Sunday, 20 October 2019

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End of Year Networking Events: Key Themes and Discussion Points
Austmine Limited

End of Year Networking Events: Key Themes and Discussion Points

During the month of November, we hosted our End of Year Networking events, where we brought together our members and mining contacts to discuss a variety of issues that are currently pertinent to our industry. Thank you to everyone who joined us and participated, your insights have provided us and the whole community with a lot to think about. For those who couldn’t join us, or those who would like a re-cap, please see below for a summary of the various points to come out of the discussions.

Business Relationships Vs Business Partnerships

A note was made that all partnerships are indeed a relationship, but not all relationships lead to a partnership in business.

All states who participated, came back to a common theme in business relationships – that trust and honesty is critical to success. This must be earnt by both parties to transition the relationship to a partnership. It was commented that a low point in your business, or indeed the cycle, can be negotiated and managed if there are strong relationships built on trust. However, it can be hard to maintain a relationship long enough for it to become a partnership with some of the large miners due to procurement rules.

Which lead one group to ask, do procurement rules destroy partnerships? And how can we as an industry remedy or work with that? They didn’t have the answer, so I open it out to the wider community, if you have any thoughts on this, please comment on our LinkedIn page to continue this discussion.

Another group looked at what a successful business partnership looks like, so that they could work backwards and break it down into achievable milestones.

  • Understand the customer and their issues (solutions are only valuable if there is a problem)
  • What are the drivers behind the scenes
  • Prove the need
  • Have honesty in contracts

All groups around the country felt that METS should lead by example, building strong working partnerships together to demonstrate the value in collaboration.  It was noted that many small companies apply uncoordinated approaches, which creates a bottleneck. Instead, companies should work together to create a strategy that solves the end-user’s business needs. Further, METS companies who partner together lend one-another credibility which builds trust with the mining companies. At the very least, as one group said, METS could give referrals for one another to build a stronger community of trust.

Digital Mining

This was one of our most popular groups showing that it is a hot topic for our industry. Austmine would also like to say thank you to both Rachel Parker from QUT and Mark Jones from METS Ignited who facilitated these discussions in Brisbane and Sydney.

As a starting point, one group broke down the various cultures that they wish to change.

  • Traditional thinking
  • Communication
  • Poor culture frameworks
  • Competitive paradigm

In looking to create a shift in culture, Rachel Parker from QUT asked her group these two questions.

1.       What actions could be taken across the wider mining/METS sector to drive innovation performance?

2.       What actions could you take in your own business to develop the key drivers of innovation performance?

Here are some of the solutions that all three groups came up with:

  • Culture change needs to be lead from the top, with a focus on leading not managing. Leaders are those that listen and encourage.
  • We need to change from having a culture of ownership to a culture of access, enabling everyone to have their ideas heard and considered.
  • Ideas should come from everyone in the organisation and should be funnelled directly to the relevant people instead of being caught in management levels.
  • Use a common language within a company, or industry. Enables easy transfer of data and knowledge.
  • Establish a fluid working environment to attract millennials, which will bring in new skill sets and thinking.
  • Creating a realistic work/life balance.
  • Ensuring that there is also a balance between people and technology – considered the impact of automation before implementation.

There will always be a resistance to change. This is generally down to fear: fear for careers, fear of effort, fear of the end game, fear of failure. However, the correct culture, one that puts in place change management solutions can overcome these fears. It is important that any culture is flexible enough to handle bumps in the road as well as success.

Rachel Parker also wrote this great article for Austmine on the Innovation Challenges in Mining

Culture of Change

Around the country this group had a lot of cross over with Culture of Change and Diversity of Thought, centring more on the people side of digital mining, rather than the technology side. This once again highlights that one of the most pressing issues facing our industry is ensuring we have the right people with the right skill sets.

  • Skill shortage, looking outside of mining to educate our current work force and to attract the next generation.
  • Creating a culture of digital transformation that runs across the whole organisation.

One group looked at creating a digital strategy, identifying 6 key areas that need to be a focus if a company is to implement successfully.

1.       Awareness – look at what is possible

2.       Education – bring in the next generation, educate the current ones

3.       Adoption – learn from who is already doing it (may be in other industries)

4.       Leadership – championed from the top down

5.       Change management – engagement and transition

6.       Production – action!

Another group commented on how KPIs can be a deterrence to creating a digital strategy as results can not always be easily measured. Data silos were discussed along with the need for cross business integration.

Security was also a hot topic all around the country, ranging from discussions about Mac Vs PC, to cloud Vs data centres. No solutions were apparent on this topic as the groups were neatly divided in their opinions on what was more secure. We would love to hear from you on this, please comment in our LinkedIn group on whether you think the cloud or data centres are more secure.

The Connected Mine

For a couple of groups this centred around data, and how it is/isn’t being used. To have a truly connected mine, one group suggested that the below aspects of data integrity have to be addressed first:

  • Qualifying data and predicting the future state of play
  • Turning data into visualised dashboards relevant to the user
  • Realtime data and optimisation of process
  • Operational visibility across the siloed function areas

Once again, the topic of people was addressed. A connected mine would mean that people on the ground would be able to address issues quickly and efficiently, the human error risk would be greatly reduced and there would be an increase to safety.

Like the other groups, the connected mine discussed how a cultural change had to happen for it to be fully embraced. All groups spent time discussing this, covering similar topics as mentioned in the culture of change above. 

Diversity of thought

A point of interest, as the topic of people was clearly the most pertinent aspect to each group discussion, it was interesting that in the pre-event group selections this was the least popular session, and yet every group mentioned that ensuring they had the right people was integral to the future of our industry.

In one group there was no gender diversity, which they felt was a consistent sign of our industry, despite attempted changes over the last few years. This group attempted to discuss the gender gap raising various ways to attract more women to the work force. However, they predominantly focused on race, age and skill diversity and the impacts this can have on an organisation.

All groups agreed that diversity must come from the top down. That looking at the majority of board members in our industry that there is a stark under representation of gender, race and experience. Addressing this is the first step to changing a company’s culture to be more inclusive.

As demonstrated by the group selection at this event, there is a big disconnect between rhetoric and practice. Often the conversation is driven by upper and middle management but when it isn’t followed through with leadership in this area the message fails.

Another area that was highlighted was the lack of students coming through, bringing with them new thinking and culture. A part of this is because our industry has an image problem with the younger generations, but also it may be due to the lack of graduate positions available in METS. 

There was a lot of discussion around traditional management or doing things “the way they have always been done” mindset. All groups discussed how this was a deterrent for attracting diverse skill sets from other industries as well as the next generation, and asked the room to think about how we can change this as an industry?

Once again, thank you to everyone who participated in our End of Year Networking events, we hope that you found value and that you took away at least one new thought process from this event. We would also like to say thank you to all our Loyalty Members who have supported us for over three yeas and were able to join us for the dinner after the event. Wishing you all the best for last days of 2017 and we look forward to working with you in 2018.

Helen Warner, Manager Conference & Events, Austmine

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