Screens & Feeders

Is innovation on your resolution list?

As the curtain falls on another year, we often make vows for the new year about how we can improve ourselves ? whether as individuals or at the organisational level. Often, these resolutions simply don?t happen because of time and other pressures but the more often you put them off, the more you risk falling behind.

Individual and organisational improvements are intertwined. If you don?t have an engaged and enthusiastic workforce, you won?t be able to introduce much needed changes to your workplace systems. So how do you advance the lot of your workforce in order to enhance the productivity of your operation?

The key to individual improvement is continuing professional development. As adults, we have to keep on learning so that we can grow as individuals and professionals. For IQA members in particular, the Institute?s Professional Development Program is an important platform for personal and professional development.

As IQA Board member Leanne Parker related at the Institute?s recent annual conference in Townsville, the PDP and the Quarry Management Certification System are vital hooks in retaining industry personnel ? and most importantly those ?rough diamonds? amongst your employees that have served your organisation well and can serve you even better if you recognise their talents.

The key to improvement at the organisational level is, of course, innovation. Yes, that dreaded buzzword is bandied around with almost near abandon these days and implies something breathtakingly dramatic in scope – and hideously expensive.

Yet, as New Inventors host James O?Loughlin revealed at the Townsville conference, you do not have to be especially creative or smart to improve parts of your business and innovations do not have to be grand or unaffordable. He argued innovations can be small, simplify processes, save time and money and raise efficiency and productivity.

Or to use a more specific quarry-related example (my analogy, not Mr O?Loughlin?s), why spend massive amounts of money on a brand new loader with a bigger payload and ?greener? engine if your existing beast could perform the same task in shorter passes and with an interchangeable bucket for the same results?

Sometimes looking at the past can inspire you for the future. A few months ago, I visited Eskilstuna in Sweden, a hub of the European Industrial Revolution and the official birthplace of Volvo Construction Equipment.

One of the industrialists whose work paved the way for Volvo was Johan Munktell, a master engineer and metallurgist who produced minting, printing and munitions presses, sight instrumentation for cannons and steam engines for trains and wagons. His company would go on to manufacture agricultural and construction equipment and evolve into Volvo CE today.

In the 1850s, in an effort to raise productivity in his foundry workers, Munktell took the eccentric step of opening a brewery beside his workshop.

Ironically, he introduced his beer to reduce excessive drinking of spirits in the workplace (his workers were consuming an average 2.7 litres of schnapps per week!). Workers signed a contract that enabled them to consume controlled amounts of beer in working hours in exchange for giving up distilled beverages.

While this practice would be frowned upon today and outlawed by stringent OHS practices, Munktell?s efforts at sobriety are being echoed more than a century later ? local and international brewers have explored the merit of introducing non-alcoholic beer on Australian mine sites for festive functions.

Munktell?s genius reinforces that innovation and employee engagement go hand in hand. As James O?Loughlin emphasised in Townsville, the best way to encourage innovation in an organisational culture is through employees.

Even if their ideas are not especially good, you can thank your employees for their suggestions and encourage them to keep thinking laterally. In turn, you will make your employees feel valued and you will maintain their loyalty. You won?t lose your ?rough diamonds?.

This Christmas, have a think about what you can do to improve your operations and strengthen the allegiance of your workers in the new year.

It may not be as fanciful as it seems.


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