During a recent routine maintenance shutdown at the mill at Barrick’s Cortez mine, technicians Jared Roberts and Jordan Stewart discovered that a pipe that they had been planning to service was damaged.
In the past, this would have caused a bottleneck. Roberts and Stewart would have had to spend an hour returning to the maintenance shop, order the parts needed to repair the damaged pipe, and then wait for the parts to arrive. Instead, they were able to carry on their work within five minutes thanks to the development of a new Digital Work Management tool that eliminates the need for these time-consuming steps.
“It was as easy as ordering a pizza,” Roberts says. “We just had to punch a few buttons on our tablets and the part was there. It was awesome.”
Like any good tool, if you use it, it helps you out.
The Digital Work Management tool was designed and built based on the experiences and day-to-day needs of technicians and supervisors. It was developed at the CodeMine, Barrick’s digital transformation hub, located about an hour east of the Cortez mine in Elko, Nevada.
Using the Digital Work Management tool, paperless work orders can be routed to tablets carried by maintenance supervisors and technicians—all in real-time. Users can see what work is scheduled for the day, its status, and any identified issues or delays. Technicians can also see the last time the equipment was serviced, and look-up equipment manuals and manufacturers’ websites.
Supervisors can follow the progress of maintenance tasks on both mobile and stationary equipment, and use the tool to help determine where to focus their attention—all in real-time. Eventually, supervisors will be able to easily match the right personnel to the right task by using an auto-schedule function that pinpoints technician selection based on the skill set required for a job.
The tool also made it possible to create the mill’s first maintenance command center, pulling together general supervisors from the operations, maintenance, and reliability groups. Constant communication between these groups has now replaced the lag that used to happen between daily status meetings. As a result, problems are identified earlier and resolved faster, allowing technicians to devote more time to completing their assigned tasks.
“The tool was a success thanks to the people in the field who adopted it and made it work,” says David Yazzie, Product Owner for the Digital Work Management tool.
Every year, the Cortez mine has four scheduled maintenance shutdowns. The most recent occurred in March and was the largest of the four, taking 70 hours to complete. Some supervisors were wary about introducing a new tool into such a critical shutdown, during which all equipment is taken down for maintenance to ensure proper operation over the year. However, their concerns were quickly put to rest. Maintenance supervisors were impressed that they could see which mechanics and electricians were assigned to a job, and what jobs had been done without hunting down other departments or looking up diagnostics.
“Using the tablets made it easier to keep track of jobs,” says John Cavaness, Process Maintenance Supervisor. “I could see what my predecessor on the night shift had done and assign guys as needed without running down to the office and going through work orders. I had it all with me.”
“Like any good tool, if you use it, it helps you out,” says Roger Reynolds, Electrical and Instrumentation Supervisor. “If anyone had a question, I could easily find the answer.”
The introduction of any new technology often comes with a steep learning curve. The Digital Maintenance tool is fairly intuitive and was designed based on feedback from Barrick’s own people, Yazzie says. “As Apple said when introducing the iPad, ‘If you have an iPhone, you already know how to use this.’ ”
While the tool is user friendly, it occasionally drops the Wi-Fi connection needed to transmit data. However, the tool has the capacity to store data that is logged while it’s not connected to a network and send it once it re-connects.
Yazzie acknowledges there are a few dead spots. “The mine is huge, and it’s not cost-effective to put Wi-Fi everywhere, or provide cellular coverage for the 300 devices we’re starting with in maintenance. We’re looking into that, as well as concerns about storage and charging.”
Like the supervisors and technicians, Yazzie is enthusiastic about the benefits of digital work management, noting that improved efficiencies are just the beginning. The tool will also bring greater visibility to maintenance trends through the creation of quick charts—graphics that are compiled at the tap of a button to display critical data—providing more accurate information on daily progress at shift handovers, and a breakdown of the types of issues that the maintenance department is confronted with. Yazzie foresees this reducing unplanned maintenance, as it will help to more easily flag hidden trends and trouble spots, by triggering software alerts through the tablet to notify supervisors of any task issues.
“The Digital Work Management tool is a living project, and we’ll keep building in additional functions to make life easier,” he says.