In today’s declining mining environment it’s not enough to be good--you have to be great. There’s simply no room for mediocrity.
For mining companies to maintain high productivity and low costs, while operating responsible and with integrity, it starts with Operational Excellence.
Similar to management philosophies such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma, Operational Excellence strives towards sustainable improvement of key performance metrics through the application of a variety of principles, systems and tools. The idea is to go beyond traditional models and initiatives of improvement in order to achieve long-term change in organizational culture.
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Operational excellence is more than just short-term expenditure reduction. It’s about a proven operations management system driven by a culture of continuous improvement. For Vancouver-based mining company Goldcorp, operational excellence consists of being great in lots of little things.
Vision for greatness
“Operating for Excellence means systematically identifying opportunities to improve efficiencies, optimize value, doing things better and smarter, and continuing to challenging the status quo,” said Todd White, Senior Vice President, Business Excellence.
According to White, the company follows a Change Acceleration Process based on a model created by General Electric. The idea involves uncovering opportunities and then leading change effectively, with specific emphasis on how change will impact people.
“Our focus is on affecting change at levels of the organization that involve people that are responsible for critical metrics. For instance, a pit supervisor knows that they need to hit a certain target with a shovel. They also need to know that if we’re not doing that, our tons per day mined is going to suffer. We need to get information to these sorts of people to affect tangible positive change, so we are focus on getting the right information to the right people at the right time.”
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As part of its Operating for Excellence (O4E) program, Goldcorp has integrated a unique workforce to ensure operations are continuously monitored and examined for additional improvements.
“Our O4E group are facilitators on site. They help operations personnel critically review performance in their part of the business and help them to focus on where improvement can be made,” said White.
“However, at the end of the day, those employees are responsible for the results and they need to be engaged in the process and have to believe that improvements are necessary and obtainable.”
Like any great operational excellence plan, technology is playing a pivotal role in assisting Goldcorp in achieving results.
The miner is utilizing various technologies to make real-time improvements as well as maximizing potential. For Goldcorp, live data review has been critical in its Operating for Excellence program, allowing the company the ability to collect data and feed it through its operations in real-time.
The company’s Eleonore mine in Quebec is a great example of the data review process in action.
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“We have supervisors underground that are able to see exactly how the mine is operating at any given time. The ability to feed data to supervisors quickly, allows these decision-makers to make accurate and informed decisions in real-time. They are constantly connected to data systems and the power of this is immense,” said White.
“Technology is having a positive effect on production and efficiency and allows us to resolve an issue within the hour, whereas in the past it might have taken several hours.”
As part of its focus on operational excellence, Goldcorp continuously seeks out new and innovative ways to improve its operations.
“At our Penasquito operation, we have increased daily tonnage put through the mill. This has been achieved through seeking out incremental improvements and identifying and eliminating hurdles to optimal production,” said White.
“When it comes to our vision of ‘Together, Creating Sustainable Value’ – we do that by being as efficient as we can with our recoveries in the mill, and across our entire operation. We are constantly looking for operational efficiencies.”
Commitment to responsible mining
The gold standard for Goldcorp is responsible mining. It’s a company-wide commitment that centers on every business decision the company makes. Two key areas the company is focused on is energy and water efficiency.
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“Energy is one of our biggest operational costs and the efficient use of water in areas where we operate is critical,” said White. “Every opportunity we have to be more efficient in relation to the usage of fresh water and overall reductions in energy usage is not only good for business, but is also responsible.”
Responsible mining also plays into Goldcorp’s O4E program. Over the last 18 months, the company has taken some big steps in reducing its energy usage at its Musselwhite Mine in northern Ontario, which strives to reduce diesel fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
“We also have some great examples of responsible water management happening at many of our sites, especially those based in South America,” said White. “We believe that responsible water usage contributes to responsible mining practices, in terms of optimizing our water use by water recycling, and limiting the introduction of fresh water into our processes.”
White concludes, “Every one of us, from senior management through the work crews at each of our operations, strives to conduct our business to ensure lasting social and environmental progress and economic growth for all stakeholders throughout the life of a Goldcorp mine and well beyond.”