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Roy Hill CEO Barry Fitzgerald: Innovation is driving us

At Austmine 2015: Transforming Mining in Brisbane last week,Barry Fitzgerald, CEO of Roy Hill shared the latest insightsfrom the exciting iron ore proje...

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|May 25|magazine9 min read

At Austmine 2015: Transforming Mining in Brisbane last week, Barry Fitzgerald, CEO of Roy Hill shared the latest insights from the exciting iron ore project in Western Australia. Roy Hill is the only Australian major independent iron ore project that is majority Australian owned, and has over 5000 people working on site currently, with over 6500 employed on site total.

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Barry kicked off his presentation by confessing: “We’re a great pretender”. He went on to explain this, noting he would be talking about robotics throughout his presentation, but of course Roy Hill are not in serious production yet.

However, to get to the stage that Roy Hill are currently at in their project, they have had to go through over 4000 discrete approvals, 230 weeks submitting of approvals, and 282 weeks under consideration.

Barry noted: “We do need to recognize in times like this that our focus on productivity also needs to include the regulatory burden.”

Roy Hill is of course a greenfield operation. Barry pointed out this provides them with an excellent opportunity, as they can “build what we need now to easily incorporate innovation and technology later.” This will inherently give Roy Hill the ability to adapt to future conditions and provide flexibility in how they approach operations and processes.

Roy Hill prides itself on a thinking culture that is focused on productivity. They believe that innovative thinking drives business and productivity improvements and cost optimization. They have embraced technology as a core element to be able to deliver 55 Mtpa of iron ore to their customers, competitively. They have built a culture of innovation by encouraging and empowering people, combining cross industry thoughts and processes and encouraging genuine collaboration with suppliers.

This collaboration with suppliers feeds into Roy Hill’s integrated supply and demand approach. They want to maximize availability on the supply side, so keep their contractors and suppliers focused on that. This is partly done through an integrated optimization of systems, such as their maintenance interface point. Barry referred to this interface as the “genesis of looking backwards to our suppliers and contractors.”

Roy Hill is currently utilizing drones on a small scale on their project. Barry noted the current pilot of drones is a precursor to where Roy Hill sees itself going in relation to gathering data.  Examples of their planned innovation in action included large octocopter drones to enable Lidar scanning, thermal scanning of plant bearings and live streaming of footage to their remote operations center. The use of drones can significantly drive down operational costs, in a variety of ways such as relocation of staff to the Remote Operations Centre, rather than on site.

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Roy Hill’s IT platform is a commercial off the shelf product, which Barry noted reflects how much they trust their vendors, but it’s also had the important benefit of reducing their costs.

Being a new organization Roy Hill doesn’t have the silo issues faced by most other miners. Barry noted this has the flow through effect of not being encumbered by a proliferation of systems in their IT/OT space. It is one business, with one system with standardization to ensure data integrity and usability.