Australian coal mines have spent considerable capital on dragline
improvements over the last two years. This has included ~$30 M on UDD
conversions, >$20 M on new buckets, boom upgrades, electrical
upgrades, etc. This is a natural part of the response of mining companies
to technology and replacement programs. Capital expenditure is a normal
part of the ongoing success of most companies. There is however, a
tendency for some people to rely on the capital alone to provide the
ongoing improvements in equipment productivity. Implementing new
technology through capital expenditure is only part of the equation in
continuous improvement. For 80 - 90 per cent of the year, the operator
controls the productivity achieved by the dragline.
Variation between operators is huge. The average standard deviation in
productivity is 12 per cent and maintenance impact is over 40 per cent.
Robbins 2003, states:
Contrary to what we were taught in grade school, we
weren’t all created equal. Most of us are to the left of
the median on some normally distributed ability curve.
Further, he states:
The issue is knowing how people differ in abilities and
using that knowledge to increase the likelihood that an
employee will perform his or her job well.
There are two options for reducing variability between operators;
improving operator ability and getting the machine to take over what the
operator is doing (automation). Dragline automation will be discussed,
however, this paper will focus more on the ‘human factor’ and how to
establish a dragline with minimum variability between operators.