Think outside the box

AVKO Mining has developed an approach to innovation that encourages employees across the company to submit innovative ideas to managers.

The consultative approach aims to push the most innovative ideas through management to benefit contractor and client.

Project, division, and operation managers are expected to follow ideas through to completion, providing the managing director with a proposal that includes budgets, forecasts, and market analysis.

The managing director then makes a decision based on the opinions of his managers, and his own understanding of the business.

An implementation plan is developed and generally a trial is undertaken and monitored.

AVKO’s approach to innovation is evident in the development of a new contract system that was tailored for contract mining applications.

While the system has been used in some other industries, it was not something that AVKO Mining, or their clients, had used before, or even considered.

A new system

A concept for the new contract system was developed only four weeks away from the commencement of a new project, leaving little time to develop methodology for the new system.

Research was limited to discussion in the negotiation of the contract, with talks between both parties exploring knowledge of similar contract systems from other industries, such as the construction industry.

Between the AVKO operations manager and managing director, and with the support of the client’s representative, AVKO developed a contract method over the period of a week.

The contract methodology achieved all of the goals that the company needed to achieve, and was passed on to the client’s legal department to be drawn up as a contract.

By the end of the second week, the company had agreed on all of the terms, and signed the contract.

Two weeks later the company was on-site working towards completion of the project.

The project was completed on time and delivered under budget.

The key difference of this contract method, according to AVKO, was that the client and the contractor were both rewarded, or penalised, depending on how quickly and cheaply the project was completed.

The most important part of the concept enabled both parties to communicate openly and freely to achieve the desired goal.

Openness and honesty were fostered, and as a result, certain issues that developed during the project were dealt with immediately and without prejudice.

At no stage was it beneficial for one party to the detriment of the other with the new contract.

The contract system also allowed flexibility.

Flexibility allows the contractor less risk, and the client reduced costs, if either party is able to develop an idea that could reduce the scope of the work.

The value of this flexibility to a contractor is threefold.

Firstly, it allows the contractor to use financial opportunities to their maximum potential.

Secondly, it allows the contractor to develop methods and ideas that reduce the overall cost of the project without reducing the contractor’s potential margin.

Finally, the contractor builds a culture of continuous improvement within the company.

AVKO started as an airleg mining contractor in 1993, with airleg mining remaining an important part of the business.

This area of mining is often considered the most challenging, and arguably the most rewarding, for an employee to be in.

AVKO now provides a number of services to the mining industry, including airleg and shift supervisor labour hire, underground development, shaft sinking, mechanical and airleg mining.

Highly commended

Leighton Contractors has been servicing the resources sector for more than 30 years, and is highly commended in the 2007 Prospect Awards.

In February 2006 the company purchased the mining assets of Henry Walker Eltin (now operating as HWE Mining), a large-scale materials handling company that has been providing services since 1962.

HWE Mining operates at more than 20 mine sites in Australia and New Zealand, adding to Leighton Contractors’ Mining capabilities in mining all resources, for underground, surface mining, and minerals processing.

Operating at 21 mine sites around Australia and New Zealand, and employing more than 3,000 people, Leighton Contractors’ Mining Division has achieved production and safety milestones including the crushing of 400 million tonnes of iron ore at Yandi.

The mine also achieved an all-time production record in June 2007, producing 155,000 tonnes of product.

The company has poured its 10th tonne of gold at its Challenger operation, a significant achievement given the mine’s original life expectancy and projected capacity.

The mining division currently moves more than 250 million m3 of material a year, and processes more than 95 Mt of iron ore.

The Leighton fleet of equipment includes 256 dump trucks, 63 excavators, 34 loaders, 16 drills, 63 dozers, plus ancillary equipment.

The company employs over 80 apprentices to be trained for equipment maintenance throughout the business.

The company has achieved a number of safety milestones including 5200 days Lost-Time Injury (LTI) free at Darra plant department, 1422 days LTI free at Orebody 23 and 25, and 1270 days LTI free at Yarrie.

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