Monday, September 8, 2014

Lean Practices in Mining

Lean manufacturing, one of the process efficiency programs that became popular through the significant results observed by the Japan automaker, Toyota, is now implemented in the mining industry.  Barrick Gold, the third largest gold mining company in the world has successfully cloned the Toyota’s renowned Production System (TPS). Lean manufacturing is a continuous performance improvement strategy to identify and cut costs, at the same time improving production.

It is identified in a study that the success of the lean manufacturing in the mining industry is attributed to the similarities in the mining and the car manufacturing sectors. It is important to observe this as many manufacturers have failed to imitate Toyota’s practices and achieve those results.

Barrick Gold complimented the lean principles with a strategy of its own called improving from within. The Mining giant employs around 80 business improvement coaches from within the company’s management position’s for 2 years to maintain their successful operations and improve the others. After the 2 years, they are placed back into their previous fields at higher positions. The coaches during their tenure are supposed to identify improvement opportunities and implement them. These coaches form a network and share experiences to benefit the company on the whole. Lean practices are effective for cutting waste in the mining industry. It is done at every process to reap optimal benefits.

Lean manufacturing is not desired in all industries as we have observed in the Seattle children’s hospital article. However, the success of Barrick gold in the recent years has cleared the doubts in the mining industry. It is necessary to cut waste in this industry as it causes a lot of environmental pollution.

My observation from the above cases is that the lean practices are more successful in the backend production, where there is no direct contact with the customers. In case of the Seattle Children’s hospital, it involves the customers in the supply chain. Is there a way we can restrict the customers as constant factors, which do not affect the overall process, so it can be implemented successfully in all industries?


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