Before Investing Capital, Optimize!

Time and time again I visit operations that have commissioned capital equipment which failed to deliver the improved production that justified its purchase. By doing so they have either created greater capacity in plant areas that was not the production bottleneck or they have just masked the under-performance of existing assets; both of these scenarios are to the long term detriment of the business.

Why Optimize?

Optimizing existing assets has multiple benefits which will support long term growth for the business. The expense of optimization is significantly smaller than the investment of new capital equipment to expand production capacity. This alone should drive businesses to look closely at this option first. Secondly, the optimization process ensures that your People, Process, and Technology are all working together the best they can; any future investment in capital will inherit these traits that are now in-grained within your operation.

Is there Opportunity to Optimize?


The first question asked in the optimization journey is, “How do I know if there is an opportunity to get more out of what I already have?” I think a good guide to answering this question is to assess if your operation meets all of the following attributes:

  • All inclusive operating costs are at historical lows

  • Production is at historical highs

  • Production rates are stable throughout a shift, day, week, etc.

  • Planned Maintenance takes less time

  • Unplanned outages are few and far between

  • Plant operators know why and how to fix most production issues

One or more of these attributes not currently being achieved is an opportunity for optimization that should be addressed, or at the very least assessed.

How to Optimize?

To achieve optimization you must address each of the three key factors: People, Process, and Technology.

  • People: The willingness to be a part of a culture change to challenge the norms and get involved in action that will result in improvements.

  • Process: Clearly understand the business processes that support improvement changes. Streamlined forums that talk directly about actionable priorities and where accountability is clearly visible.

  • Technology: A platform that not only measures the current and future performance of the assets in real production terms, but also facilitates the improvement changes.

Too often technology is put in place to only measure; this approach fails to directly support the full delivery of a real production step change. Make the decision today to extract the full value of your existing assets through People, Process, and Technology improvements.

Nathan Elphick is a Senior Solutions Architect with over 15 years’ experience in designing, developing and deploying solutions within the heavy-asset industry. Read Nathan’s other article, Challenges when applying OEE in Mining to learn how a change in approach to an old KPI can support the optimization of assets.