Insights

Mining experts use condition-based maintenance programs to control costs and make decisions

Interview with Peter Dale, maintenance manager at Newmont’s Batu Hijau mining complex

In today’s economic climate, DINGO continues to ask, “What are mining experts’ concerns? What is their focus? And how can a condition‐based asset management system help them achieve their goals?”

DINGO: Tell us a bit about your mining experience.

Peter Dale, maintenance manager at Newmont Batu Hiau mining complexPD: “I am originally not from a mining background. I started with the Caterpillar dealers in Zimbabwe in 1983, and then spent the next 17‐18 years with a number of different CAT dealers where I was based in the African region and in Saudi Arabia. I came to Indonesia in 2002, and then ended up coming to Batu Hijau at the beginning of 2007. Along the way though, I had a fair amount of exposure to mining customers. In Botswana, I started off as the resident service engineer and then became the Product Support Representative at a large diamond mine. When I was moved to Zambia, I was based at a large Open Pit copper mine.”

DINGO: Why did you decide to go into engineering and mining in the first place?

PD: “I come from a farming background and all my friends were farmers, but I didn’t really know if that’s what I wanted to do. After I thought about it long and hard, I decided that it wasn’t for me. So I moved into mining and engineering. There were a couple of times in my career where I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I should go back into farming.’ I used to go back home and all my mates had these huge houses, but I have no regrets doing what I’m doing.”

DINGO: What are some of the maintenance myths that you have found over the course of your career?
 
PD: “There are a lot of myths…’Oil is oil.’ That’s a common myth with everyone. The other myth is that cost per hour is key, where as actually it’s not– it’s cost per ton.”

DINGO: In recent history, it’s been fairly challenging in the mining world. Relating back to some of your experience on the equipment side, how critical is it for companies like Newmont to reevaluate how they make maintenance and operations decisions, as opposed to just being in a reactive mode?

PD: “I think I’m going to probably answer this question in a slightly different way. Maintenance people traditionally look at what we perceive to be in our direct control, which is influencing cost per hour. Operations people, on the other hand, are looking at the cost per ton. Therefore, it’s important in my decision‐making here that I embrace both the operations people and the maintenance people in the decisions that we make to ensure that our common goal is to drive a lower cost per ton, not necessarily focusing on cost per hour. You can reduce your cost per hour, but that doesn’t necessarily improve your cost per ton; it could actually add to your cost per ton. The decisions we’ve made with our partners onsite have come about as, collectively, we look at decisions that are going to impact cost per ton. That’s quite challenging for a dealer in a MARC Contract because they are focusing on their profitability, or CPH, which can impact negatively on the operation’s productivity, per se, in how many tons are moved. As I’ve explained to the partner’s onsite, we have no objection to paying slightly more for our equipment or our maintenance rates, providing that it reduces our CPH. We all have to work together to achieve this.”

DINGO: What are some of the initiatives your team has implemented at Batu Hijau that have controlled costs and increased equipment availability?

PD: “When I joined this team together back in 2007, having come from a dealer background, I thought there was quite a bit I could bring to the party with regards to contamination control, and the measurement of fluids. It didn’t take long to realize I had a team that was really keen to look at different ways of doing things and through a number of training initiatives and engaging the right people, we managed to make the changes. I always kick myself that I never took photographs when I first arrived here, because when I look how these guys have taken us from where it was then to where it is now, they have made huge in‐roads into that whole contamination control outlook and working towards a safer, cleaner environment. The appearance of your work surroundings and environment is reflected in your work output, and if your oils are cleaner, it stands to reason that the components can last longer and you’re not going to have nearly as many breakdowns. I believe 60 to 70% of all breakdowns are the result of dirty oil or contamination oil so if you can make it cleaner you can avoid a lot of unnecessary maintenance.”

DINGO: What part has your CBAM program played in helping you to accomplish your goals?

PD: “Before we started the CBAM program, we thought we had this all down pat. We were doing oil analysis and we’d tick that box, and we had all the right tools hanging around, but we never were really checking ourselves to see if we were getting any gains from the oil analysis. With DINGO’s CBAM program, it’s allowed us to focus on other areas within our business that we feel we had more control over, and we could get more benefit out of. That way, we’ve drawn on the CBAM project and the subject matter experts within that project to develop the gains. In the last six or seven months, we’ve definitely seen cleaner oils, our availabilities and reliabilities on most of our fleets are up over previous years. And when you think that our fleets are getting older and older, CBAM has definitely been a large contributor towards the improvements we’ve seen.”

DINGO: What have been some of the keys in getting employee buy‐in on new maintenance initiatives, such as the implementation of a CBAM system?

PD: “The key is to make sure you’ve got the right people in the program at the start. You empower them to make sure they have the ability to make the decisions that need to be made. They need to realize and understand the benefits the program can bring to the table; once they realize and understand what they can get out of it, it makes it so much easier for them to buy in. I believe if you force things down on people, they generally push back and they’re not interested, but if you let people evolve with the program and learn slowly how it can help them and let them understand that they can control the program themselves and that they have all the tools to make the decisions themselves, it’s a lot easier for people to take that on.”

DINGO: How does your team use this program to make day‐to‐day decisions?

Peter Dale stands by mining equipmentPD: “It allows us to prioritize. We make decisions together so that it is collaborative and collective. That’s the key to it. I think the success of anything in life is not solely dependent on one person or one thing; it’s a chain of events that have to take place.”
DINGO: If it is dependent on one person, it’s a risk?
 
PD: “Yes, absolutely. With DINGO, Newmont and the people we have that make up the links in the chain, I think it’s key to thesuccess in the decision making. It’s a collaborative effort at the end of the day.”

DINGO: What are some final thoughts as to ‘where to from here’?

PD: “The ‘where to from here’ is the extension of life on components. For me, that’s taking maintenance to that next step. We’ve gone from reactionary to preventative, and now we’re in that predictive stage. So, component life extension is the benchmarking where you need to get to, and to make sure to maximize the full life of that component, whatever it may be. You’re not giving it a finite life; you’re basing it all on the condition monitoring tools you have at your disposal to extend that life as much as possible without taking on any more sort of risk. So, to me the path forward from here is definitely to start looking at using the DINGO system to extend component life, and not just look at a cost avoidance arrangement.”

DINGO: This newsletter goes out to several thousand mining people, some of whom have a lot less experience than you. Any thoughts on lessons that you’ve learned over the years that could be helpful to our readers?

PD: “I’ve based a lot on teamwork and effort within the team. I use it a lot in my correspondence when I talk to people, and when I talk to the group I refer to it as a team effort and acknowledge everyone’s contribution. Also, in maintenance, we have to be able to work with the operations people. I think they’re paramount to the success of our outcomes and what we can achieve. If we can’t get them to buy in, it makes it very difficult as maintenance people to make any improvements. We can fix it, but a lot of times it’s broken by the operations people, so if we can work together so that they understand our business and we understand their business, it leads to an improved understanding of both parties and we will definitely reap the benefits of that. It’s important to have that balance. It’s not about criticism; it’s about working together for the greater good of the operation. As long as we can show that we’re contributing to reducing the cost per ton, and not simply focusing on reducing our CPH, that’s a positive thing.”