LMR Experiences

Read about some of our consultants’ experiences on different projects around the world.

Northern exposure

When I packed for Labrador City, Canada I assumed it would be cold considering it was January. My immediate associations with this sprawling country are: Mounties, maple syrup and snow. I checked the weather on the internet and sure enough there was snow, plenty of it, and no shortage of minus figures on the thermostat. Our first introduction to the cold was waiting for the courtesy bus outside the airport in Montreal, a pleasant minus eleven to break us in gently. I checked the internet again at the hotel to see what the temperature was in Labrador and knew I was in trouble.

The next day we arrived and toured the mine at Iron Ore Company of Canada. We stepped out of the vehicle to view the pit from the lookout point and I was pole-axed by the cold. We were told later the temperature had plummeted to minus 31 centigrade with a windchill factor of minus 40. Standing on the lip of the Humphrey mine with the wind ripping through my clothes it felt more like minus 100 (yes, it can get that cold) but that might have something to do with packing the appropriate clothing. Somehow a fine woollen coat from Marks and Sparks doesn't perform well in Arctic weather.

Mark and I were amazed at how the people cope with the cold. Working with your hands in this temperature just seems impossible. It is an unforgiving environment in the winter, and yet we were told winter is a good season for production.

It was a short visit to the mine and Labrador City, but I will return, even if it is just to try out the skidoos that were wizzing through the town.

Chris Jones


Meeting Sir Richard

What a surreal day! Richard Branson was everything and more than I expected. Our project with Virgin lasted for approximately six months and I hoped that in that time I would get to meet Sir Richard. Who would have thought I would finally meet him on the last day of the project.

Sir Richard was in the hangar filming a commercial and the hangar was inundated with people bustling around making sure things were kept on schedule.

I thought my chances of meeting Sir Richard in person were slim. Our project had been a success and well received by the Virgin Team but I didn't think it would catch the attention of the man at the top. When you think how many issues he must have to deal with my project pales into insignificance. Well, I was happily wrong. Before I knew it Sir Richard was reviewing the Information Centre and asking all the right questions. Then it was my turn and, as you would expect, I could not think of what to say. He must come across this quite a bit because, before I knew it, he was chatting with me and thanking me for the work we had done. For all that comes with being Sir Richard, he still felt that it was important enough to make me feel at ease.

What a great way to end the project. Now for my rock star career...

Malcolm Hall, Lean Coach,
Virgin Atlantic, London


Red Dog but no Mandolin

I'd been in Karratha for a couple of hours when I first heard of Red Dog. For those who do not know the legend of Red Dog, he was a Red Cloud Kelpie, similar to a sheepdog, but one with a desire to travel. He would hitch rides on buses, trucks and Utes all around Western Australia, spend a couple of weeks with a family and then move on to his next destination.

Red Dog became world famous when Louis de Berniere's — acclaimed author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin — visited Dampier on his travels in Australia and saw the bronze statue of Red Dog. The great thing for me is meeting people who have met Red Dog himself. Here in Dampier, several Rio Tinto Iron Ore miners have told me of their sightings of Red Dog.

It doesn't surprise me that Red Dog managed to travel so far and wide in Western Australia. The people I have met here in Dampier and Karratha have a real pioneering spirit and are always ready to lend a hand. He would never have had to look far for somewhere to rest or share a meal. The environment is harsh with temperatures reaching the high forties in the summer, sometimes tipping into the fifties. I can see why everyone looks out for each other and why they extended the same care to Red Dog himself.

So now I travel the same roads and towns as two legends did before me: Louis de Berniere and Red Dog. Not bad company, really.


Going underground

I had been in Australia for two days having left my family in the UK to assume my role as the Managing Director of LMR Pty Ltd. I was not expecting to find myself 800 metres underground talking about boggers and crushers! My experience at Toyota has helped me enormously when facing complex organisational issues and I imagined applying Lean techniques to mining would be no different but a mine is still a mine. The only Toyotas in sight are the ones shuttling people to and fro on site.

I did wonder how I would collect the data for the Value Stream Map on the trip to the mine. How would I apply capacity, utilisation and other metrics to the operation, but more significantly, how was I going to handle being underground.

The day we arrived on site, however, my nervous disposition disappeared completely when I saw the professionalism of the clients approach to safety and their briefing on procedures given to visitors. After ten minutes I was fully relaxed and ready to go. Mark and Phil had done their best to wind me up for a couple of days. They claimed there was an express lift that took us down to the bottom of the mine and that the drop was so fast that I must hold on to my helmet and gear because of the negative g. You can imagine my relief when we climbed into a Toyota Land Cruiser for a sedate trip down to the bottom. The Value Stream Map went well. We soon found that the Lean diagnostic tools applied themselves just as well as in a discrete manufacturer and were able to highlight opportunities for discussion with the client. My lasting impression of the time underground was the meeting with two geologists. We had been working on cycle times of the boggers shifting ore when they arrived and could see we were first timers underground. They asked us whether we had experienced how dark it was in the mine when the lights were out, explaining that there is dark, and there is really dark. We all switched off the lamps and were engulfed in darkeness that really was dark! With the lights back on we spent another ten minutes talking through their roles. They were an enthusiastic, dedicated pair and proud of their contribution to the company.

When it was time to surface after the first day I was relieved to be above ground. It is not a natural environment, but I marvelled at the engineering feat that allows people to work safely on a daily basis so far underground. As I said, the Value Stream Map was a success and well received. Our work continues with the mining organisation and Lean is making a difference. I just wonder where LMR will send me next and whether I will need a mining helmet or a wetsuit.


Termites rule

I took this photo on my third trip to the Weipa mine - part of the Rio Tinto Aluminium operation. It is in the far north of Queensland, on the Cape York Peninsular pointing towards Papua New Guinea. Rio Tinto Aluminium have a bauxite mine here and are currently implementing Lean Manufacturing.

Cape York was named by the Lt James Cook in 1770 in honour of the Duke of York. I haven't seen many mountains here for him to have marched his armies up, but there are no shortages of termites and the mountains they create.

These structures are incredible in size, some standing over twelve metres high and are complex in nature. They are an engineering feat that architects can learn from. Inside the mounds there are cooling vanes to keep the internal temperatures low. It is fascinating to think of the intelligence these critters have and how they organise themselves to create a structure that outstrips any man-made building when compared to scale.

Rio Tinto Aluminium have a fantastic sustainable development programme which helps to preserve the environment in Weipa - termites included! The challenge for this year will be to show how Lean can support environmental initiatives in organisations with such a diverse portfolio as Rio Tinto. A challenge our team will relish.

Mark Radley

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