30 in 30 Podcast

Where we capture 30 years of mining experience in 30 minutes

Improving Safety and Quality Work Outcomes

Guest: Steve Flannery
Jan 22, 2021 | 37 min to Listen

Our guest today, Steve Flannery, has clocked up just over 30 years working primarily in the mining industry. Starting off as a plant mechanic apprentice to gain hands on experience, completing his mechanical engineering degree and working in numerous large corporations, Steve has vast experience in asset management with a focus on work quality.

Steve’s current role is in Asset Management Services as Manager of Eastern Region (NSW/Vic/NZ) at Bluefield. In this episode, Steve shares his journey in the industry and how having a trade background makes a big difference with people on the ground, understanding the challenges of the job and how to find positive solutions.

Steve shares how good maintenance is all about having the right people doing the right work at the right time and that work quality and safety go hand in hand. He recounts some incidents on site leading to injuries and how in his experience, incidents most commonly involve an asset, design or maintenance element.


When asked about his best outcome from assets, Steve shares about the challenge he faced in 2012 to cut his maintenance budget by 30%. He was able to achieve this target in a sustainable way whilst maintaining fleet performance through strategy and good data. This experience taught Steve a lot and he discusses how he has learnt to focus on the work execution team to obtain the best results.

Steve recounts his worst experience as a maintenance manager and his most difficult time dealing with a GM and how he dealt with it. He also shares about his positive fix mentality and leaves us with his top pieces of advice for those looking to enter into the maintenance managers space.

Some Topics That We Cover

  • [2:00]: Steve shares his work background and how he started out as a plant mechanic apprentice, eventually moving into management and supervisory roles
  • [3:59]: How previous experience helped Steve know how to produce quality work while completing a dozer overhaul
  • [5:15]: Steve’s desire to do things differently when he first became a maintenance manager by treating everyone equally and fairly
  • [6:20]: How having accountability for safety and performance of the people gave Steve a buzz
  • [6:50]: Having a trade background makes a big difference with people on the ground and knowing the challenges of the job
  • [7:59]: The challenge Steve faced having to save money on maintenance costs during a downturn in 2012 and do it in a sustainable way
  • [10:13]: How strategy and good data helped him be able to plot the life of each component class across very large fleets. 
  • [12:00]: How you can usually get more from your assets by being strategic and coming up with engineered solutions. If you can optimise the outcome of an asset sustainably, that’s what you should do.
  • [14:40]: Steve shares an incident involving a machine design issue resulting in a very bad injury to his friend
  • [16:08]: The major incidents Steve has seen over the years have usually involved an asset, design or maintenance element 
  • [17:23]: Relialitics Equipment Condition Supervisor software 
  • [19:50]: Steve refers back to his challenge to get 30% out of his maintenance budget in 2012 and how he worked with the GM to facilitate the changes required
  • [23:18]: How Steve has learned that the easiest way to get fleet performance improvement is to focus on the execution element of the work management process, engaging the tradies with what’s going on and coming up with solutions
  • [25:24]: You have to be able to have an open conversation to speak up when things aren’t going right
  • [26:30]: Taking the time to do the job right the first time pays dividends in fleet performance, quality and safety
  • [28:00]: Break in work - coming up with a positive fixed plan to contain issues until you can get a countermeasure in place
  • [29:00]: Communication during failures is important, taking ownership and letting everyone know what you are doing about it.
  • [30:17]: Given the scenario of going into a reactive work environment, Steve talks about how he would focusing on the work execution team
  • [32:16]: Recognising that there is a work quality issue is one of the biggest challenges
  • [32:55]: Steve’s advice to aspiring maintenance managers:
    • Be visible and be practical in how you develop solutions
    • Understand the planning process and maintenance budget process
    • Engage the trades in safety and quality execution
    • Embrace change and continue to improve