Equipped for customer-focused maintenance planning

National Group’s Shannon Smith says communication and collaboration is essential to ensure equipment is serviced at just the right time.

As National Group’s Long-Term Maintenance Planner, Shannon Smith knows maintenance scheduling is both a science and an art.

The science comes from using AMT Mining Asset Management software to plan and optimise maintenance for around 400 machines in National Group’s fleet.

The art comes from Smith collaborating with National Group site superintendents, workshop managers and others in the company who use AMT for short-term maintenance planning. Everything is about getting the best client result through exceptional equipment maintenance.

“Maintenance scheduling is like a chess game,” says Shannon. “With a fleet as large as National’s, we have thousands of servicing events to organise each year, around Australia. There are always lots of moving parts in maintenance scheduling.”

Smith, a diesel fitter by trade who transitioned into maintenance planning, knows flexibility is key with scheduling. “Wet weather at mine sites can affect maintenance scheduling and we always try to accommodate client needs. For example, if too many of our dig units are being serviced at the same time, it can affect mine production.”

Smoothing maintenance flows is a priority for Shannon. “Our equipment might be serviced on-site for a routine service or go to a National Group workshop for a larger service, depending on the condition of components. National Group has a fantastic maintenance team, but we can’t service everything at once. We have to align maintenance scheduling with our internal resources and capability.”

Shannon emphasises that maintenance scheduling at National Group is a team effort. “Everybody here works really well together to organise short- and long-term equipment maintenance. From our operations in WA to NSW, to the Bowen Basin and Weipa in Queensland, we are always trying to get the best results on equipment availability and getting maintenance work done in a safe, timely manner.”

Communication and collaboration are critical. “National Group people on-site know what major works are coming up with equipment maintenance. They liaise with the client to understand their equipment needs, then liaise with me to find the best time for that service. If there are any problems, we work together to find a solution.”

Benefits of hours-based approach

Shannon says National Group’s strategy to service equipment based on hours, rather than by calendar dates, is an advantage for clients. “Calendar-based servicing is easier to organise because you know that this machine is scheduled for a service on this day. But the risk is you over-service machines and make them less available for clients.”

Instead, most National Group equipment is serviced after 250 hours of use. “Over the years, we’ve found this servicing approach is more efficient,” says Shannon. “National Group equipment is being serviced at exactly the right time, not according to a calendar date. The benefit for our clients is less equipment downtime and greater flexibility.”

Depending on the machine, a 250-hour service might replace the engine oil and filters, repair minor defects, take oil samples and monitor the condition of components. At full utilisation (around 500 hours a month), a National Group machine might be serviced twice a month.

Finding the right balance with servicing is complex, says Shannon. “You don’t want to over-service the fleet, unnecessarily add to costs and reduce equipment availability for clients. Equally, you never want to under-service the fleet because that inevitably leads to higher breakdown rates and other problems over time.”

Shannon says National Group gets the balance right with maintenance scheduling. “We’ve got a lot of KPIs (key performance indicators) around machine availability, reliability and other fleet metrics we measure. The results are consistently good; we are not bringing in equipment too early to service or letting things run too long.”

Enjoyable job

Shannon joined National Group in May 2015, having spent the previous five years in senior maintenance planning roles at other mining companies in Central Queensland. His long experience in maintenance planning is an asset for National Group clients.

“I love working at National Group,” says Shannon. “It’s a great bunch of people and an excellent company to work for. Everybody gets on really well and pitches in to get the best result for clients. Much of my role is about supporting National Group people on-site who do the short-term planning on maintenance scheduling.”

In his downtime, Shannon organises and conducts martial arts classes, helping prepare students for local and national tournaments. No doubt the skills learned from more than two decades of martial arts instruction help Shannon with his National Group role.

“You have to be really precise with maintenance scheduling, think about all the moves ahead and be able to respond quickly to unexpected events,” he says. “Most of all, you have to work to build good long-term working relationships with people on the ground and help them and their clients. That’s the art of maintenance planning.”