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Frank Pedretti: Simple ideas with big impact

Frank Pedretti’s reputation for mixing his sound technical knowledge with an unrelenting passion for quarrying has earned him the title as the 2019 IQA Quarry Manager of the Year. The Boral manager reflects on career achievements that have led him to this point.

The adage “to stand still is to go backwards” is one that is pertinent to quarrying. For operations to demonstrate best practice and maximise productivity, they need an innovator and visionary at the helm with the determination to see projects to the end.

Frank Pedretti is an operator who, according to his peers, boasts these credentials plus more. As such, the experienced quarry manager and mentor is the deserved recipient of the 2019 IQA Quarry Manager of the Year Award (less than 10 full-time employees category – or <10FTE).

The quarry support manager for Boral in South Australia (SA) and former manager of Lobethal Quarry received the prestigious accolade at the IQA 2019 Conference in Geelong. Each year the award, sponsored by Metso, recognises an individual quarry operator who has shown personal commitment and leadership in occupational health and safety (OHS) and demonstrated broad industry knowledge of areas of safety, risk, environment and operations.

According to his colleagues, Pedretti is renowned for once leading the most engaged and high performing team within Boral’s SA business. He has also carved out a reputation for implementing low cost continuous improvements. His simple ideas have had a big impact on safety and productivity across numerous Boral operations.

“In my final years of working, to get this award is really satisfying and has put the icing on the cake of my career. As much as I want to retire, I enjoy and love what I do,” the 66-year-old said, after being nominated by his Boral colleagues.

For Pedretti, receiving the award is the ultimate validation of a career that began in 1975 as a 21-year-old driller. Back then, he left his home in Broken Hill, on the western border of New South Wales, for SA to work for Boral, known as Quarry Industries at the time, before venturing into concrete production.

A few years later, in 1984, he realised a brighter future awaited in quarrying, prompting his return to Boral. The move set him on the path to becoming an integral part of the company’s SA business where today his 36 years of industry expertise are not only sought out by other quarry managers, but by people in all levels of the company.

Frank Pedritti (left) was presented with the 2019 IQA Quarry Manager of the Year Award
by Anita Waihi, the capital sales specialist for aggregates for Metso, the award sponsor.

Raising the standard

One of Pedretti’s proudest achievements has been his 22-year tenure as manager of Lobethal Quarry in the Adelaide Hills, a position he departed in July 2018 to assume his current mentoring role as Boral’s SA quarry support manager.

Under his tutelage, Lobethal was transformed into an automated, highly efficient operation that is recognised as the cleanest and safest fixed plant area within Boral’s SA business.

A major factor in this transformation was a $4 million plant upgrade in 2015. Pedretti oversaw the project management and delivered on time and on budget with no injuries.

“We had a very old crushing plant, part of it came from when they built Tullamarine Airport, so that’s how old it was,” he said.
“We eventually built a new crushing plant that was fully automated, so the operators can sit in the crusher cabin and operate it from a screen rather than walking around and pushing buttons.”

According to Pedretti, a key feature of the plant was its programmable logic controller (PLC) system that automatically controlled the speed of material being fed into the crusher. This reduced spills and ensured optimum crusher operation. “It keeps the crushers choke-fed so you get a better shape and a better product,” he said. The Lobethal upgrade also involved an integrated water spray system for dust reduction, which was automatically activated when motors and beltweighers detected extra loading on the conveyors.

As a result, under Pedretti’s guidance, Lobethal Quarry led operational equipment effectiveness (OEE) in Boral Australia, consistently achieving more than 90 per cent OEE.

From a strategic perspective, he also worked closely with Boral’s National Resource Group to understand the quality of the reserve at Lobethal and was instrumental in identifying new areas of extraction and management of overburden.

“Everything we processed was a sellable product, right from the dust to the aggregates,” Pedretti said. “The only waste we generated was when we washed the stone at Lobethal, which created a fine slurry, but in that instance we let that dry out to be blended back into a road base material.”

Frank Pedritti (third from left) presents a copy of the CCAA National Environmental Innovation Award
at the sales-only Murray Bridge Quarry.

Shaping safety culture

Pedretti prides himself on prioritising safety ahead of productivity. He was a key figure in shaping the safety culture at Lobethal, which is yet to experience a lost time injury [LTI] incident in five years.

He ensures his team is aware of potential hazards before they begin a job by encouraging them to observe their worksite. “Striving for safety is a very important part [of my job] and something I’ll continue to drive until I retire. Don’t say you’re going to fix it the next day.”

According to his peers, Pedretti sets high standards and is uncompromising in this approach. Hence, he leads an inclusive culture to ensure no potential improvements go unmissed.

An example of this was the moment a team leader approached him concerned with lifting heavy wear plates into the crushing plant. They could only rely on wrapping the hand around the edge of the plate, leading to potential pinch points or injury. Pedretti listened and improved the safety of this manual lifting procedure by implementing magnetic plate grabs, making them easier to handle.

“Seven years later and they still use them to carry around these plates that can weigh anywhere from 40kg to 100kg,” he said. “I’m a believer in people. Every idea doesn’t always work, but it’s about listening and communicating. Being positive and having trust in the team and understanding their needs.”

Leading environmental management

Due to Lobethal Quarry’s location in the Adelaide Hills, the site is frequently exposed to rainfall, posing a significant water management challenge.

Sustainable water management is a key environmental focus at Lobethal Quarry, as well as the removal and reshaping of overburden.

The quarry is licensed to receive concrete returns, so Pedretti devised a plan to use tens of thousands of cubic metres of virgin materials – which were destined for landfill – to build concrete spoon drains along the haul road network. The measure has prevented erosion and improved the quality of wastewater from the quarry.

With no mains water, the quarry is now able to control the flow of water into the pit before it is used for dust suppression purposes and in the production of road base.

Pedretti also spied an opportunity to use the recycled concrete to prevent trip hazards around the site. The recycled material has been laid under crushing and screening plant to make it the cleanest and safest fixed plant area in Boral’s SA business.

“Lobethal is a very wet part of SA, so being a wet plant and always having a lot of spill, it took a lot of time to clean up. Now by hosing the concrete down it keeps the plant clean and tidy, there are no trip hazards and they have nice concrete to walk around on instead of sloppy mud,” he said.

“I got a lot of feedback from people visiting the site who couldn’t believe how tidy it was, just because of the housekeeping of all of my guys. It’s something I also installed in my team, including with their machinery and vehicles. The bottom line is they probably spend more time in and around these machines than they do at home, so I ask them to treat everything as if it’s their own.”

Driving industry improvement

Despite his achievements at Lobethal, Pedretti’s fingerprints can be found on innovative solutions in other areas of the Boral business.

In 1996, while still managing other quarries in SA, Pedretti was asked to lead a Boral project to reopen the Mount Bundey Quarry, 100km southeast of Darwin, Northern Territory, .

The operation was contracted to supply sealing and concrete aggregate and road base for infrastructure related to the construction of the Darwin to Adelaide railway line.

“I used to fly in and out while also juggling my work managing at Lobethal and Murray Bridge,” he said.

His expertise was also outsourced to Boral’s Murray Bridge Quarry in SA where he oversaw the installation of a solar system to power the weighbridge and offices, as well as the development of a water recycling system.

With Murray Bridge being a sales-only site, the team reduced operating costs and power and water consumption to almost nil. The work earned Pedretti and his team a Cement Concrete and Aggregates (CCAA) National Environmental Innovation Award in 2017, culminating in one of his proudest accomplishments.

Elsewhere, at the Stirling North Quarry in SA, Pedretti demonstrated his shrewd streak following a sales inquiry related to thermal sand for the Lincoln Gap Wind Farm near Port Augusta.

The operation had the necessary low conductivity sand in its reserve but could not automatically take on the contract because it was running at full capacity to supply aggregate for other customers. Pedretti swiftly organised a contractor screen to process the pit material and produce the sand. It met the customer’s requirements and was used to cover the high voltage cables connecting the wind turbines to the transformers.

In total, 7500 tonnes of material was supplied to the project, with the leftover rock sent to Stirling North’s main plant to produce concrete aggregates for an additional six weeks. Pedretti’s ability to spot the opportunity generated $124,000 in additional revenue.

“We managed to sell just under 10,000 tonnes of material we weren’t expecting,” he said. “A bit of luck came our way, I suppose, as well as a little bit of knowledge of the sites that we look after.”

Mentoring the next generation

Such examples demonstrate why Boral has been so keen not to lose Pedretti to retirement too quickly. In 2018, the company recognised this and – as a strategic move – redeployed him from his post at Lobethal Quarry to his current role as SA quarry support manager. Now he mentors six quarry managers in the state and is often called upon by experienced operators for advice.

In appointing him to this role, his direct manager at the time, Boral SA quarries operations manager Rodney Kazem, said: “Frank’s passion for what he does is contagious and he has taken on what initially was a daunting task for him and fully embraced the opportunities it has given him to work with different people and sites. His redeployment and the expansion of his role has been extremely successful.”

Pedretti’s new role takes him to sites across SA – from Whyalla down to Mount Gambia on the southeast Victorian border. While it may take some time to get used to the driving (he has clocked 90,000km in 18 months), he feels at home advising operators on ways they can improve their sites.

“When you get close to retirement you can tend to get a bit stale, but since I’ve been promoted into this new role it’s given me a new lease of life and has got the brain back into gear,” he said.

As part of his role, Pedretti has trained his replacement at Lobethal Quarry and has recruited a new manager at Whyalla Quarry. He has trained them on several disciplines, including safety management systems, customer management, budgets and costs, preventative maintenance and Boral systems.

“The manager who’s taken over Lobethal [James Magarey], I don’t know how many times he has thanked me. He says he’s walked into a really good site, with a great safety culture. But I can’t take all of the credit, a lot of it is the guys you work with, I can only point them in the right direction. I started the job and now they’re finishing it,” he said.

At Whyalla, Pedretti has also helped implement site improvements that separate pedestrians and vehicles at the weighbridge carpark. He also helped widen the outgoing roadway so truck drivers can safely tarp their trucks when exiting the weighbridge. He also oversaw plant improvements, which raised a cable tray by 1.5 metres, allowing better access for workers and a skid steer to keep the site clean.

What’s next?

When Pedretti was presented with his award at the IQA’s 62nd annual conference, he received a framed certificate of his IQA Quarry Manager of the Year Award and a $3000 contribution towards a quarrying-related study tour.

He plans to travel to New Zealand later this year to attend the QuarryNZ 2020 conference, which will be held in Wellington from 15 to 17 July, 2020.

He hopes he can continue to motivate other quarry managers until he retires.

“I want to drive around the quarries in New Zealand and see their best practices and how they manage safety,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll learn something I didn’t know in my 36 years [working in the industry] and also see what they do better, to bring ideas back to South Australia.”

For more information about the IQA Awards, and how to apply for an award or nominate a peer, visit  •

By Myles Hume

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