Murray & Roberts Cementation reports it is currently engineering a new shaft-sinking methodology for its African operations that will see an increase in both safety and productivity from shaft sinking project teams. According to the company, this is an engineered methodology rather than an evolutionary advancement and not a reactive or random process. The key to successful implementation will be the organization design that best suits this way of sinking.

“Innovative organizations do not wait for things to break before they fix them,” said Tim Wakefield, technical director at Murray & Roberts Cementation. “They are constantly seeking better ways of doing things even when everything is running smoothly. They instinctively know that operational innovation is an ongoing process to solve both current and possible future problems, and that the real challenge is not only technical but increasingly about behaviors.

“The routine work that we do is fundamental to the completion of our projects but can also be greatly improved when our own people seek creative, new ways of getting things done. Without a constant flow of new ideas which can be channeled into operational delivery a business will not improve its competitive advantage,” he said.

Wakefield said that the company has already engineered a base case for the new methodology for shaft sinking. “The importance of a base case is that it is a starting point from which we can then look at alternatives and associated risk profiles. Engineered solutions must beat the challenge of those who have to implement them, must be totally supported by top management, constitute a business case, and be beneficial to our clients.”

Developed concepts are subjected to internal local and international peer reviews and, once optimized, Murray & Roberts Cementation will be able to start detailed engineering and modeling of this methodology. In the present instance, the first time based model was completed at the end of January 2010.

“As the focus on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in mines continues to gather momentum, we are forced—through our own values and market pressure —to work outside of our comfort zone to find ways of increasing worker safety. A freshly engineered methodology will achieve this by critically examining each person’s role and physical location in the shaft barrel, replacing large numbers of unskilled labor with smaller numbers of multi-skilled people willing to carry out both menial and skilled tasks. The reduction in the human footprint will naturally lend itself to enhanced OHS, better employee teamwork and greater engagement with their tasks,” Wakefield said.

“We realize that completing the first project with this methodology and organizational structure will require a major mindset shift for all stakeholders, but we are confident that the pressure exerted by OHS concerns, combined with the need to adopt inventiveness in tough times, will make this a welcome relief for the market.”