Increasing the Quality of Work in Mining Asset Maintenance – Andy Malcolm

Increasing the Quality of Work in Mining Asset Maintenance

Increasing the Quality of Work in Mining Asset Maintenance - Andy Malcolm - SMM

Today, we’re joined by Andy Malcolm who has more than 30 years of experience in mining, having worked across the globe in many maintenance roles from the shop floor, up to maintenance manager. He has worked across many different commodities and has seen the good, the bad and ugly within a range of fleets and working environments.

We’re sure that you will take plenty of learnings from this conversation and this will give you the knowledge to employ the insights learned here in your organizations to get more from your assets.

For more resources and information, head to the Bluefield Asset Management website. To learn more about getting the most out of your assets, grab a copy of Gerard’s book Simplifying Mining Maintenance

Some Topics That We Cover

  • When moving into a new position, start from the ground up to asses the baseline before proceeding with a plan to move forward and change things up
  • The benefit and necessity of putting a good hard-working team together to achieve quality of work
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help to achieve better outcomes
  • Engage with other areas of the business from corporate, supply and OEM to gain a clearer picture of needs and communicate your requirements
  • Have a process in place that requires multiple levels of crew to ensure quality maintenance practices are followed and maintained
  • The importance of peer review
  • How to manage a downturn in the industry and the benefits this can bring
  • Engage the GM and discuss your needs to help them understand

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Read The Full Podcast Transcript Below


Voiceover: Welcome to the Bluefield 30 in 30 series where we interview mining industry professionals with more than 30 years’ experience and capture their key learnings in 30 minutes. We hope this experience share is valuable for those dealing with similar issues within their businesses.


Gerard Wood: Today, I’m joined by Andy Malcolm who has more than 30 years of experience in mining, having worked across the globe in many maintenance roles from the shop floor, up to maintenance manager. Andy and I met when we were in the Global Maintenance Network together. Thanks very much for coming in. Can you tell us a bit about your background and give us a bit of detail? Then, we’ll get into it.

Andy Malcolm: I guess I started out in the mining industry in Weipa in the late 70s. Spent 14 years up there. Great experience, had a great range of roles, finished up as Maintenance Superintendent, fixed plant. There, I moved through to a little gold mine in New Zealand for three years. That was pretty interesting. No money, not a lot of tools and stuff for the guys but I learned a lot from there about coming into a lean mean organization as well.

From there, I went to New Guinea, working for Ok Tedi. Spent eight years there. Started out as Electrical Maintenance Superintendent and I ended up as the Operational Maintenance Manager looking after all areas. That was a pretty challenging role but it gave me a good grounding and through some work I did with the GMN, I ended up in Brisbane, along with Gerard, working at the Global Maintenance Network. That was an unreal job seeing the insights and learning so much. Giving back, obviously, but I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly and be able to form out my way of how I wanted to grow maintenance from there.

Spent a couple of years in Chile working in a large copper operation. The size probably overwhelming and the amount of equipment to deal with and trying to get efficiencies I guess into that situation is pretty difficult. After that, I came back to Australia and worked in coal for a couple of different coal operations for seven or eight years. This year, I retired in January and looking at trying to do some traveling and enjoy myself.

Gerard: Excellent. Quite a breadth of experience there. Can you tell us about the first time you became a Maintenance Manager? What was the role that you were in and what were your thoughts and your aspirations at the time?

Andy: I was overseas and it was a gold-copper operation. Fairly fortunate that I was asked to take on the role. I always considered if somebody asked you to do a role, it gives you a good head start with support from that person. I think that the Senior Management Team gave me a lot of support. That was an excellent setup. It was a challenging role. I didn’t really have aspirations of a career at that stage. It was more around what I wanted to do with the business and how I wanted to improve. I knew there were lots of quality issues on the shop floor and I knew there were people there that were at the top end of their ability and were struggling to actually take the place forward.

I guess we just got started on the quality of work, reviewing strategies and PM sheets. Just grassroots stuff. There were some huge gaps there. Just things like tooling, there wasn’t enough tools and the guys couldn’t do their job properly.

Gerard: You made an impact in that role too, Andy. From what I’ve been told, you were recognised for that within the business and your ability to make a significant difference up there and achieve some world-class levels of performance.

Andy: Yes, and we did. I think that one of the things is getting a good team together, Gerard, and then also getting out and seeing what’s gone on yourself because if you sit in your office and just listen to what people come and tell you, some of it is not quite correct or not up to your standards. Getting out, leading the charge. Some overseas jobs are very much lead by example type of stuff. The guys like to see people in the field. Take the opportunity when you’re out there to push quality and safety in all things.

The other thing that we did is also bought in some internal and external expertise and carried out audits, evaluations and then holding my team to account for the actions that come out of those results. It’s no use being open and bringing people in and then not doing anything about it. I’ve seen that happen a lot in the past, but the guys took on some key issues and we now nailed those and that was a step improvement with the maintenance practices there.

Gerard: Good point there. For you first Maintenance Manager’s role to be welcoming outside help, I think that shows a lot of maturity.

Andy: We shouldn’t be scared of that stuff. People think you’re baring your backside, and all these things but if you really want to improve, you’ve got to do that and be transparent and tell people that we can be better and we’re willing to improve if we get a bit of direction.

Gerard: Mate, can you tell us about the time when you had the best outcomes from your assets when you got the best performance from them? How you measured that success and what are you thinking with that? Maybe two, three key elements to achieving that outcome.

Andy: Well, I’ve said a few but one of the ones I wanted to talk about it was in coal in Queensland and it was an ultra class truck fleet that had been bought into an organisation. There’d been no real operational readiness done. The equipment was probably getting close to its first round of components changes-out. They were running at about 60%-65% availability. Total disruption to the business.

I’d done something similar when we were working in Chile, I had a bit of an idea and a bit of a plan but we re-engaged the OEM and the dealer. Not just the local dealer, we actually bought people from the factory from America to engage with them. They’d had a pretty deal due from the site. They’d been pushed out and shoved aside.

We re-engaged with them, gave them a bit of loving. We ran some workshops on the technical aspects of the equipment, the planning, and execution of the work.

There was a lack of understanding in the operations area so the OEM brought in some operational people to give them a hand with the operation of the equipment and the expectations. All the roads weren’t wide enough, the dumps weren’t big enough, that sort of stuff. We then worked with Crooker Office and myself, the supply guys with a little bit of a different contract around utilizing the dealer. We ended up with a labor contract with an open book type arrangement. Then, we started changing components.

I don’t think the organization was really ready for ultra class fleet, basically, to shovel in trucks but the expenditure associated with the components on that equipment, that squeezed the whole job, a lot of other things suffered as well. Putting a dedicated crew on that fleet and the other thing I did is got them to report directly to me instead of the superintendent. That freed the superintendent up to– he had a big enough job as it was but that contract reported to me and we made a significant difference there.

We measured it through the usual KPIs around availability and the reliability issues. We also looked hard at failures after service, which I thought was good because they were getting paid and they were the expertise. We wanted to see how long it was going to go before it’s first failure of service. That came a long way. Also, the cost was a key driver in engaging with the GM and guys in the corporate office made a big difference, feeding them back, showing the improvements, allowed us to keep going with that little contract there.

Gerard: Some really good learning there. Engaging with others from the business, the corporate teams, the supply guys and incorporating the OEM. They should have the most technical knowledge of those machines. It’s a really great learning, isn’t it?

Andy: I think that was a success and then, it went on for some years to come after that. That fleet was actually doing pretty well.

Gerard: You also mentioned dedicated labor on those machines, can you expand on that a little bit?

Andy: What was happening in the past, they had brought people in to look at the fleet, but they were dragging them away to work on dozers and other tracks and all sorts of shutdowns, and all sorts of things. We were unable to measure accurately the true reason for the unavailability because we weren’t given a fair shot. It was part of the problem getting parts into Australia, it was a fairly new fleet at that time and then, the other part of it was taking people away to do other jobs when we’d got ultra class trucks parked up.

Sure, as time goes, you might be able to free that up and blend it back into the workshop but the impact it was having to business to get back on track was critical if we get it right.

Gerard: Where did you get it to in the end?

Andy: I think they were sitting at about 87% for a significant period.

Gerard: 60-something to 87, that’s quite– [chuckles] performance.

Andy: It was hard work but then, once we engaged the dealer and also the OEMs– They’d only go out from the States, come here every couple of months see how we’re going, see how the deal is going. They obviously had their bit over the side but it was genuinely a three-way partnership. That’s for sure.

Gerard: Awesome. All right. That’s a great experience. I’m wondering if you can tell us about your worst experience as a maintenance manager? [crosstalk]


Pick one of the many.

Andy: One of the ones that was truly, I think, a career-limiting job was probably overseas in a copper-gold operation. It was around a major transfer shoot. We’d done some great work, improvement projects on liners and feeders and they all worked very, very well. Change-out modules, didn’t work well and the next challenge was round this three-way transfer. It was a single feed to the concentrator to the sagnal? that was absolutely critical.

It was an older design and they’d added a third conveyor into it, two conveyors and one out and the angle of the third conveyor came it, it was all to hell, so it was a difficult shoot. We were running probably lower tonnes. It was designed for 8,000 tonnes per hour and we were running, probably, five, five and a half. Our team got stuck into it, engaged some guys in Queensland that had done a lot of work in coal and put this new shoot in and it worked beautifully.

Unfortunately, it only lasted about 48 hours before it wore out. It actually sped the material up, it transferred beautifully, there was no hang up, there was no blockages. The speed at which the oil was moving and the material that was there just couldn’t hold it together. We kept patching the shoot. We’d take a couple of hours each day and patch it, we’d run trucks down to the mill but then in the meantime, we did repairs and some mods to the old shoot, which was still in big chunks.

We hadn’t hacked it and thrown it away. Then we took a shoddy and put the old one back in. It worked a lot better, it still didn’t get the 8,000, probably around 7,000 and we got on with it. The linings I guess are probably some enthusiastic young guys, young engineers had done some good work. As a maintenance manager, I guess, I had a lot on my plate so I released the strings a bit on these guys because they’d done a lot of good work. I hadn’t put enough checks and balances in place. The learning is to have a process in place that requires multi-levels of crew. We all get a bit cranky when we’ve got to get approval for stuff and it’s got to go to supply and the executive manager and the vice president but there are reasons for that. They ask some dumb questions and they actually get you thinking.

Then the other requirement that I put in, getting a second engineering review done on this project was critical. We sometimes think “Oh, these guys have done it. Why do we need do it again?” But the failure on this project drove me to say that we will always go ahead with at least a second engineering review. It could come into the bounds of operational readiness in some ways, but it wasn’t probably a big shiny job. It was a large transfer that wasn’t a major project. We didn’t play into those rules.

Gerard: Yes.

Andy: Peer review is exactly right.

Gerard: Peer reviewing, that’s essential. In any engineering or any services. I know in our business, that’s what helps us maintain the quality and we still make mistakes but at least we’ve got a process in place and learn through those types of experiences.

Andy: It’s shocking. You know, I hadn’t been in the job very long, the pressure on that was huge. You learn from it, sure it doesn’t happen again and put processes in place that if you move on, they’re still there and people know why they’ve got to go through that.

Gerard: We all have times where the general manager wants more for less or when the GM’s not satisfied with maintenance. Can you describe your most difficult time with the general manager and how you went about making sure you delivered the business bottom line, the outcomes and thereafter?

Andy: I came out of large copper operation overseas. Burn times and spending was not an issue. It was crazy, crazy stuff, and came into coal and hit the downturn. I think it’s probably five years, was it? Or five or six years of downturn?

Gerard: Yes, five years, I’d say.

Andy: I think that every young person needs to go through one of those downturns for their career. It helps reset when the crazy times come that you actually don’t need to go out and waste all that money. I was working for a company that was doing it pretty tough. They were financially in trouble. I think the budget that we prepared, I think it’d be pretty fair to say that 50% of it was whacked off. I’ve never ever in the 30-odd years, I’ve never actually tried to work at that level. It was forced upon us. We accepted it, got on with it.

The learnings for me were around engaging the GM so having daily updates on costs. If we had a failure, we repaired that but we had to find that money from somewhere else so something else missed out. Spent a lot of time with the GM about the 100% budget is not just like wasting money. It’s all planned. It’s all that work needs to be done and getting to understand that there’s a payback sometime. It mightn’t be in his time, it might be the next poor fella that comes along, that money has to be spent if you want to keep that equipment. That went pretty well.

Along with that, I had weekly meetings with him so that he’d fully understand the risks involved. We did risk assessments if you like as such on the whole process so that people knew and we were transparent where the highest risk was for failure. Whether it was the dragger on the shovel or a truck fleet. Once we got it forced on us. Fought the battle, lost. Since then, actually, go out and engaged the SLT as well and the GM. But weekly meetings with the GM to talk about what we’d spent, why, what was happening. That also gave him the knowledge to actually fight the battle above as well. Whilst it was bad, we accepted it was bad. I think that transparency was super important.

Gerard: What I’m hearing there is really the great level of communication with the GM so he fully understands how you got the budget developed, understands exactly what the money was needed for. It’s not just putting a liner in the pocket or anything like that. It’s actually zero-based and based on your need for the equipment.

Andy: Exactly. Even down to the detail to say that this month this dozer’s due for an engine, and obviously, we’ll push it based on condition. That sort of detail that he can understand I think that goes a long way as well, saying, “Look, at this stage, I’m not prepared to push this any further. We’ve got to take an action otherwise, we’re actually wasting more money by having a catastrophic failure. I don’t see a lot of knock knocking but there’s not a lot of GMs that understand or want to get that level of detail. They’re working at a pretty high level, but once they understand that level of detail, they certainly are a lot more accommodating, I think.

Gerard: Great. Can you tell me about your views on work quality? How do you ensure the quality of the work is great and rework is minimized?

Andy: I’m a big supporter of quality work. I think it’s actually the critical step. Measuring it has always been a little bit of a difficult one. I think it has to be a manual collection somehow through SAP.

Gerard: I agree with that. If you do find a way to measure it let me know because I’ve not found one other than going looking at the equipment.

Andy: I think it’s a critical aspect and I think that to start off with, the maintenance manager needs to again get out of his chair, get out and do walk-around inspections, carry out quality of work and safety at the same time. Use it as an interaction if you want on safety but in the meantime, you’re actually looking at the gear. Once you get a little bit of confidence in yourself, take the supervisor or the superintendent or whoever you want with you so you start spreading the word that it’s unacceptable.

I remember going to an old 789 on the last job I was on and there was I think four leaks in the workshop floor. There were two contractors on it and I said, “What’s going to happen with the leaks boss?” “We can’t do anything. The boss told us we got no money to fix it.” I was trying to stop the job and went and got the supervisor and talked it through. You just can’t let that stuff get out the door. It’s going to either cause a fire or you’re going to have a component failure, just crazy. My little strategy or my little way of doing it was to get out there myself, have a look. You don’t have to be an expert on every fleet type. You can actually look at connections, you can look at hoses, you can look at rubs. It’s not rocket science.

Once you start talking to the guys about it and show them that you’re interested, the majority of them will jump on board and they’ll do something about it. The ones that don’t, I think definitely has to go down the process of some disciplinary action at the end of the day. Coach them, coach them and then at some stage they’ll need to get a slap on the hand.

I think the other thing is– I think– and I’ve seen this on a job, flipping the defects from the guys to me, that’s the repair or the installation of a component, the repair or the defect on the job making sure the plan has actually taken action in it as well. If the guys are writing down defects or they’ve got a problem with the task and the planner doesn’t do something about it and doesn’t start processing it, the whole process just goes down the drain.

Gerard: If the guys are finding the defects, reporting them then they’re not getting put into the system and raised and actioned in an appropriate time, then the guys lose faith in the process.

Andy: Yes. And we’re the failure.

Gerard: Then they stop reporting.

Andy: That’s one aspect of quality work. The other is the actual how repairs are done, how the components are changed out. When you’re walking around, you can just see it. You get a feel for guys that are doing it well, give them a pat on the back, tell them, “That’s great stuff. You’ve done well”. And the other fellows need some coaching. The way we measured it was just by our walkarounds everybody would have tallied up and say four, or five…And we’d ask them about it daily. If we found it daily. We’d ask the guys, “Any problems, any issues?” but certainly didn’t ask the system often.

Gerard: When did you ask the guys about the issues?

Andy: On the last job, we had a daily meeting, like at most places. They’d come in with their data and one of the things we’d just ask about the quality of work. I’d say, “I found this on the portfolio and it was only in yesterday. It was attributed to the quality of work.

Gerard: All right, mate. I’m coming towards the end of these questions here, but I’m going to give you a scenario here. If you went into a reactive workplace tomorrow as the manager, assets maintenance manager, you reviewed the plate performance, you checked all aspects of managing assets including equipment strategy, planning, work execution, improvement, reliability, improvement process, the people et cetera and you found that all these need an improvement. There are problems everywhere. But you’ve only got the ability to make one change. What would you change first, in order to have the most impact on equipment and quality?

Andy: I think that for me it would probably be around understanding the equipment condition. Getting those inspections done, getting it on the system, making sure that even going to do an audit. Not an external audit but a separate audit, more than likely is just getting the guys to do their checks and inspections. Get those defects in and start–

If you can do that, I’m sure if the operation’s that bad, you’re going to have hundreds and hundreds of defects coming in. If you’re worried about the strategy, that’s going to take a little bit of time and you’ve lost all that critical time. Things are actually getting worse during that period. In my eyes, 101 in maintenance was around understanding equipment condition and to do that’s about inspections, getting that defect list going, getting it into the system.

I guess next you would look at your strategy. If it was that bad, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time, I’d just do a cut on fleet types and I’d review. Give the local guys reviewing sheets and making sure everything’s in there that you want to do. You can go to the top a little bit to start with. Then, later on, do the proper review using failure notices maintenance.

Gerard: Exactly. Just getting an understanding of that equipment and knowing exactly what needs to be repaired, getting all the defects in the system.

Andy: Then do through something [crosstalk]

Gerard: Okay, great. Excellent. Thanks for sharing your experience over many years. Just before we go, what advice or is there anything else that you would give to aspiring maintenance managers or maintenance managers that are new in their role?

Andy: I think some of the key stuff is, particularly when you go into a new role, you’ve got your induction, you’ve got your local areas and all your stuff, but getting through that and then actually spending a couple of– first two weeks just assessing your area of responsibility. The safety, the equipment condition, your maintenance strategy. Look at the team. If the place is in not such good shape, is the leadership team capable of coming with you and coming along with you?

If you think there’s any chance that they can, grab them and run with them. If you’ve really got some doubts you need to have a good look at that person or people that aren’t going to able to run with it. The longer you leave that decision, the harder it gets. You become close, you get involved in the team. To actually make some changes first up I think is super important. Put your stamp on the place. It doesn’t have to be radical. It can be back to basic stuff. I think within the first three to four weeks, understand what you got. Make some changes. It doesn’t have to be that– You can’t spend too much time making the only change. There will be many, many changes coming up, but make a line in the sand.

The other thing we talked about a little earlier was around safety. Safety is part of the job and coal did work and safety and all those, the execution of work is all one item. If you’re having troubles, you’re having incidents, accidents, you can lose credibility. It’s important to tidy all that stuff up straight away. That can be part of looking at the quality of work. If you’re executing your work well and getting good results and the safety is going well, you’ve got a good baseline in the field or in the workshop to work on.

If you’re having incidents and accidents that cloud will hang over your head for quite a while. You have to get that right. How do you do that? Just get out there and beat the streets. Start talking to people, holding people to account. Nothing new, nothing exciting, but you have to get that right. There are lots of little things like you might have a reliability team. The amount of times I’ve gone to organizations and the reliability engineer’s doing a shoddy on a shovel or a digger. Chipping away at that as well. Keep them on reliability, otherwise, all the good work you’re doing in the shutdown will just go down the gurgler later on because he’s not in his role.

Gerard: I’ve seen that too, the reliability engineer, but they’re doing everything but reliability.

Andy: Exactly. The benefits from that engineer is huge. It gives you a lot of comfort. You can understand what’s going on with the business. You can make changes, you can– Cost definitely come in under the reliability area. You can understand what’s going on, tweaking the strategy. That role is critical, but I don’t know how many times I’ve gone into organizations and they’re off doing other stuff.

The other advice would be engaging with the GM. Don’t hold out and push back. The GM might have employed you and he’ll have an interest in you succeeding. If you get a new GM, the same thing, you got to engage with him, be transparent, show him what’s going on. There’s a lot of suspicions out there that there’s stuff in maintenance that goes on that nobody else knows about, but people don’t probably take the time to understand what’s going on so engage with the GM and all the SLT. Your financial guy, he can be a great asset to you if you’re struggling with funds and knowing where to get money from, so engage with those guys as well because they can actually help. If they understand what you’re doing, you’re being open and transparent, they will help.

Gerard: Great, Andy. Thanks very much, mate, for sharing your vast experience. You’ve worked in three different countries as a maintenance manager. Many different maintenance managers roles across different commodities. I’m sure that our listeners will take a heap of learnings from that and employ them in their organizations to get more from their assets.

Andy: No worries. Thanks.

Simplifying Mining Maintenance


In the world of mining, both mining and asset management professionals often face challenging plant and fleet reliability or cost
problems. Over the years we have developed complicated systems and processes to deal with such situations, but in the real world of maintenance, to be truly effective, organizations must adopt practical, people-based processes and routines that are simple so that large
groups of people can align and become effective.

After more than thirty years in the mining business, Gerard Wood has experienced firsthand the persistent maintenance problems that
can occur, which led him to develop effective methods for managing maintenance teams and ensuring optimal equipment performance. In
Simplifying Mining Maintenance, he presents two time-tested models for reliable maintenance management, as well as actionable solutions
to common problems causing unscheduled downtime events, increased scheduled downtime, cost concerns, people problems, and
transitions to operations.

Having the best maintenance organization in the world is possible—by getting back to basics with simple, culture-focused models that can
keep any mining business running like a well-oiled machine.

Failure Analysis Support Tool: ‘Get to the root cause of your equipment failure…. FAST’