Every morning I start my day reading through my favourite news aggregators looking for information on new capital projects and project management information to help me keep informed of what’s going in the world. One of my frequent stops is www.mining.com, a news site for all things mining and resources related. Recently Cecilia Jamasmie published an article that jumped out at me: “Mining industry could save billions on capital projects – report

From the Accenture report referred to in Jamasmie’s article:

“The potential savings and returns through effective management and delivery of a capital project investment can be huge,” said Jose J. Suarez, managing director for Accenture’s North American Mining industry group and the research lead. “Keeping on budget and within planned timelines across a portfolio of multi-year projects can save millions for a company – in today’s environment strong project management can be an important competitive advantage.”

subsequent report by E&Y touched on a similar topic: “Capital expenditure and associated project delivery is a key topic in many of today’s financial and resource publications, yet many owners and contractors alike continue to be challenged by the strategic and /or tactical issues of project execution.” While this might seem obvious, these kinds of quotes are music to my ears; not because of the underlying problem, but because I know that we can help.

It’s all about the information…

One of the primary challenges faced by mining owners involved in large capital projects is a lack of information visibility. This lack of visibility is compounded by often contradictory demands of external and internal stakeholders, stemming from:

  • Increased public scrutiny, regulatory compliance and environmental pressures
  • Schedule slippage and associated opportunity costs
  • Financial pressures to secure the required level of capital to take their operations into production
  • Risk management and litigation issues
  • Health and safety issues

As these challenges grow, it is important that the mining industry look to project tools like Coreworx Project Information Control (PIC) to manage project execution. The reality is that mining projects are getting bigger (often in the multiple billions of dollars) and more complex.

Achieving better capital project delivery: 5 key areas for improvement

 The Accenture report identifies five key areas for improvement in project execution that will help improve ROI. I have listed each of the five areas below, along with commentary on how tools like PIC can help companies to achieve these improvements.

  1. Establish strong project governance and risk management capabilities
    Risk is a reality in any large capital project, and projects are subject to both internal and external forces. Whether the risk is political, economic, social, or technological, each type of risk can destabilize and create complications in project execution. With the increased scale and complexity of today’s projects, getting the right information, at the right time, to the right people is critical.PIC helps project teams establish strong project governance by implementing process compliance while providing the visibility necessary to help decision makers identify and deal with issues in a timely manner. Coreworx products allow project teams to:
    • Build systematic, enforceable processes for design review and approval to facilitate successful front end design processes
    • Automate workflows for managing change and technical queries to ensure that not only the right people are engaged, but also that responses and evaluation are completed in a timely matter
    • Provide look-ahead reports using real-time data to identify potential bottlenecks and deal with them in a timely manner before a large issue develops
    • Set up dashboard reports to provide project status/progress information at a glance to supply owners and project managers the information that they need to understand where closer observation may be required and to give them the ability to make decisions with the real-time information
    • Provide a single auditable version of the facts
  2. Proactively manage stakeholders’ increasing expectations for sustainability
    Within all major capital projects, Owners must navigate the complexities of both internal and external stakeholders. Projects today face increasing regulatory demands, increasing public scrutiny, and increasing financial oversight; expectations for sustainability have never been greater. These demands include dealing with contractors, HSE, surface and mineral rights, Aboriginal consultation, hiring and personnel, internal and external financial data, corporate governance, increased media attention, and landowner and public rights.Along with collaboration and communication, effective information management is key to successfully handling so many stakeholders, often with highly varied and competing needs and perspectives. A system like Coreworx provides stakeholders with an engaging, secure, online work area with access to project staff, documents, and proactive notifications. PIC allows project teams to capture and classify stakeholder information as it is generated during a project. This makes it easier to ensure that:
    • Promises made are promises delivered
    • Selected information is transferred to records management systems for long-term retention
    • Discovery efforts are traceable in the event of potential litigation

    Projects are best executed when information is readily available, accurate reports are frequently distributed, and stakeholders are well informed

  3. Optimize scarce talent through management, organizational flexibility, and selective outsourcing and training
    As a quick example, Canada’s mining industry is anticipating a shortage of 60,000 skilled workers between now and 2020 in disciplines such as geology, accounting, engineering, and management. There are a number of issues that factor into this shortfall including both a lack of young professionals entering the field, as well as an estimated 40% of mining employees retiring in the next 8 years.While software can’t fix the inherent problems of an aging workforce and subsequent shortage of skilled workers, it can help to mitigate the problems associated with workforce attrition. As key employees leave, knowledge management is essential. PIC allows organizations to capture best practices and lessons learned, and to apply this information to staff training and continuous improvement of practices. Not only does this ensure that the know-how of your experienced workforce stays in place, but it also makes processes easier to adapt for new employees.
  4. Integrate information systems among capital project players
    Having a mechanism to exchange project information and manage uncontrolled sources of information is crucial to providing a collaborative single, auditable version of the facts for all parties. As a basic example, the use of transmittals and the use of workflow controls the exchange of information and transforms uncontrolled data into a central repository of project information.
    Information systems need methods and tools to import and extract bulk data and, where machine to machine integration code isn’t practical, should use ubiquitous file formats like Excel or comma-separated values. A system like Coreworx can further refine the information into user-specific, decision-ready knowledge in the form of intelligent dashboards. This helps project teams ensure process compliance, mitigate risk, and ultimately helps to meet project timelines.
  5. Accelerate operational readiness
    A well-planned and managed handover process–from a completed project to operational readiness – can help companies avoid rework and delays and also support high production levels from the initial operation of the mine or plant.
    Starting with the end in mind is easier said than done. Working with contractors to set up and institute best practices and to determine how vendor data is to be collected and managed can have a serious impact on operational readiness at handover. A versatile information management system that can flexibly accommodate and enforce your operation team’s data requirements, and which allows engineering and design documents to be easily searched, accessed and packaged for handover to operations is a great start. A system that provides workflows based around the desired outcome is even better, and will result in reduced risk, reduced cost, on time delivery, and easy handover to operations.

Bringing it all together

There’s no doubt that the nature, scope, and complexity of mining projects is evolving and becoming more demanding. As the Accenture report indicates, mining companies have the potential to save large amounts of money and time executing their capital projects. The good news is that tools like Coreworx have been helping organizations to meet their project goals for years and will continue to evolve to meet the demands of the changing environment. We're excited about the prospect of working with forward-thinking mining organizations to help them meet these new challenges, and execute projects that achieve their goals. 

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