Roy Hill’s culture of collaboration

A Kal Tire team member during inspection.

The success of the Roy Hill iron ore operation has relied on many factors, including relationships with mining services companies like Kal Tire. Ben Creagh visits the site.

Collaboration is at the core of Roy Hill’s relationships with its contractors and suppliers.

The massive 55 million tonne a year iron ore operation in the Pilbara, Western Australia has an environment where mining services providers can play a role in helping it achieve safety and operational excellence.

Chief executive Barry Fitzgerald sets this culture by regularly meeting with Roy Hill’s mining services partners to reinforce the opportunity they have to be more than a supplier at the operation.

Roy Hill pursues this contribution on several levels, from mining and maintenance to training and information technology (IT). Canada’s Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group is one mining services provider that has accepted the challenge to offer support and innovation in these areas.

Kal Tire has contributed in this way by building a long-term partnership that has delivered improvements to tyre supply, maintenance and management processes.

Roy Hill’s tyre management relationship was originally formed with Australian company Klinge & Co (before it was acquired by Kal Tire in 2016) on a consulting agreement.

Klinge set the foundation of the partnership that exists between Roy Hill and Kal Tire today. Many of the employees who were part of the early relationship remain at the site, or still have an association with the iron ore operation.

Roy Hill manager, mobile maintenance, Brenden Pool, a member of Roy Hill since development started in 2011, reflects on Klinge’s role in the early days of the project.

“We had the Klinge guys involved as consultants way back in 2012,” Pool tells Australian Mining during a site visit at Roy Hill. “It was when we had the last tyre shortage and we brought the guys in for some advice and a sanity check on what we were planning.”

The relationship then expanded, becoming official when Roy Hill awarded Klinge with the tyre maintenance contract in 2014.

Safety first

Klinge’s role during the project phase included providing input for the design of Roy Hill’s tyre management facility, which had to be developed as a safe environment for the entire lifecycle of the operation.

Its recommendations for the facility’s layout and traffic management system have left a strong safety legacy for both companies, Pool says.

“The design of the traffic management system was reviewed on a number of occasions by Klinge. They had a lot of input into the way it is segregated into heavy vehicle and light vehicle areas,” Pool says.

Kal Tire general manager – western region, Miles Rigney, believes the layout set the basis for consistent safety performance from the tyre management team, which has not recorded a lost-time injury (LTI) in three years.

Part of the initial team at Roy Hill, Rigney says having early involvement at a greenfields project is beneficial from a safety perspective.

Rigney describes tyre maintenance as one of the most dangerous activities at a mine, with the risk of tyre failure being something that must be reduced through an effective layout.

“While it is not possible to eliminate all risks associated with changing tyres completely, something we have to do is mitigate the risk,” Rigney says. “We thought about the potential harm of what a catastrophic tyre failure can do to people and how we can eliminate people from that area.

“By strategically locating the tyre maintenance facility away from high density, or areas of any density, for people, we eliminate the potential consequences of it causing harm to a passer-by at least 100m away.”

Kal Tire’s focus on safety at Roy Hill was rewarded this year when the team won the company’s coveted Tom Foord Award for Safety Excellence, competing against its nearly 200 operations across five continents.

The Tom Foord award, which honours Kal Tire’s founder, recognises safety performance, team development, training, the implementation of unique safety elements, helping to create profitability, innovation and tyre performance.

Delivering innovation

Pool says Roy Hill’s collaboration with its tyre management provider has gone to another level from an innovation perspective since Kal Tire took control.

Roy Hill and Kal Tire complement each other through their joint drive to develop and introduce innovation, he adds.

“The Kal Tire business isn’t far from us. Our chairman and CEO are keen on the innovation and improvement part of the business – we aren’t afraid of investing money to give an idea an opportunity to succeed,” Pool says.

Kal Tire regularly offers new ‘productivity tools’ that have been developed and tested at its Canadian innovation centre to Roy Hill.

These innovations have proven that productivity gains can be achieved while also improving a site’s safety performance.

Kal Tire this year introduced its Gravity Assist System, a device that acts like a mechanical arm to hold and swivel 36kg torque guns like a weightless extension of the technician’s body, removing the need to fasten almost 70 lug nuts while holding the equipment.

Further evidence of Kal Tire’s commitment to sharing innovation with Roy Hill was the provision of the tyre deflation tool, which can reduce the time it takes to deflate a 57-inch ultra-class tyre from approximately 30 minutes to 15.

Of the 1,738 business improvement ideas submitted at Roy Hill in 2017, this innovation was awarded the top level 1 idea of the year by the Roy Hill business improvement team for the extra truck productivity made possible through more efficient tyre change times.

“With their innovation centre and what we are trying to do with our smart mining initiative we are very aligned – much more than the traditional tyre management schemes we’ve had,” Pool says.

Tyre management training

Roy Hill’s relationship with Kal Tire has evolved to include training, with one of its apprentices spending time at the tyre management facility to understand more about that part of operations.

As skills shortages re-emerge in the Western Australian mining industry, Roy Hill will work with the contactor to help broaden the knowledge-base of its workforce.

Kal Tire also uses Roy Hill as a training ground for its staff. Its supervisor at the operation, Owen Cherry, has developed into his role since being part of the original team at the site, which has grown from a handful of workers to approximately 20 staff.

As a leader of the group, Cherry guides the development of this team and will oversee training of the Roy Hill apprentices that work with Kal Tire.

“We had our first apprentice come over from Roy Hill and that was a great opportunity to show the apprentice what’s involved in our job, the risks that we deal with every day, plus an insight into what we do at the pit,” Cherry says.

“I’ve always had a bit of a leadership role but nothing like this one. With the help of Miles, the learning has been fast. When Kal Tire took over it was a big eye opener for the Klinge team, but they coached me through how to present their products to Roy Hill and that was a big help.”

Roy Hill training superintendent Mick Davies says a contractor’s role in a training capacity at large mine sites should not be overlooked as they provide a particular expertise.

Davies believes the mining industry has gradually become more aware of how contractors can share their specific knowledge with operators to develop a more skilled workforce.

“There shouldn’t be a limit to some of their training because they are there as the resident experts in the tyre work,” Davies says. “It’s important to share those operating techniques that Roy Hill generally don’t have a concept of, and how that impacts the performance of that tyre.

“Collaboratively they went through a lot of processes and we were continually talking to the guys about those sorts of things.”

All Kal Tire team members have access to the Kal Tire Learning Management System (LMS) which, depending on their position, may have up to 300 specific training modules to suit their specific role. The LMS system has been embraced by the Kal Tire team at Roy Hill who recognise the value of having these online resources made available to them.

But the training doesn’t stop there, following successful completion of a module, the team member must then demonstrate what they have learned and receive sign-off from a supervisor.

The LMS training is in addition to the national competency based training that Kal Tire delivers inhouse as well as internal / external safety leadership training.

Collaborative future

Roy Hill has this year expanded its fleet of Hitachi EH5000 trucks at the operation, with more than 70 large haulers now in operation at the mine.

The 326t Hitachi machines join Roy Hill’s fleet of Cat 793Fs, but provide higher capacity to complement the largest diggers in operation.

Kal Tire has played an important role assembling the Hitachi and Cat trucks to ensure they are efficiently incorporated at the mine.

Roy Hill superintendent reliability Samreen Rahman, who manages the Kal Tire contact, says the experience and hands-on approach of the tyre management team has been valuable when introducing the trucks.

“We involved Kal Tire’s team in the selection of the right tyres,” Rahman says. “They were able to guide us in taking the right decision, so we’re not just considering the technicalities, but we’re also considering other factors, such as payload constraints.

“When we choose the right tyre it needs to meet the payload of the truck, what’s the potential if the payload goes a little over, and what would be the potential on the tyre if you go for a lesser payload capacity tyre?”

Kal Tire’s involvement with the Hitachi and Cat trucks will continue as Roy Hill’s converts them into autonomous vehicles in the coming years.

The company has already started its autonomous journey through the conversion of nine Atlas Copco Viper drills and will eventually do the same to its haul trucks.

Pool expects Roy Hill’s ongoing move into ‘smart mining’ and technologies such as autonomous haulage systems (AHS) will need input from the likes of Kal Tire and other contractors.

“The trucks will be the next big project for us. To do that our tyres will get pushed to the limit, they are not getting the time to cool down,” Pool says.

“That’s when we will draw on Kal Tire experience. What they are using and what tyre pressure monitoring systems they know out there.”

As Roy Hill heads towards the next stage of the automation project, it can be assured that a contractor like Kal Tire will be ready to join it on the journey.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of Australian Mining.

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