A tip about Lean mining from a professor at NTNU and a fall in commodity prices prompted Rana Gruber to start their Lean project.
-"We began by breaking down the production process to a more detailed level" says Høyen.
"The value chain was broken down to production units, which were then broken down to more limited tasks. Then we began to assess the time spent on value-creating activities."
This exercise quickly enabled the mining company to gain an overview of the areas in which they produced too much and where they produced too little.
-"We found out quickly that tunnel production was too high in relation to what we needed for delivery of ore" says Høyen. "We knew already that loading was the biggest bottleneck in ore production. Now we could "balance" the different production units, one with the others."
The result was an increase in loading capacity and reduced production in drift development and long-hole drilling. Rana Gruber also considered personnel costs as a factor in removing bottlenecks.
-"The loaders did a lot of odd jobs in addition to their primary tasks. The odd jobs were now transferred to other production units, so that the loaders could concentrate on their most important tasks"
Dedicated involvement from the operators and other employees was important throughout the project.
-"The production manager and I were in the mine for two whole consecutive weeks during the mapping", says Høyen. "We talked a lot with the operators, who were totally positive to the project. They knew that we didn't manage to produce enough in each shift and were open to consider changes. Most people are positive, so long as they are involved", adds Høyen. "We also had focus on the message that this was not necessarily about reducing costs, but was about increasing production."
The measures taken gave quick results and the increase in production has been maintained.
-"Now we have stabilised our work at a higher level", says Høyen. "We increased production by 20% from 2014 to 2015 and think we will be able to increase production by just under 10% this year. Many factors have been important, but there is no doubt that the Lean project has been important in achieving the increase in production."
Høyen is glad that they established contact with Mining & Mineral Cluster Norway early in the process.
-"I am completely convinced that the contribution from the Cluster meant that we could allow ourselves to use a lot of time and carry out the project so thoroughly. This would not have been possible without this support, given the low metal prices and a challenging economic situation."