Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Graham, P and Miller, B, Improvement Programs through Systems Management In Relation to Mine Development, in Aziz, N (ed), Coal 1998: Coal Operators' Conference, University of Wollongong & the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 1998, 280-284.


General experience with improvement programs in the mining industry has been that. after some initial success, performance tends to deteriorate back to pre-improvement program level in a relatively short time after the spotlight is switched off. The "switching off' can take many forms, such as a logical end to the program, change of leadership personnel, change in business emphasis or a severe emotional event (e.g. retrenchment program, partial closure, industrial action). The thing that appears to be missing from most improvement progranls is sustainability .The lack of sustainability is costly as follow up programs tie up valuable resources over and over again. Often, the only benefits accrue to consultants, as it is relatively easy to prove a good return on the investment by showing impressive performance charts during the implementation of the program but not after completion. The ideal improvement program shows significant early returns and clontinues through and beyond, i.e. it is sustainable. There have been some notable improvement programs that have stood the test of time. Examples are Hamersley Iron and Comalco Aluminium in Tasmania. These companies put equal emphasis on the three elements that together ensure that work can be done effectively. These three elements to ensure effective work are: Technology; 2. Technical processes; 3. Social processes In the mining industry , the fixation with technology and, to a les~;er extent with the technical processes, have driven improvement programs to date. Along with technology, these are the legs of a three-Iegged chair; each one necessary but not in itself sufficient to ensure the chair fulfils its function. The systems management approach is to outline an improvement program that puts equal weight on these three elements and demonstrates the impact that each element has on the other.