If you’re involved with mining maintenance, you have probably looked at detailed workflow processes for work management and thought to yourself, “That is not quite right" or "that is too complicated to keep in mind”.
Let’s change that. Below is an illustration of a Work Management Model, which is a simplified version of the common pipeline model. It illustrates the flow of work from the strategy, that drives our activities, to the continuous improvement loop.
This process is generally accepted as the maintenance process no matter how people prefer to see it written. In fact, people always have different views on how the detailed process should look, but in the end, it is the same process.
Most organisations have some form of pipeline model that includes workflow process for:
Completing work orders and capturing history
Raising subsequent work
Analysing data and performance improvement
Many of these models have a section called “identify work,” but I’ve removed it because identifying work is part of performing work. As you perform a task or an inspection, you should identify other work that can be done during the next scheduled downtime event.
This model includes “work requests and ad hoc work” in the first chevron of the pipeline. These are work requests from other people, OEMs, statutory bodies, or operators. This work is for a purpose and is not driven by a strategy or asset management plan.
Work originating from asset management plans or equipment life cycle plans should be set up when you purchase and initiate the machine on site. These are jobs you expect to do throughout the machine’s life, such as changing components. The other way that work enters the planning and scheduling process is from the completed inspections and condition monitoring.
Once jobs are planned and scheduled, teams perform the work while accommodating unscheduled work or breakdowns. When the work is completed, a disciplined close-out will ensure people understand the details of the job status and what was done.
I once took my team to a high-performing site so that we could learn how the site managed its operations. The supervisor at the site showed how he entered job history into the CMMS. It was a lot of extra effort, he said, but it paid off because it helped everyone understand what was going on. That process was the difference between their site and ours; we lacked knowledge because we were not capturing the information with discipline. We adopted that process and it immediately improved our operation.
Closing out work and capturing the history or information about what was done are critical when there are many crews and lots of people involved in the teams. Without common understanding of these standards, missed issues can become breakdowns.
The next stage is to analyse the performance, including maintenance-delay analysis, downtime information, and work-done information, facilitates improvement.
Implementing this model
This model is the highest level of the work-management process. Each box has a detailed workflow process associated with it. The work requests and ad hoc work, for example, could drop down to another work process that includes: “How the operator puts in the work request, which then goes to the supervisor. If the supervisor approves it, it goes into the system. If not, it goes back to the operator.”
These workflow processes have been repeatedly documented in the mining industry since around 2000, so they are quite detailed. They are useful processes to refer to so people on a team (particularly at the management level) can utilise the system.
However, it’s counterproductive when companies try to force every site to use the same precise processes at a detailed level. It’s better to give onsite tradespeople and leaders some flexibility to do what they know is best, even if they don’t follow the process to the letter. What’s important is that they achieve the agreed outcomes, which can be as simple as ensuring everyone knows what is going on!
Outputs at each stage of the workflow process are not negotiable. For example, If I look at the work-request process and can see that the operators are satisfied, I know things are getting done when they are reported. If, on scheduled work, the parts and tools are delivered to the job on time and the workers know what they need to do and when to do it, then I know the planning and scheduling process is working.
If I don’t see any defects captured in the CMMS—but I can walk out to the plant and find leaks, loose parts, or dirt buildup in electrical cabinets—then I know there is a problem with execution or the close-out and capture of subsequent work processes.
The main point here is that if you make process manuals complicated, people can’t or won’t read them or understand them. The Work Management Model is simple and more than adequate to get control of the basics and deliver the results.
Focusing on the outputs at this higher level is simpler and reduces the complication of administering the work-management processes.
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.