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Two Ways to Reduce Parts and Labour Waste in Your Mine

The following is adapted from Simplifying Mining Maintenance.

Mining companies lose tens of millions of dollars by poorly managing parts, allowing components to be lost, damaged, or become obsolete. Managing parts is simple if maintenance and supply are working together. However, it’s often not the case and the problems usually stem from the maintenance guys not following the processes and owning the effort to reduce stock.

In this article, we’ll look at a couple ways your mine can begin to reduce parts and labour waste—as well as some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

The Five-S Structure

A good way to start with this process is use a Five-S structure. If you need more help, there are several resources online that can assist you. It’s easy to get to the fourth S, but it is essential that you achieve the fifth S and make your system sustainable.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Sort: Clean up the area and throw away all rubbish.
  • Set in order: Have a place for everything and everything in its place.
  • Shine: Focus on maintaining cleanliness.
  • Standardise: Establish routines and best practices.
  • Sustain: Create a culture of people who care about the work.

Several years ago, I set up a Five-S approach with checklists for sustainability. We were losing parts and experiencing delays, and I wanted to attack the problem with a logical, orderly process.

Unfortunately, I did not get sufficient engagement from the teams. People took a “tick and flick” approach where they ticked boxes on a checklist and flicked the paper. Consequently, the workshop did not achieve the intended standards.

This approach also created more work for me, as the leader of the team, to ensure compliance. I pushed but eventually I asked the teams to develop their own standards and procedures. This approach was more successful and simpler to implement, I just had to get them to want improved standards.

The teams agreed to set aside the same time each roster cycle to reorganise the workshop and return all parts to the designated areas.

Workplace stores, squirrel stores, or direct-purchase storage areas for each machine also contribute a lot of parts losses. The warehouse is much better than the maintenance team at managing parts, so I recommend using the systems that are in place and making them effective rather than creating workplace stores.

In some of the site reviews Bluefield has conducted, we found more than $50,000 worth of parts left over from completed jobs just for one machine and millions of dollars worth of parts across large sites that were purchased but never used.

We found at, one small site, more than $400,000 in ground-engaging tools that were never used and became obsolete due to changes in the equipment.

Teams must develop an attitude that workshops must be clean and organised.

A maintenance manager I worked with in Chile said every person on the team, including supervisors, must stop work at the same time every day and organise the workshop. Teams must develop these standards, and the standards need to be documented and embraced by all team members.

Track labour against a benchmark

In mining, it’s important to create an environment where scheduled maintenance is completed efficiently. Sometimes, the traditional ways of achieving aren’t best.

A time-on-tools metric to measure workers’ efficiency is difficult to use on an ongoing basis, and you must do a time-in-motion study to determine what the time on tools is. So, what’s the best way to create more efficient scheduled maintenance?

First, I assess the labour required based on the equipment and required maintenance. Once the maintenance manager and general manager agree on the full-time equivalent (FTE) resources needed, you can monitor the FTE resources actually used to complete the work. This allows you to track performance against your cost benchmark.

Be sure to capture and report maintenance delays. Remember: the maintenance-delay reporting process only works if everyone agrees on what constitutes a delay.

Every moment people are standing around is wasted time and needs to be reported. If people accept it as routine and don’t report it, continuous improvement can’t happen. This impacts both workforce efficiency and scheduled downtime.

Inefficient labour increases cost, so it needs to be tracked and reported.

For more advice on reducing parts and labour waste in your mine, you can find Simplifying Mining Maintenance on Amazon, google ebooks or at

Gerard Wood is one of the mining industry’s foremost authorities on proper mining equipment maintenance. In his long career, Wood has been all over the world, working his way up from an electrician’s apprentice to a maintenance manager with advanced degrees in electrical engineering and business. As managing director for Bluefield AMS, Wood helps the world’s largest mining companies keep their machines running with a simple, practical approach that saves money and improves equipment reliability.