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Self-reflection sees everyone a winner at IQA Awards

The IQA has a way of finding the industry’s best and brightest, even when they’re as humble and unassuming as Chris Hamilton. As a winner of not one but two IQA Awards, he is just one example of the industry’s not-so-hidden gems.

With the annual IQA Conference and Awards on the horizon – to take place in Newcastle, New South Wales on 29-31 March, 2022 – nominations will close for all eight awards on 18 January.

Once finalists are locked in, the winner will be announced in front of hundreds of industry peers and mentors, which Hamilton knows to be an honour and a privilege.

He was lucky enough to win Awards in consecutive years – the 2014 Caterpillar Continuous Improvement Award, and the 2015 Weir Minerals Young Members Award, both of which recognised his mountains of work.

While the former award was discontinued after 2015 and the latter after 2016, both awards – and indeed all current IQA Awards – recognise a unique set of attributes in their nominees, making them all the more important to those holding the certificate on stage.

The Continuous Improvement Award, for example, was bestowed for an individual’s contribution to improving an Australian extractive business through continuous improvement.

At the time of the awards, Hamilton was one of Holcim’s operations improvement managers for national aggregates and was in his ninth year with the company.

It was such a role that led Hamilton to spearhead a major heavy mobile equipment fleet management program which saw his team shuffle approximately 100 pieces of equipment across Holcim Australia’s quarry portfolio.

The process took about 12 months and involved around 40 different sites across the country.

This process required a number of different pieces to come together, including telemetry, on-board information and right-sizing fleets through a holistic approach, Hamilton explained.

“Typically, a site has a number of loaders, a digger and a couple of trucks, and each quarry seems the same as the next,” he told Quarry. “But when you take a closer look, you realise if you swap a digger from here and a loader from there, you can find benefits for several sites at the same time.”

The year-long program involved a number of on-site, physical reviews for Holcim’s larger sites in particular.

Hamilton said the program found multiple benefits for the company by the time he and his team were through with it.

“We performed activity cost analyses to understand where we were struggling, where we had high idle time versus high utilisation, and then implemented the program to improve costs and productivity across the business,” he said.

Of course, as is his nature, Hamilton said no such program or resulting award could be accomplished without a supportive environment and capable colleagues.

“A lot of the awards look like and are individual awards per se. But to execute anything to win an award – be it in management, safety, continuous improvement or whichever – it is a team effort,” Hamilton said.

“It involves working in an industry and for an organisation that believes in continuous improvement for one. You can’t execute projects if the company doesn’t believe in it.

“Then, to be successful you have to earn it in showing that those initiatives are working and making a positive difference to the business.”

Hamilton speaks at the IQA National Conference in 2015.


To make a strong submission for the IQA Awards, and to show your work in the industry is worthy of recognition, a suitable amount of effort should be spent, according to Hamilton.

While the 10-plus hours he spent working on his submission may not be viable for some, he stressed the importance of putting your best foot forward.

“You don’t want to submit something that took 45 minutes to type up. You should want to submit something you’re really proud of because you’re representing yourself and your organisation,” Hamilton said.

Also important to consider, for those unsure whether to nominate themselves – or indeed others – is the experience of recognising the good work being done throughout the industry.

Hamilton said this part of the process was a real highlight for him.

“Even if you don’t win, as I haven’t on a couple of occasions, it’s still quite rewarding to have some inward reflection on what you’ve accomplished personally and within your team,” he said.

“If everyone goes into it with the view to just enjoy pulling the information together and have some self-reflection, everyone’s already a winner.”

But in 2015, there was, of course, one official winner of the Weir Minerals Young Members Award, and Hamilton was called on stage once more.


The IQA’s Young Members Network was established in 2012 to provide the association’s members under the age of 35 – and all those that are interested in the quarry industry – with guidance, support and an opportunity to develop their quarrying careers.

Having been supported through the industry for almost 10 years to 2015, Hamilton saw himself fit and willing to impart a thing or two upon the next youth in line.

Hamilton and others from around the country and the industry were tasked with forming a committee to align some ideas which would benefit their peers and pupils.

“This was an opportunity for us to reflect on what it was like as we grew through the industry,” Hamilton said.

“There’s not often a lot of young people at IQA events, so it was a good opportunity for us to share our experiences while providing mentoring and contacts within the industry.

“We hosted a couple of New South Wales events every year as I thought the social element was as important as the professional element. The latter involved tours of sites, such as PLDC and the Newcastle coal handling facilities.”

Once again, Hamilton credited Holcim for supporting him in his time on the Young Members Network committee, as the company made it easy for him to take part.

“They’re the small things that really matter because without that buy-in from your company it just undermines how much people are willing to put in and give back.”

Hamilton receives the Caterpillar Continuous Improvement Award in 2014.


For both awards, Hamilton humbly received some prize money to be used on training and self-improvement within the industry.

True to form, he took the opportunity with both hands and used his winnings with that of the 2014 Caterpillar Award to take a tour of the manufacturer’s founding facilities in Illinois, United States.

“We saw a lot of their manufacturing facilities and a number of other integral business centres including their R&D centre and training centres,” Hamilton said.

“It was great, we got a look into their whole world from design to manufacturing, quality and how they put out a very high number of quality products every year.”

The Weir Minerals reward was spent by Hamilton to cover an all-expenses paid trip to attend the IQA’s national conference in Melbourne in 2016 – a joint event with Cement, Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA).

Hamilton said it was yet another chance for him to continue his ethos of continuous improvement.

“I got to attend all the presentations, the dinners, the awards, all the plenary sessions and all the keynote speakers,” he said.

“You come away from those events with a whole host of new information and about half a notebook of notes and ideas to dive into over the next 12 months.”


These were just some of the kinds of experiences made possible by a submission to the annual IQA Awards, with eight categories of varying criteria up for grabs in 2022.

Study tours, networking opportunities and a lot of self-reflection are all available to those willing to take the time to submit or nominate their peers.

Hamilton said there is no use in doubting yourself or your capabilities, and he takes every chance he can to uplift his peers at Holcim and in the wider industry.

“I think most people – me included – are their own harshest critic and sometimes we don’t realise how much of a positive impact we’re having on others,” Hamilton said.

“So don’t hold back if you’re umming and ahhhing about what you’ve done and whether your efforts are good enough.

“Don’t question if you’re wasting your time submitting and just have confidence that you are doing good things.

“And if you recognise those around you are equally worthy of an award, take some time out to pat them on the back and help to compile their submission,” Hamilton added.

“Personally, I’ve felt that supporting someone to submit for the awards is just as rewarding, if not more so,” he concluded.

“The kinds of conversations you can have when you tell someone they’re worthy of submitting and watching them do some internal reflection is super rewarding for everyone involved.”

The submission deadline for IQA Awards closes at 5pm AEDST on Tuesday, 18 January, 2022. The Awards will be presented at the IQA National Conference in Newcastle, from 29 to 31 March, 2022. For more information about the Awards and to apply or make a nomination, visit

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