For three months, Deployment Specialists Mathew Bennett and James Fortune were gearing up to deploy a new optimization tool at Greenhills Operations’ wash plant. This new optimization tool uses real-time data to recommend the best operating set points to maximize throughput and yield while balancing ash and moisture. It is the first of its kind in the coal business unit and estimated to return significant value each year as a result of increased clean coal production.
However, just as the team was ready to go live with the new tool in April, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Teck implemented its physical distancing and remote work measures to protect employees and communities. This change required Mathew and James to quickly adapt their approach and find a new way to move forward with the tool’s deployment.
“We were all set to roll this out when the remote work measures were implemented,” said Mathew. “We knew we didn’t want to delay the project, so we decided to pivot away from our reliance on being physically on site for deployment and move to online collaboration to get the tool up and running.”
Mathew and James used online virtual meetings to coordinate, engage with and train crews and the broader implementation team as they worked to put in place a new decision-making tool that uses advanced analytics and machine learning.
The deployment was a big success, and the change in approach provided the team with a number of important learnings, including the need for flexibility. “It’s really important to involve the end user – in this case, the operators – in a meaningful way in the development and deployment of an initiative,” said James. “Given current circumstances, this might require some creative scheduling to ensure coverage so that stakeholders can participate in your meetings and information sessions. But that extra effort and flexibility benefits everyone involved and is definitely worth it.”
Curtis Pynnaken, Processing Supervisor, who worked closely with Mathew and James on the tool, said that the level of engagement from the team helped ensure everyone’s readiness and made the deployment relatively seamless. “The team did a great job of engaging me and my crew,” said Curtis. “One of the things we really appreciated was being able to preview the tool and how it worked – well in advance of the rollout.”
Chelsea Williams, RACE21TM Value Delivery Manager, added, “The team’s approach is a great example of agile collaboration – it allowed them to respond quickly in an uncertain environment.”
While full development of the tool is yet to be completed, Greenhills is already seeing the benefits of improved yield, and the team is excited to complete development so it can be used at other coal operations. They’re also looking forward to sharing their learnings with other RACE21™ project teams as everyone across Teck continues to adapt to remote work environments.