Skip to main content

Automation: a holistic approach

Published by , Assistant Editor
Global Mining Review,

While automation is often seen as a silver bullets that can solve a range of mining’s problems, for Roy Hill’s Christine Eriksen automation is actually a holistic approach with the majority of the time, effort and funds to be invested in helping teach the people working with the technology on the frontline.

“You realised that silver bullet approach solely based on technology wasn’t going to work. That’s why Roy Hill has developed System Thinking,” said the General Manager of Improvement & Smart Business during her ‘What's happened since we embraced smart mining into our operations case study’ presentation at International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne yesterday.


While according to Erickson this approach is no different from working across a multi-disciplinary business without business units sitting in silos, it is often difficult to implement on the ground.


“Technically we would look at the five system - supply, demand, people, governance and improvement – and how automation would impact them. However we found that consequences began to appear generally when we start introducing people,” said Eriksen with a smile. 


For Roy Hill, automation has the power to blur the lines between KPI’s and responsibilities from one area of the business to another.


The company began their autonomous drills journey in April 2017 and currently has a fleet of nine drills that have been retrofitted with automation.


When you introduce new technology, it can be seen as a magic tool however the new technology can end up causing problems due to the company spending more on the innovation rather than fixing the process, highlighting and developing the workforce and developing the communication between teams. 


“A system thinking (like Roy Hill’s) has enabled us to understand the relationships between all the maintenance teams."


"There were at least seven different teams that were involved in delivering support and maintenance to the drills. Understanding those relations and hand-offs was helping to build a sense of collaboration and had a direct impact on the availability on drills.” 


“We also had to adapt quickly and doing that and doing that involved using visualisation techniques, which allowed out supervisors to easily see, understand and then report to their crew about the last 24 hours and what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours,” said Eriksen. 


The technology has also helped Roy Hill understand the less apparent implications such as drills were more productive than expected and encouraged mine planning to adopt more precise and faster planning.


Roy Hill’s change to a system thinking approach has given the workforce the ability to change for the improvement however to get there Erickson is quick to point out that implementation requires a 70% change in management change and a 30% change in technology. This involved communicating with those on the ground and encouraging people to have an open mind and be flexible to change.


“Our drilling and blasting precision is higher. In fact we’ve effectively realised 14% increase with a small reduction in headcount in drilling but no redundancies,” summarised Eriksen.

Read the article online at:

You might also like


Electrification in Mining virtual conference

Join us on 16 April 2024 for Global Mining Review's first Electrification in Mining event is an interactive virtual conference, focusing on electrification as the future of sustainable mining and exploring the innovative approaches and technologies being developed to facilitate its implementation.

Register for FREE »


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):


This article has been tagged under the following:

Australian mining news