Author: Colin Sheldon
Mining companies are guilty of implementing new standards and procedures at the drop of a hat to replace those “outdated” and “ineffective” documents that were supposedly the reason for the poor performance, user confusion, etc.
We tend to believe that once this new set of corporate instruction is made available and published, the problems of the previous versions will vanish.
Sadly, this is not the case, and the new versions are just as likely to fail in their objective without the effective management of the system of documents and the requirements they set out.
Bluefield regularly performs audits for mining companies against new standards they have produced.
In an ideal world, these audits would reveal non-compliances, actions would be raised to correct these non-compliances, and finally these actions would be completed, bring the issue to a definite end.
However, as is the case with many standards, they aren’t always black and white, and can be interpreted differently by different users, or even auditors.
The emergence of new technology, changes in market conditions, and the update of other group documents can also have significant influence on the master standard. Without the administration of the standards and its supporting documents, it can fall over very quickly, and users lose faith in it.
A recent compliance audit by Bluefield revealed the inability of users to gain any clarification from the standard owner, with contact very difficult. In some instances, this frustration had led to users making their own decisions and moving forward without confirmation from the owner.
When discussing this with the company representative, it was quite apparent that the company had not allocated enough resources to the management of the system. In the initial rollout period, there had been adequate support, but over time this had fallen away. Project success had been recorded when the standard was deployed.
In the past, Bluefield recommended a number of different tools to make the admin of such a system more manageable:
- Produce regular amendments and version updates to clarify areas of ambiguity
- Communicate changes via bulletins or similar in a timely fashion
- Host a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) platform for user to visit as a first port of call
- Host user forums at set intervals for users to discuss emerging issues and seek resolution
These techniques can drastically improve communication between the owner of the standard and its users. This reduces the number of individual instances the owner needs to field single questions that could potentially be repetitive and overlapping.
So before looking to update or even replace an existing corporate/organisational standard because its predecessor has seemingly failed in achieving its objectives, it is an important step to understand the state of the previous scheme; is the system well managed and resourced adequately? Was this support provided over the life of the system? When was the system last audited? This information may help you recover a system that has just been neglected and can still achieve the intended result.
Ineffective standards and procedures are a significant factor in asset failures, however they’re frequently overlooked in the investigation. Bluefield recently wrote a series on “Simplifying Root Cause Analysis;” read our article on “Getting to Root Cause” here.