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For Mike, who has championed the PRIME Project in a bid to raise standards and professionalism, there are many challenges faced by the industry, particularly at a time when expansion is needed.

Mike: “You only have to look at the recent Government backing for major infrastructure projects like HS2, Hinkley Point C and highways improvements, to see that there will be a much greater demand for aggregates in the coming years.

“These projects might be grabbing the headlines, but the real challenge is how to deliver product to these projects, whilst servicing the growing demand from small to medium sized commercial and housing developments.

“With some predicting the market will increase in 2017, even with the uncertainty of Brexit, the industry has to look at how these volumes can be achieved.

“This is where I believe the 1% factor can play a key role. Put simply, if the industry can make small incremental changes to how it operates, aiming for a 1% improvement in all areas, then this growth will be very achievable.

“However, in order to achieve this, we need to have a greater level of collaboration throughout the industry, particularly with contractors, who themselves have their own pressures.

We know from experience through the Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC), that by having a joined up focus, in this case Health and Safety, real improvements are achievable.

“By including different stakeholders across the industry, from contractors to fixed and mobile plant and areas like road haulage, the work of the QNJAC has led to an increase in training, standards and competence across the sector.

“So as we look for wider improvements to find the 1%, it will be increasingly important to engage with and educate contractors and house builders.

“A clear opportunity for these organisations is to develop a much better understanding of the information the quarry sector needs, in order to develop its production capacity and capabilities over the longer-term

“So this is about understanding material types and supply timescales. With HS2 for example, we know we have a potential issue with supplying the high-grade material for the ballast, but looking at the bigger picture, the drain on resources from this project will be significant.

“The amount of concrete alone used for bridge, tunnel, sleeper and other construction project requirements, will create a spike in demand that could have a considerable impact on other regional projects.

“A good example of where both sectors could benefit is by sharing surveying data, especially from technology like Redbird Drones that can collect data based on a whole site, determining demand over the full timescale of a project.

“With better visibility of this demand, the impact of these spikes can be managed more effectively. Ramping up production over a manageable period, increasing stockpiles etc is all possible, but the investment needed to do this takes certainty of demand, price, skilled people and equipment.

“Thanks to the very real impact of the PRIME programme and Gold Card operator training in particular, which has raised standards and established a much more professional profile for the minerals extraction industry, it is now becoming easier to attract talent to what was perceived as a very ‘Flintstone’ industry.

And through the latest investment in PRIME, and the Skills Wheel, we aim to build on this success, with an ambition to play a role in setting global standards of professional development in the industry.

“In practical terms, the four spokes of the skills wheel are designed to help individuals and operators make informed decisions about investing in relevant industry specific and vocational skills.

“For me, we have already made real progress on the first spoke, ‘Knowledge & Innovation’, and I believe a great deal of the 1% improvement we need to make in the industry relates to how we combine the knowledge of operators, with new in-cab and GPS data driven technologies.

“A recent site visit really showed me the impact qualified and relevant data can have on an operation.

“I was shown the daily dashboard operators were given access to. It compiled data transmitted by each machine, giving a complete picture of production against target, with other information like average payload, load time and cycle times.

“It was clear by speaking to the operators and managers, this timely information could be used much more effectively to manage the fleet, whilst also looking at the practical impact weather conditions have on the productivity of an operation.

“By drilling down into this information, the combined team were able to make much more commercially focused decisions about shift and fleet requirements.

“With real-time in-cab and remote data reporting already coming into the quarrying sector, I can see the role of the operator being even more important.

“This experience in itself also highlighted the importance of one of the more advanced elements of the ‘Skills Wheel’, namely spoke three, ‘Engagement, Influence & Impact’.

“By having an engaged workforce that has a voice, backed up by real-time data, you can give a team and an individual the opportunity to have proactive ideas for positive change.

“By taking this one step further, centering training and investment on the final spoke of the wheel, ‘Personal Effectiveness’, we can all benefit from an industry full of much more rounded individuals that have the drive to find that 1% at every turn.”

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