Are you having trouble finding and retaining maintenance staff?

Apr 1, 2019 9:44:59 AM

We’ve already noticed the labour market tightening again in the mining industry, meaning it’s becoming harder to find and retain maintenance staff.  The best defence against this situation is to reduce your staffing requirements and build a culture of mutual accountability in the maintenance team.  And the best way to reduce maintenance effort is to increase your availability.

Bluefield has conducted numerous transformations over the recent years and a key outcome of the process is an increase in equipment availability. As an example, one of our clients has increased their ultra-class truck fleet availability by 6% to 90%, even with an aging fleet.

But how does this help the manning requirements?

When we estimate the manning requirements of a maintenance team, we calculate it based on the required scheduled and unscheduled maintenance time.  (See our article on how there is often a disconnect between forecast equipment availability and scheduled downtime in mining plans).

For example, if a fleet of mining equipment has an 80% availability and 25% of that downtime is scheduled, there would be 438 hours of scheduled downtime per year. If the average number of mechanics on each service is 2, then this equals 876 mechanic hours per year. For unscheduled downtime, the average number of mechanics is 1, so this equates to 1,314 mechanic hours per annum for a total of 2,190 mechanic hours per machine per year. When we lift the availability to 90%, we would maintain the same scheduled work but, by executing it in a more proactive manner, reduce the unscheduled work from 1314 hours per annum to 438 hours.

So, by lifting the performance of the maintenance team, we can save 438 full time equivalent (FTE) hours per annum per machine.

But how many people does that equate to?

We calculate the FTE hours through a simple formula. On an even time roster (7-on, 7-off), there are 182.5 work days per annum. Subtract leave allowances of 25 days for shift workers, so on-site time would total 157.5 days. With a 12-hour shift, less meal breaks and daily pre-start etc, the effective tool time is likely to be in the order of 10 hours per day, which equates to 1575 hours per mechanic per annum.

Taking the mining fleet example, if you had 20 pieces of equipment that improved from 80% to 90% availability, this would equal 8760 mechanic hours per annum, equivalent to just over 5.5 FTE’s.

So if you are still trying to fill those positions, perhaps take a look at how you can improve the availability through focussing on executing the scheduled work in a proactive manner and making sure everyone understands their responsibility to fix defects before they cause the onset of failures, reducing breakdowns and making life easier for everyone.

To assist with estimating labour resources and calculating the potential benefits of an availability increase, we have previously shared a tool which can be downloaded here.

By David Archinal