BHP embraces technological greatness in changing times

Image: BHP.

BHP vice president technology global transformation Rag Udd has highlighted how leadership, education and the link between humanity and automation are shaping the future of the company and mining industry.

With broadening workforce demographics, cultural challenges and the creation of new roles, Udd believes the nature of work is changing.

Leadership, then, is key in navigating, anticipating, planning and thriving in this new world.

“The need for dynamic, yet decisive leadership has never been so great,” Udd, speaking at the AusIMM Mining Leadership Summit in Sydney, said.

“As leaders, we have a responsibility to create a proactive and positive environment for change that benefits everyone.

“Tomorrow’s leaders will need to be extremely good at learning and adapting, solve problems with data in real-time, bring confidence and stability despite constant change an develop their teams when the future of work is uncertain.”

Udd also spoke of the balance between automation and humanity, along with the skills gap between the workforce and the needs of employers.

“Robots and people can co-exist. In fact, they can be a very effective team if leveraged and deployed appropriately,” Udd said.

BHP’s Jimblebar iron ore mine in Newman, Western Australia runs a fully autonomous fleet of both trucks and drills, while still maintaining an on-site team of over 800 people.

Due to technological advances, significant safety events at the operation have decreased by almost 90 per cent, becoming one of the safest operations in BHP’s portfolio, according to Udd.

“Technology is only as good as the people who run it,” Udd said. “It is not about having the best technology, but great people with the best capabilities.”

The METS Ignited Staying ahead of the game report by the Queensland Government found digital automation technology has the potential to add $74 billion in value to the national economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new jobs.

“Building a strong basis for research and development and skills in digital automation technology is a priority if Australia’s resources industries want to remain internationally competitive in the long run,” Udd said.

“To ensure we set our organisation and our people up for future success, we will continue to invest in skills, training, and education.

“More than ever, development must be a continuous process of life-long learning – one that we are thinking about every day.”

BHP has plans to further introduce automation across its assets, Udd added.

“We see potential for a further 500 autonomous trucks to be introduced across BHP,” Udd said.

“To help us prepare for a potentially autonomous future at Goonyella, we estimate we will provide over 40,000 hours of training across the site.”

BHP is committed to educating its workforce along with partnering with TAFE and Central Queensland University to create traineeships and tertiary qualifications in automation.

“Yes, jobs will change – and some will no longer exist. We know that won’t sit well with everyone. Some will want to keep driving trucks. But what I can say with certainty is that, at BHP, we will invest in our people,” Udd said.

“We want to ensure Queenslanders, especially those who live in the regions where we operate, have access to a cutting-edge education.”

“Critically, we want to equip them with highly sought-after skills and competencies that we know will be needed by industry in the future.”

Change is affecting every industry at a blistering rate, according to Udd.

“We believe those who embrace, adapt and lead through change will thrive well into the future,” Udd concludes.

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