Some credit today’s pit stop to Wood Brothers Racing in 1963, whose innovation was key to their driver winning that year’s Daytona. Fast-forward more than 50 years and the concept of pit stop maintenance is becoming more accepted across the mining industry, as businesses continue to look for ways to improve. At Minset, our teams have been using this strategy for more than a decade to improve productivity and, regardless of its application, there are some common learnings we want to share for those considering introducing it.

In mining, pit stop servicing is where assets are taken offline to complete works in the shortest possible time. While the motor racing/Formula 1 reference is probably best known, the pit stop concept is not unique to the racing world and the methods used in mining draw on the best elements from a number of industries (such as manufacturing’s single minute exchange of dies (SMED) techniques). For those that do it well, it has wide-ranging application – from computer system downtimes to shift changes to site inductions and more.

A pit stop snapshot

To use some motor racing examples, a pit stop team has all the materials they need close by. The tyres, and the tools needed to change them, are checked and ready to go in the pit lane before the car comes in. Just as critically, every team member understands how each task will be performed and is able to repeat it the same way every time. Bringing a racing car into a pit stop is also a well thought through task. Everything from track position to traffic is considered, with the goal being to minimise the time it takes for the car to enter and leave without disruption.

For mining maintenance teams, are your parts and materials ready right when and where you need them? Is each member of your maintenance team clear on their roles – and are those roles repeatable from shift to shift? When equipment is taken from production, washed and moved to the workshop, does the work start in the shortest time possible or is it kept waiting?

Principles to success

Make holistic changes, not token add-ons – you can introduce a few techniques and see short-term gains. However, sustainable results are only possible if you address the complete picture in a thorough and disciplined way. At Minset, we always look at three areas: people’s ability and desire to change, processes for executing work, and physical requirements like workshop spaces and information availability. Focusing on only one element (usually the easy one) will not deliver the results that are possible.

  • Have a plan– like an F1 racing team, a successful pit stop is delivered by a team that has a plan and is prepared and ready when a car comes in. A plan and the discipline to follow it are vital. A kit of techniques, randomly applied, won’t get you there.
  • Prioritise constant team engagement– it’s no use having a plan if it’s not understood by a whole team. Speak with and engage everyone involved – and do that in the workplace where the job is being done. This is not a technical exercise that can be done from an office or after an off-site team workshop. You need to be with the people that do the work, in their work environment, over a sustained period of time, to build the right understanding before change can take place.
  • Engage beyond the maintenance team– delivering results requires a full team effort. Focus naturally begins with the maintainers who do the work. However, the input and alignment of supporting roles are vital for success, such as supervisors, planners, technical specialists, part suppliers, operations and leaders.
  • Persist!– you are going to come across barriers and problems that need to be solved as you introduce pit stop servicing. Some problems consistently appear when we complete these projects with clients, and they always require time, engagement and patience. This is not about rushing and taking shortcuts. Successfully introducing pit stop servicing is about being prepared and working smarter.

In our experience, what really varies in the mining sector is the degree of application and the ability to continue delivering benefits over time. Those that get the greatest gains take a long-term approach and cover all the right bases. It can be done, and it’s worth doing.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash