's core role (which is helping to ensure that an expensive fleet works as safely and productively as possible). Delegate fringe tasks elsewhere.
Have clearly documented and communicated roles and responsibilities. This should include dispatchers and pit crews.
4. What's the mining plan for the shift?
We go to many mines where the dispatchers are regularly unaware of the mining and maintenance plan for this shift. As the day progresses, they often find out far too late that a certain loading tool has just been taken down for planned maintenance - they then need to reassign trucks elsewhere; which costs production! At other sites the standard at the start of the shift is a verbal or emailed shift plan for dispatchers. Whilst better then the first scenario, this creates a productivity problem (people have to attend a meeting or trawl through emails) and secondly indicators as to whether they are mining to plan are reduced to guess work or waiting till the end of the shift for a report to come out.
How can this be improved? Relatively simply by combining the shift plan and actual production data (from your FMS) in your "current shift" dashboards! This helps to bring fantastic focus on what actually needs to be mined this shift; rather than the crews just chasing tonnes. The solution can be implemented quite easily via custom web forms (for plan comment input) and connectors to the appropriate databases.
5. The Right Monitoring Tools
Typically all fleet management systems (such as Modular, Jigsaw etc.) are rich in data. Most mines are now at a stage where they can deliver some good end of shift reports. There is still however, little emphasis on making use of real time data to help manage the shift - and in particular adhering to mine plan. Using off the shelf business intelligence tools such as Antivia DecisionPoint, SAP Business Objects or Microsoft PowerBI it is relatively straight-forwards to build great visualizations to aid more timely decision making. Examples include:
Current shift productivity against mine plan.
Loading tool KPIs.
Current maintenance issues.
Fatigue and Operate for Reliability ("O4R") events where operators can be coached as the issue occurs rather then waiting till later on.
We would however caution against filling dashboards with too much information! Quite regularly we find dispatchers staring at dashboards packed with so many KPIs and measures that it is almost impossible for them to actually see the metrics that they are responsible for managing!
6. End of Shift
When end of shift reports are sent out, the mine management team need to understand context behind the numbers. For example, why was haul truck HT017 spotting so slowly? Why was Shovel SH002 loading so much faster than the others? Likewise, the incoming dispatchers need to be aware of problems (both FMS and mining operational). We thus always recommend use of web based forms for inputting of information that helps to add context to the shift's production. Automatically combined with your fleet management system data, this provides a great way for providing feedback on the shifts performance.
We hope you found these 6 steps practical and of use. Over the past few years, we have found ourselves working on more and more projects in this area. For a demonstration of how we can help boost your site's dispatching effectiveness, drop us a line here