6 Steps to Improving Your Mining Dispatch Team's Effectiveness
Updated: Nov 6
With the advent of Mining 4.0, there has been an increasing focus on mining technology. However, what is often missed are the people and processes behind the application of this technology. In particular, the link between the Dispatch Team's use of the mining fleet management system and the resulting impact on mining productivity.
In this month's MTS blog, we outline 6 key areas that we see as critical to get right. If these are implemented, they will be incredibly useful in helping to improve your Dispatch Team's effectiveness. In our experience, when successfully implemented, these improvements can bring substantial improvements in mining productivity, mining dispatch system usage and confidence in the system. Importantly, we have also found that these improvements can bring a quick return on investment!
1. Building The Right Environment for Your Mining Dispatcher
Let's start with the basics. Having the correct working environment for your Dispatch Team will help enable them to run your mining fleet management system properly. An air traffic controller operates in a specially-designed and highly-disciplined environment, because the safety of thousands of people and millions of dollars' worth of equipment and mining technology is at stake.
A mine is no different! Why shouldn't a mining control room strive for the same?
So, what does this entail?
Silence! The mining control room should be removed of attention sapping distractions and interruptions.
Remove all access to the room, apart from key personnel.
Remove as many reasons as possible for people to 'need' to enter the room. For example, does the only kettle and coffee in the building really need to be located in the Mine Control Room? Should Mining Dispatch really be the only place in the block that has a printer? All of these prevent the Dispatch Team from concentrating properly on their job - mining fleet management.
Install a keypad or access card entry.
Have ergonomically appropriate chairs with monitors, keyboards, and mice all located in the right position.
Consider 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. Mining Technology 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 absolutely paramount that new recruits to the Mining Dispatch Team 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. Mining Dispatcher Empowerment, Job Roles and Standard Operating Procedures
Many mines have multiple dispatchers and multiple installations of mining technology. There are often ambiguities around 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 mining fleet management team is 100% focused on the safe and productive utilization of the mining fleet. The whole Dispatch Team should 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 Dispatch Team's core duties (which is helping to ensure that an expensive fleet works as safely and productively as possible). Delegate fringe tasks such as checking metres drilled elsewhere.
Have clearly-documented and well-communicated roles and responsibilities. This should include both the Dispatch Team and the Pit Crew.
4. Ensure the Mining Plan for Each and Every Shift is Clearly-Communicated
We go to many mines where the Dispatch Team are regularly unaware of the mining and maintenance plan for the 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; over the course of the life of the mine, this is costing really significant production!
At other sites, the standard shift planning happens at the start of the shift in the form of a verbal or emailed shift plan for the Dispatch Team. Whilst this is better then the first scenario, it creates a productivity problem (people have to attend a meeting or trawl through emails), and secondly, indicators as to whether they are actually 'mining to plan' are reduced to guesswork or waiting until the end of the shift for a scheduled report to come out.
How can this be improved? Relatively simply by combining the shift plan and actual production data (from your fleet management system) in "current shift" dashboards! These dashboards are designed to automatically refresh in regular intervals, require little to no maintenance, and allow your Dispatch Team to understand exactly how well the mine is progressing towards short term KPIs.
Having access to real-time information really 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. Get The Right Monitoring Tools for Your Mining Technology
Typically all fleet management systems (such as Modular Mining's Dispatch, Jigsaw JoPs 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, in particular, around adhering to the mine plan. Using off-the-shelf business intelligence tools (such as Tableau, SAP Business Objects or Microsoft PowerBI) it is relatively straight-forward to build great visualizations that aid timely decision-making. Examples of what can fairly quickly and easily be done with your mining fleet management system data include:
Current shift productivity against the current 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 than waiting till later.
We would, however, caution against stuffing dashboards with too much information! Quite regularly we find customers 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. Improving Your End of Shift Reporting
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 Dispatch Crew needs to be aware of problems (both mining technology and mining operational-related) as they start their shift. We always recommend use of web-based forms for capturing information (not generated by the system). This helps to add context to the shift's production, when automatically combined with your fleet management system data - providing a great way for distributing 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 or check out our Mining Industry and Consulting Case Studies.