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The GT205S multi-frequency screen has innovation at its heart, combining the technology of conventional incline and high frequency screens.
The GT205S multi-frequency screen has innovation at its heart, combining the technology of conventional incline and high frequency screens.

Encouraging 'art' in processing

In standardising and streamlining extractive work to reduce cost and increase productivity, producers should never rule out creative, innovative solutions in their operations.

We don’t have to look far to see diversity in how we approach material processing. Our industry is not just a group of producers, contractors, dealers and suppliers. We are part of an industry of artists.

It is often noted that aggregate producers are extremely creative, resourceful people. One only needs to travel from one job site to the next and talk to the operators about their plants. Each will selflessly share a unique story of how they overcame a specific challenge by “modifying this” or “fabricating that”. They are also quick to recognise those key people who support their operations and keep them profitable.

Accordingly, successful material processing requires creative processing techniques and a solid support network.

However, based on discussions with customers and dealers from every corner of the globe, a common concern is being raised. While examples vary, it all boils down to an apparent trend of the industry trying to streamline and standardise processes everywhere.

While “lean” programs intended to drive excess process waste (ie cost) out of operations are a very good thing, many companies have been streamlining, rationalising and standardising to the point where in some cases the creative spirit is being driven out of the operation.

"Successful material processing requires creative processing techniques and a solid support network."

What’s more, processes are often being outsourced to other parties that did not design or provide technical support for the products or services they are providing. Many companies seem more focused on the balance sheet than meeting the diverse needs of the industry.

The extractive industry has a tradition of passing on technical knowledge and an “all hands on deck” mentality as it relates to plant design, fabrication, commissioning, application optimisation, troubleshooting, repairs and training. Despite the brand of machines, the process we use or the kind of material we process, these values are essential and should be rooted in our culture.

The message is simple. Whether we are manufacturers, suppliers or producers, we must remain close to our customers and service their needs. If our industry takes a “shopping cart” approach to selling replacement parts, crushed aggregates or complete plants, our customers will have fewer options to be creative and will have to work harder to find the support needed to maintain their success.

My mentor once told me perfection in our industry is a goal line we’ll never cross. Material specs will evolve, as will travel restrictions, engine emission requirements, increased amount of clay in new deposits, percentage of recyclable materials acceptable for construction specs, etc.

As the needs of our industry will always change, so will our need to refine our products, services and processes. While there is much we can do to predict and engineer the variables of our industry into the science of the technology, it is difficult to imagine an industry that provides a minimum of technical support or streamlines a single plant design that adequately meets the diverse needs of the quarry, the mine or the recycled aggregates contractor.

As a colleague recently reminded me, “this is still a relationship business”. We will always need to communicate and collaborate to maintain our creativity and support one another to realise mutual success. The question then becomes, who among us is focused on meeting the needs of the industry by willingly and openly being creative and resourceful, or who is committed to producing low cost widgets in an offshore factory?

Someone once suggested successful individuals “run with the winners” and give negativity a wide berth. Here are the qualities that successful individuals and organisations in our industry all seem to possess:

  • A commitment to technical knowledge and understanding the needs of our industry.

  • “Product champions” – or people who are passionate about being experts in process machinery.

  • An understanding that a rapid response to technical service support and quick delivery of spare parts means everything.

  • A respect of all individuals, with the ability to listen intently to their needs, regardless of title.

  • A cultural commitment to safety and ongoing training.

  • A willingness to do whatever it takes to keep a plant operational.

Obviously the above reflects a utopia that does not exist. Nobody is capable of “batting a thousand”. However, there are many in our industry who still believe in these principles, and these are the folks we should gravitate towards. They are the artists and the servant leaders that keep our industry successful.











ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Smith

Paul Smith is the international marketing manager for the Astec Aggregate & Mining Group.









Thursday, 18 October, 2018 11:26pm
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