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September 13, 2017

Continuous improvement processes are boosting productivity at Boart Longyear drilling sites

This article originally appeared in Australian Mining.

Boart Longyear’s new continuous improvement program is proving that small changes, when measured and carried out consistently, can add up to a big impact on productivity and efficiency.

The Hard Work Cycle is a continuous improvement program that uses a system of processes and key performance indicators (KPIs) as tools to ensure the highest productivity and efficiency while safely drilling more straight meters. A key component of the Hard Work Cycle is the comprehensive suite of reports used to manage individual driller performance, shift performance and project productivity. Sharing those metric-driven results with customers enhances communication, transparency, and accountability.

 “The program has helped us identify what’s important in our day-to-day operations, how we can focus attention on doing those things better, and how those improvements drive the bottom line,” said Terry Kirkey, regional director for Asia Pacific Drilling Services based in Adelaide.  “By implementing these improvements, we’ve been able to achieve gains in efficiency and productivity.”

The Hard Work Cycle consists of interlocking principles, including: 

• setting transparent KPIs
• reviewing KPIs as a team and agreeing on and recording actions
• continually generating, prioritizing and implementing ideas

During implementation, Boart Longyear emphasized participation from everyone, highlighting the benefits of not only improving productivity and efficiency, but also improving safety and communication (between crews and management and the customer) and reducing operating costs.

“It gives us measurable targets and tools that each of us can use to make a difference,” said Kirkey.

“Safety is the right thing to do and always our first priority; every driller deserves to go home safely to their family each day,” said Kirkey. “But safe operations also benefit productivity. If we are safer, we are more productive, because we aren’t spending time investigating incidents or dealing with reports or worst-case scenarios such as lost time and injured employees.”

The Hard Work Cycle also impacts safety by structuring safety conversations. By adding safety discussions to regular Hard Work Cycle meetings, crews are talking about incidents, near misses and concerns. They are also generating ideas about safer ways to do things, how to work better as teams, and how safe operations increase productivity.

One of the many improvement ideas implemented over the last 12 months involved using pre-start meetings more effectively. The improved format is now being standardized across all Boart Longyear drilling sites. Structured meetings between each level of operations also facilitate ongoing discussions and resolutions of any productivity or safety concerns. 


Another example was a special display board to improve communication between the drilling crews and mine operations. Supervisors use information posted from mining operations to prioritize and ensure the maximum number of drills are turning. Mine operations use the information to ensure sites are prioritized and ready for drilling. This process resulted in a significant increase in the number of rigs turning per shift and in the total meters drilled per shift and was tracked and measured to ensure effectiveness.

In the beginning, employees were asked to do a few things differently – help generate improvement ideas, have a weekly review, and adopt new practices – but the focus remained the same – being safe, getting productive meters and helping each other. 

According to Kirkey, the program is succeeding because supervisors and workers have taken ownership of it. When the program was introduced, supervisors and drillers were charged with implementing ideas to increase drill time and rate, improving processes and results rapidly, and discussing productivity metrics regularly.

“We are brainstorming ideas on a daily basis,” added Kirkey. “By changing the mindset to continually look for improvements in the way we work, we get a steady flow of ideas that deliver a lot of value.”

A Boart Longyear driller in Canada recently won an award for suggesting a slight schedule change that resulted in a significant increase in productivity. This change decreased the drill start time and increased the average total meters drilled per shift. Measuring and tracking also give the company the opportunity to identify trends, implement corrective actions, and demonstrate transparency to customers. A win-win for everyone.


A local Boart Longyear supervisor, Dave Barrett, had an idea for improving a part on underground coring rigs. His design was engineered and tested and is now being used across the Asia Pacific region, delivering significant efficiency gains. Global implementation of the new design is in the works. 

Kirkey emphasizes the importance of measuring productivity for each driller, identifying actionable items and who is responsible for each action, and following up. “We graph drillers on each KPI metric, with drill logs, bit penetration logs, and productivity measures. We see which drillers drill faster and then find the how and why so we can replicate it where it makes sense. It promotes healthy competition and opens up conversations about what works and how we can strive to continually do things safer and better.”

“By involving everyone, the Hard Work Cycle has empowered our drillers and demonstrated that we can get big results from small changes. It’s rewarding for the guys to see the difference their ideas are making, and we think it’s imperative to recognize them for their efforts.”


Download Boart Longyear's 6 Objectives of the Hard Work Cycle PDF


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