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Project Details

  • Client

    Iron Ore Mine

  • Industry


  • Date

    October 2016

  • Location

    Western Australia

  • Solution

    RCM & FMEA

Using RCM an iron ore mine was able to remove several thousand redundant maintenance plans, minimize data that requires management and create more efficient work schedules. 

Iron ore has played a key role in driving Australia's growth over the past decade, with the hardy mineral fueling the Chinese construction boom and helping Australia recover from the global financial crisis. When demand for iron ore skyrocketed, the Pilbara mines were focused almost solely on growth and the high resource price meant they could easily absorb inefficient operating practices.

During this period, many mines were hasty in the design and construction of infrastructure; and they fast-tracked maintenance tactics and work management master data.

There were hurried implementations of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and, post start-up, companies were finding themselves throwing labor at the planning and execution of work to cope with the increasing problems, without addressing the fundamental quality of the work management master data to control maintenance strategies and work scheduling.

Now that the economic tide has turned, and demand for iron ore has dropped, iron ore producers are shifting the focus from growth to efficiency. They seek sustainable ways to control costs ($/ton).

This was the case for an iron ore mine located in WA's Pilbara region. It recognized that there was significant room for improvement within its work management master data and maintenance strategies. The Pilbara mine wanted maintenance strategies that focus on doing the right maintenance at the right intervals, and called in ARMS Reliability to:

  • Mentor staff to recognize and fix issues with equipment
  • Maintenance and data
  • Educate staff about the data and tools available
  • Assist with master data changes
  • Review maintenance strategies using RCM and FMEA
  • Planned Maintenance Optimization (PMO) 

The mine has now vastly improved its maintenance strategies and can focus on executing tasks that will have a positive impact on the reliability of the equipment.

Ongoing, they can make positive changes to their work management master data and business processes to improve the efficiency of their work execution and control - giving them the confidence that their improved maintenance strategies are being executed.

The Problem

A Pilbara iron ore mine that experienced ‘boom-time’ growth in the mid to late 2000s needed ways to reduce maintenance costs when the price of iron ore plummeted. It was suffering the effects of an inefficient and limited maintenance strategy, thanks to hastily compiled work management master data and a rushed implementation of the CMMS – both done during the rapid growth period. Poor quality data in its CMMS was affecting the mine’s bottom line. The mine was experiencing:

  • Inefficient planning processes – planners had to add component replacements and additional labor operations to work orders on an ongoing basis.
  • Poor scheduling – schedulers constantly had to alter work order dates.
  • Exposure to potential decreased reliability – because of inefficient planning, the labor and parts were often not available when jobs were scheduled, and the work was delayed repetitively as a result.
  • Increased labor costs – there would be repeated attempts to fix perceived problems, without addressing root causes. 

The Solution

The iron ore mine had to get to the root of the problem – the work management master data. By reviewing and improving this data, the work orders generated by the CMMS system could more effectively be planned and executed. The review would take into account all the past learnings from the job’s previous execution, and draw on the appropriate skills and knowledge within the organization about the safest and most cost-effective path forward.

ARMS Reliability stepped in to help the Pilbara mine complete the review and plot a new path for maintenance. The first step was to improve the work management side of the operation. This was done by:

  • Mentoring staff – helping them understand how inefficiencies can be removed by improving the work management master data and showing them how to complete changes
  • Schedule balancing – to reduce workloads on the schedulers and to balance a week’s work evenly across the available shifts
  • Facilitating improvements to planned and corrective maintenance task lists

Next ARMS Reliability helped to optimize the mine's strategies by: 

  • Completing Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) studies for problematic assets
  • Completing Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) with shop floor staff to encourage ownership and involvement in the development of the maintenance strategies

In this second step, the reliability engineers involved in RCM and FMEA – as both participants and facilitators – gained valuable insights into the processes. During the time that ARMS Reliability worked with the client, both train load outs and a bucket wheel reclaimers were reviewed using an FMEA approach; and problematic tertiary crushers were studied using a full RCM methodology to optimize the planned maintenance.


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Frees up time 

The mine’s under-resourced maintenance planning department has more time to focus their efforts into resolving the root causes of problems within the master data

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Creates a clear picture

Maintenance engineers can more effectively identify where issues exist, and have a greater understanding of how to execute changes.

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Builds skills and knowledge

Staff has gained the skills needed to drive improvements in work management master data, and engineers are upskilled to perform RCM and FMEA studies on new and existing assets.

The Outcome

The improved quality of master data quality within the maintenance work order management system has reduced maintenance costs by making the job more effective, and the planning and scheduling process more efficient. With ARMS Reliability’s direct involvement in the process of improving the work management master data and maintenance strategies – including ‘on the job’ mentoring and coaching – the iron ore miner has made excellent progress in terms of its understanding and knowledge of best practice work management. The mine now has reliability engineers capable of using data and analytical tools to complete detailed RCM studies for critical and problematic assets; and who can conduct FMEA analyses when RCM is not warranted.

As well as these long-term benefits, the Pilbara mine has also experienced significant, immediate outcomes:

  • Removal of several thousand redundant maintenance plans
  • Improvement to hundreds of plans, items and task lists by adding external services, components and additional labor operations where required
  • Consolidation of master data and maintenance service instructions across like equipment to minimize the amount of data that required management
  • Improvement to work scheduling

With iron ore prices dropped from the huge highs of $180/t in 2011 – this iron ore miner now has the tools and knowledge necessary to reduce the ongoing operating costs of its maintenance department. In doing so, it will take the organization as far as possible to the left-hand side of the cost curve, and help support its sustainability and profitability for many years to come.

Questions? We’ll put you on the right path.

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