Endeavour Mining's Youga gold mine in Burkina Faso
I am fed up hearing yet again of a struggling mine, who has laid-off their professional staff, commenced with cost cutting and other rationalisation activities…and then just to hire an international, expensive audit firm (duh!) to execute a business improvement or restructuring programme.

By VBKom director Eduan Pieterse

Why do they keep on doing is? Is this because us locals are too indoctrinated by the national agenda? Is it because we are part of the national labour force, and therefore part of the problem?

It must be for such or similar idiotic reasons, but it cannot be due to a lack of savvy or know-how. I find it very hard to believe that our national consulting firms and local engineers don’t have the skills or maturity to do this ourselves?

The other sad story is that of the poor old Continuous Improvement (CI) Departments on the mines. Mines are the territory of dirty, hands-on miners, operators and production staff…not clean, office-bound industrial engineers with their nice ideas which are far removed from reality.

When things go well, the CI departments are ignored and kept on as a necessary evil, and when things go bad, they are the first to be downsized or cut-out.

Why does this happen? Why bring in expensive overseas auditors after cutting down your operations, when you had, relatively affordable industrial engineers employed in your own operations for the past two years? Why ignore this very useful tool in your own toolbox?

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that this phenomenon can only be explained by the combination of (i) ego/pride and (ii) lack of discipline. Because why otherwise would you ignore good advice in the good times? It can only be attributed to our egos getting in the way and/or our lack of commitment to see the changes suggested, implemented.

No one wants to be on the receiving end of a well-intended suggestion which actually makes you look like the very experienced fool? Why otherwise did you not see that this small change can actually make a difference over the course of 30 production days, 60 shifts or 6 000 man hours?

The irony is that CI and industrial engineers are like our MS Word spell checkers: very useful, easy to click-on, and saves you from embarrassment almost always…but seldom used!

CI is like going to the gym three times a week for only 30 min…it does not take a lot of time, the results are phenomenal, but requires a lot of discipline over a sustained period of time!

Changes are not seen overnight, only over time…so that probably explains why the slimming industry makes almost more money than the gaming industry!

So when the times are good and your believe that you are riding the crest of success, then that is the best time to turn to your CI engineers and open yourself up for some health checks.

This will save you even more money and put you in good stead for when the market turns.

I wonder where our mines would have been now if they only had the foresight and discipline to open themselves up for correction of improvement…!

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