Developing Successful Strategies


Seldom do you come across mining maintenance managers with as many years of service, and as much variety of experience as our guest today.


Leigh Gould, a semi-retired mining maintenance manager with well over 30 years experience and roles spanning nearly every continent in the world, discusses his vast know-how with Gerard in this episode. His career in maintenance management began alongside the introduction of computers in the early 1980s in Weipa, and he became heavily involved in the development of programmed maintenance. Over the years, he has enjoyed time in gold, copper, aluminium, iron and coal mining representing a rarely seen multi-elemental maintenance manager.


Join Leigh and Gerard in their discussion of mining maintenance across all the elements, failure mode effect analysis and reliability centred maintenance, maintenance scheduling in the era of computational expanse, and dealing with resource-intensive root cause analysis.

Some Topics That We Cover

  • The differences and similarities between metals and coal
  • How technology has changed throughout Leigh’s career
  • The dawn of the very first MIMS code and programmable maintenance systems
  • The three key elements involved in achieving optimal maintenance operations
  • Everybody needs to know who their boss is
  • Difficulties you come across when your hands are tied by higher leadership
  • Leigh’s experience with mill re-lining and bolt-torquing in a $6K USD/min mill
  • Work quality is intrinsically embedded in safety and vice versa
  • The importance of finding a good mentor to help you throughout your career
  • Ask “why?” when something appears wrong to you
  • Don’t be afraid to employ people that you feel are smarter than you

Read The Full Podcast Transcript Below


Gerard Wood: Welcome to the Bluefield 30 in 30 series, where we interview mining industry professionals with more than 30 years experience and capture their key learnings in 30 minutes. We hope this experience shared is valuable for those dealing with similar issues within their businesses. Welcome to the next episode of Bluefield 30 in 30 where we chat with asset managers who have 30 years- plus of experience and attempt to capture their most important learnings in just 30 minutes. Today, we’re joined by Leigh Gould who has quite a few more years than 30 years experience and Leigh’s worked in pretty well every maintenance role that he can work in, Leigh, correct?

Leigh Gould: Yes, that’d be right.

Gerard: Possibly on almost all the continents you could probably work in. That’d be true too, wouldn’t it?

Leigh: Yes, Gerard. I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve had exposure to lots of different roles, lots of different mining and types and minerals and in most places around the world. Yes, for sure.

Gerard: Well, with that, Leigh, do you want to just give us a bit of a background of your career and talk through it generally of what you did and where you’ve been and I suppose any little interesting tidbits that you’ve collected along the way there?

Leigh: My career started as an apprentice fitter and a toolmaker . I used to live in a pet food cannery. I did night school and finished my high school certificate and also, I did some pressure welding certificates whilst I was an apprentice. Then shortly after finishing that, went into welding gas pipeline for the gas and fuel corporation in Victoria. Looked over the fence at what I was saying and mines look attractive. Looked at the middle of the future aluminium and ended up in bauxite in Weipa and spent years in Weipa with Rio Tinto and learned a lot. Progressed through the ranks there of fitter and production superintendent, maintenance superintendent, railway operation superintendent, all sorts of things.

That was pretty much all fixed plant and fixed plant operations, plant folded up there, the kaolin plant folded and I ended up with Rio still overseas in Hard Rock in Kelian Equatorial Mining. That was my first quarry into hard rock and gold mining.

Gerard: That was up in Indonesia, was it?

Leigh: Up in Indonesia in Borneo, Kalimantan. The interesting thing about that was nobody in Weipa knew what the price of works I put on was everybody on a gold mine knew how much an ounce gold was. That was a stark difference. People were very, very focused on production cost. That was beginning of hard rock and I guess some time at Rio ended up using me as a bit of a troubleshooter, I guess so I ended up at Tom price for a bit where concentrator availability was atrocious due to various things. I’ve spent time then back in coal and then underground coal and in the eastern states, longwall and then gold overseas again.

I got bitten by the ex-pat bug when we left Weipa, my wife and I, and that continued on. I guess until now even, where I still actually do some time overseas for First Quantum at various places. That’s my life . I’ve been pretty lucky as far as exposure and experienced goes. I’ve been able to get involved in some very, very exciting, very interesting stuff.

Gerard: I suppose when I look at your background that a lot of time in metals and also a lot of time in coal, that stands out in pretty well all the different maintenance roles. Not too often you see guys with lots of experience in both those different commodities, I suppose. Do you notice any difference between coal and metals?

Leigh: I did, initially, Gerard, and it’s interesting. I often used to talk about the fact that they were two parallel universes that didn’t know one another existed. Particularly, when I first went to Blackw ater out of hard rock, I got into the coal scene and I found that none of my contacts worked for coal. I had to basically start getting all new contacts that were in the coal mine and it was quite stark. It’s changed a bit these days. Technology does crossovers, I guess cross-functional is probably a good word to some degree. I did find there was a big difference and the coal industry obviously was very, very heavily unionised as opposed to hard rock and the ex-pat roles I had already done it at that point.

Gerard: That’s interesting. We do the same. We work across many different commodities and we’ve noticed the difference too. One area that I still see a big divide is actually hard rock underground. They seem to be just hard rock underground guys and you don’t see too much crossover there with underground coal at all.

Leigh: Actually, yes. About a year ago, I did some work at a hard rock underground copper mine in North Western Queensland and you’re exactly right. Those guys were again in a slightly different universe doing things a different way that wasn’t necessarily wrong. Interestingly, different going out. I made a few trips on the ground and asked a lot of questions and found it fascinating that they’re on a different plane, so to speak.

Gerard: That’s good insight. Thanks for sharing that background. It’s really good to see you. You must see ideas, probably you see similarities all over the place, but then also things that are quite different in the different commodities and different parts of the world. Could you tell us about the first time that you became the maintenance manager? What were your thoughts and aspirations?

Leigh: Really good question. Initially, when I became a maintenance manager, I had long hair down around my waist. I was frightened that I was going to be made to get a hair cut and the GM made a point then of telling me, “No, we won’t make you get a haircut.” In all seriousness, it was about the time that computers were getting used in maintenance engineering. I remember as a supervisor, I’d seen the first PC that was bought by that company and everyone was in awe of this PC computer, which was quite amazing.

Gerard: When was that? The early ’80s?

Leigh: Yes, it was. It was the early ’80s in Weipa. Things moved along, I was pretty keen to learn how to use computers as a– I thought I’d make a great diary to remind you to do things and as we know now, maintenance management systems are all about that. It was about that time in Weipa that the very first MIMS code was cut. I guess the writers of MIMS were Weipa fellows and they’d cut it and it went onto the main frame. I was very, very keen as a maintenance manager to get involved in what I saw as a fantastic thing in program maintenance and something that reminded you to go back and check these things regularly and gave your jobs to do each week and help you with an electronic diary.

I guess that was my aspiration, was to try and get things running smoothly so that when you came into work you knew what the boys were going to do for the day and so forth and you knew what your teams had to do. That would be something that was my earliest aspirations.

Gerard: It’s good to have that contrast between the time before we had computers and the time after. We might talk a bit about that and track. Can you tell us about a time when you had the best outcome from your assets that you are managing? It could be the same role, it could be a different one, but how do you measure the success and what do you believe the key elements were?

Leigh: I mentioned before that I got asked to go to Mount Tom Price. The concentrator there when I arrived was running at 48% availability. Now, the Mount Tom Price concentrator had to provide, upgrade it on ore to the rest of the Hamersley mines to upgrade the ore from the other mines that were slightly below shipping grade. Tom Price was critical to operations and this low availability was causing quite a lot of concern. When I got there, I found that a 12-hour shut down on a drum separator, for example, heavy-media separator might- instead of running 12 hours- might run for three or four days because parts hadn’t been ordered or weren’t available or it wasn’t enough labour and because it went over. There was no labour on night shift available. I guess it was a function of not just poor planning but poor organisation overall. Started to have a look at things and asked why and I like to stand back and ask why and try and understand why things are how they are. Out of all of the people that I had available to me, I could only get seven or eight people maximum on the floor at any given time out of the just under 90 people that I had available in the mines.

Gerard: That’s the maintainers, right?

Leigh: That’s just maintainers, yes. What I found was that if you take a step back, I’ve since discovered a lot of people believe that maintenance is just about systems. Once you’ve got systems and they’re in place, that’s it. You can walk away and the systems all look after everything. You and I know and most good practitioners know that you have to keep tweaking things. You have to have a look at your results and modify what to do to suit the results you’ve got. What I found was that a very good process engineer had been put in charge of maintenance and he was the concentrator production manager and he’d been given the maintenance under his wing.

He decided that, “Well, I’ll throw lots of oil on all the production problems, maintenance with systems, the systems will drive themselves.” The wheels started to pull often and nobody really understood why. I got asked to go in and start working on it and understand it. I found that he’d been asked if he could learn people after the port to Dampier and after Marandoo and different places because they needed help. The maintenance guys were at these various places on secondment.

I decided also it’d be a really good idea to put maintenance team members onto the shifts because the maintenance team members thought it was a great idea . Going from day shift to shift work t hey got a huge pay rise. So they called them operators and IM operators with an M and put them on shift. Turns out instead of doing the maintenance checks, PM checks and maintenance work on shifts, I got called to breakdowns or other times, they would just be holding hoses. They’re really expensive hose holders.

They weren’t being utilised, I guess, was what I found. I pulled everybody back from Dampier, from Marandoo, the guys on shift and we went back to a 10-4 roster and had overlap on the crews and then the planning guys started to get– I had a couple of champions there. One guy in particular was a young, mechanical engineer, very, very clean and got on board straight away with helping rev up the planning. We started to make inroads, we put in place a procedure for planning shutdowns because we had lots of shutdowns on the high-grade plant, on the low-grade plant, on the drum separators, on the magnetic separators and so forth.

Broke the plant up into logical modules and shutdowns that way, which was always in place in the early days in Tom Price because Tom Price was always held up to me back again in the early days as a place that was the centre of excellence for planning and I was a bit surprised at how bad it had got. The measure there of success for us was certainly our shutdowns. One of the key elements or key measures we measured was minutes of overrun in shutdowns. We started on hours of overrun and then we got down to minutes of overrun, the plant availability. I left about 11 months after I got there to come back east.

The availability was up just over 73% and so availability was a measure and shutdown overruns was a measure. The other measure we had was we implemented a very basic defect elimination system whereby we used a homegrown RCM2 type of application to look at failures we had and we asked the five whys, tried to understand what happened then put it through an RCM2 analysis on decision analysis worksheet that you’d be familiar with from RCM and used that as the basis for failure, now a very, very quick two-page failure analysis tool. It had a measure that used to say how many of those failure analyses were completed and implemented the fine strong.

We wanted to keep the level of implementation of failure analysis, IL defect elimination as we called it then. They were the three key elements we thought to getting things flowing there.

Gerard: At that site, you had a maintenance system in place, like a computer, a CMMS in place at the time?

Leigh: That was another one of the issues. SAP was being implemented there at the time. They are moving from MS to SAP.

Gerard: A lot of great learnings from that, even back to the old maintainers as operators and operator maintainers. Every time I’ve seen that in my career as well, it’s the same thing. The maintainers end up being operators, really. They’re not out there caring for the equipment. They’re out there doing operating tasks or maybe they’re cleaning up, which would help but they lose their maintenance skills. Then the other thing you talk about there around the defect elimination process, I’d love to drill into that more and around just understanding how you use RCM2 thinking process rather than just rely on RCA.

You’re obviously doing your five whys but in my mind, RCM2, that’s the process to which you have to think every day about failures. If you want to really get rid of them in a sustainable way, you got to be thinking with that mindset. It’s not a project either. It’s a way to think.

Leigh: I find it is a fantastic tool when you have a failure mode. You know what the failure mode is and you want to understand what you’re going to do about it. Well, the first thing you have to do is, is that failure mode because the equipment simply can’t do what it’s designed to do? If you work through the RCM decision analysis worksheet, and that’s what this tool actually made when I was working in Weipa in the kaolin plant, that’s what this tool helps you do. It wasn’t just me that made that there was a couple of guys involved in developing this. It helps you work through very, very logically what you need to do.

Gerard: To manage the failure mode.

Leigh: Yes, that’s right. It gives you then the opportunity to record your decisions and why you’ve made those decisions. Then if the failure happens again, you can go back and say, “Well, jeez, the failure happened. Here are the decisions I made and for the assumptions we might have made, look, that’s where we were wrong.” You have that on record. That was what the system we put in place at Tom Price was. It kept all of this information on record so that if the failure happened again, you could go back and see where you were wrong.

Gerard: That’d be a goldmine. What happened to that tool? Did it disappear or turned into something else?

Leigh: I still have the tools and I’ve used them at various sites and different devices. The database that we set up, the very keen mechanical engineers set up at Tom Price, I don’t have, but the actual documentation for doing that, I still have and still use at times. I’ll tell you what do I do find, Gerard, is that RCA is a bit of a buzzword for some people. It can be very, very resource-consuming and very, very expensive as you would know. That’s why this tool I found was so good. I could train a production supervisor in about 30 minutes on how to go through and do a simple one-page RCA that would be very, very beneficial. It was quite a good tool.

Gerard: That’s such a valuable learning, that takeaway in itself. I’ll put in the show notes some links to information on that type of stuff too. All right, that’s a great example or a great story about when you had good outcomes from the assets. Can you tell us about your worst experience as a maintenance manager? How did it occur and what did you do to respond?

Leigh: Look, I was working over in the Middle East and I got a call asking me if I was interested in coming back to work in a longwall underground coal mine, which I knew zip about at the time. I said, “Yes, that sounds really interesting.” I came back and not unlike my Tom Price experiences, I found that at this coal mine, that things were breaking down and there was never anybody around to fix it and nobody knew where anybody was. People would not turn up for a shift. There are all sorts of funny things happening.

Started to look at the information that I could get, the mobile equipment underground was suffering also from breakdowns. It’s a fairly gaseous underground longwall so, of course, it had all of the gas protection stuff. The electrical work was very difficult, no cutting, grinding and so forth. One of the things that I did find was that I asked what the organisational structure was and could I have a copy of the org chart. HR very quickly gave me a copy of the org chart and I thought, “Wow, look at all those people. I wonder what they’re all doing.”

Then I started to ask where this person was and that person and he works for him, “But he’s an underground production manager but he’s on my org chart, why does he work for him?” “Well, he’s working for him this week but next week, he works for someone else.” I have always been a big believer that everybody needs to know who their boss is. They must know who their boss is and they can’t be running around the leaderless. I couldn’t get to the bottom of it onsite. I couldn’t get straight answers or the production guys were happy with how things were. They just wanted me to make the longwall more available.

I ended up having to get an external HR company come in and conduct a whole bunch of interviews and sort it all out. They ended up coming up with a chart that showed me where all these people reported, but it was the craziest chart I ever saw because it turned out that the guys underground, for example, they could shop an annual leave request around to four or five different supervisors. Once I found a supervisor to sign it, they get it signed off and then they get their leave. There was a whole bunch of skulduggery going on. It was very difficult. I tried to start making inroads into it and came across stone walls.

An example might be when I tried to bring two guys up from underground that were good mechanics and put them into the surface workshop to work on mobile equipment. I got stopped by the powers . I got stopped because these two guys didn’t have seniority. There were two other guys that worked underground as miners that had seniority and they were the two that I would have to bring up and put on the surface. I said, “But they’re not tradesmen.” The answer was, “Well, you need to give them adult apprenticeships.” That was what I came up against.

Needless to say, we ended up in the Arbitration Commission and after a long and protracted argument that included a lockout situation, we got that sorted out. That was probably as a maintenance manager, I came into a situation that was just something that I couldn’t fix. As from a management perspective, management were very keen to fix it but there was other powers at play that didn’t want things to change. They were quite happy how it was, thank you very much. It was really trying. As a maintenance manager, I was really hamstrung by the third party.

Gerard: That’s a really interesting one. You’d say that when the culture is right, that’s a cultural thing, when the culture is right, turnaround maintenance really isn’t too hard. You come across every now and again, a site where you just can’t change the culture and whatever you try and do, you can’t make any difference, can’t make inroads. Next question, we all have times when the GM wants more for less, when the GM isn’t satisfied with maintenance. Can you describe your most difficult time with the GM and how you went about making sure you delivered all these needs or whatever it was?

Leigh: One mine springs to mind, a very large copper goldmine running the SAG mills and ball mills two of the concentrators. This mine had four concentrators in it. Downtime on the large SAG mill was US$6,000 a minute, just over $8.5 million a day. That’s revenue after cash costs. As you’re probably aware with the bigger mills, one of the measures of how well you’re going is how many parts per minute or how many minutes per part you take to change the line is out in the mill. Consequently, if you have a big reline machine with a high capacity, you can make your liners bigger and have less liners.

Bolt torquing is another thing where, obviously, you torque the bolts up when you put the liners and you run the mill and there’s lots of different recipes that different people aspire to. Needless to say, you must go back and retorque the bolts at least once. If they don’t pull up much, you may not go back again. Some people go back another two times after the initial torque up. That’s all time-consuming in downtime. At $6,000 a minute, that’s expensive and a retorque can take four to eight hours. There’s a lot of money involved in that.

This is certainly not a legal thing.

This was the team at this particular large, high-altitude mine. We embarked upon a program of looking at liner sizes and how we could increase liner sizes without causing other issues and bolt torquing methodologies. This was around about the time that suppliers were starting to come out with guns like the red guns you see on heavy equipment wheels these days. They may have been invented but they weren’t in vogue at the time. The handheld small jGun type guns that some manufacturers might come with a torque multiplier built into a little pneumatic gun weren’t invented, they were just coming up towards the end of what we were doing.

Nevertheless, we worked with a boundary and increased liner sizes. Also, we got a company in Australia to build us a hydraulic torque gun which we could just set the hydraulic pressure on and put it on the bolts, not unlike a hydraulic high torque but this had a nut running capability. It would spin the nut up at one speed and then drop back to another speed and torque them up. Now you’re talking two each line of bolts which obviously need a relatively high torque. We got this hydraulic gun set up and it worked a treat, decreased the retorque time quite significantly.

What we also found was that with the air rattle guns, that after sometimes, as little as 20 bolts, they would change their calibration. You put them on a calibration tool and find that it wasn’t torquing bolts properly or it was over torquing which will lead to fractures. We ended up finding that as we were torquing every bolt much more accurately, that we only had to go back and do one retorque and add a very low percentage of the bolts full cup which means a liner had a bit of crap behind it. It was something to look at.

Needless to say, beside one retorque shutdown and if memory served me correctly, I think we reduced it by about just under 12%, the minutes per part, and also a 38 or a 44-hour shutdown. Again, that’s picking up quite a few minutes and quite a bit of money. Operations guys were happy and, of course, the maintenance team were pretty happy too. I guess this work is interesting more and the guys that were working on it had a good background in this and were very keen to get it right as well. That helped develop some fairly fancy bits of kit these days, go out and buy that sort of kit.

This company, in their induction, tells you that they will be on the leading edge of technology, they won’t be just behind the leading edge. They have a different approach to manufacturing. This stuff possibly help lead to some of the tooling that’s available today because it’s a very high-profile mine and people watch what they’re doing.

Gerard: Were you working with RME in that project or did they spring up?

Leigh: This was in the days before RME became a real powerhouse.

Gerard: Interesting. I’ve been talking to them a little bit lately on a few different things and some of the equipment that’s coming out now, it’s getting more and more automated and pretty incredible. What’re your views on doing mill relines? Because there are different views trying to push them out as far as possible, which means you got the bigger, thicker liners or maybe do a shutdown every quarter rather than every half a year and do it quickly and it allows you to have a thinner line of that. You can get a bit of throughput through the mill. Have you ever done any work on looking at different options there?

Leigh: Yes, it depends on the capacity of the bearings of your mill. I’ll give you an example. The 40-foot mills these days have somewhere between 800 and 1,000 tons of liners. If you can stretch your liners out to a multiple of your mill pump’s life and your cycle and cluster lives although your site pumps you can generally bail them out one at a time but it’s nice to have a mill, in my view, that only shuts down six-monthly, every minute the mill’s running is money in the bank. Mill runtime, to me, is the ultimate measure. If you look at First Quantum’s mines like Kansanshi and Kalumbila, the driver there is mill runtime.

You want liners that will last, some 6 months, some 12 months and the feed headline inners, generally, some of those will last three to four years. The real trick isn’t– I don’t believe trying to have short, sharp shutdowns more frequently. I think the real trick is trying to make sure that all of your liners are multiples of the shortest liner like you have. When you do change out, you know which ones you’ve got to do and you’re not throwing away expensive chrome or high-cost wear material. The weight of the liners is governed by what your mill can handle, your mill bearings can handle.

Older style mills in the old mines like the gunpowders and that where you have rolling element bearings are very limited. Sometimes, some mills have to stay at rubber, they can’t go to steels lines. That’s my view on it. My life has mostly been around the really big mills. For me, a six-month shutdown is about where I’d want to be.

Gerard: I’m just wondering if there’s any trade-off between having maybe a less heavy mill liner, allowing more material to be in the middle at the same time like a truck body, you can unload a truck body and carry more tons of dirt. Just wondering if there was any of that type of trade-off there.

Leigh: Look, Gerard, I think there might be on a smaller capacity mill but generally, the big mills these days, they got a reasonable amount up their sleeve and capacity is governed by megawatts. For example, on a 28-megawatt, 40-foot SAG mill, when you see it up around the 26, 27, 27.5 megawatts, you know that you haven’t got much more up your sleeve and your liner weight really doesn’t have a lot of bearing on that for their takeaway at other side of the mills. On the bigger mills, there’s not a problem. On the smaller mills, yes, it definitely is a problem. It’s the weight in the mill.

Gerard: That’s good, mate, that’s really good. All right. Can you tell me about your views on work quality and how you go about ensuring that quality of work is great and rework is minimized?

Leigh: Now, I believe and I remember when I first started work that it was sleeves cut out of your shirt, stubbies, hearing protection, there was for horses, never wear gloves, you’d be a real wuss if you wore gloves. Things have changed a bit. I guess now, I have absolutely no doubt that work quality is intrinsically embedded in safety and vice -versa. In essence, now, when you go through preparation for a job, if you do a proper SAP, JSA, JSP, whatever you want to call it, type five, in that, you’ll talk about the tooling you’re going to use, which means that you must make sure you have the right tooling, the right people, you need the right gear on the job.

If you have the right gear, you use the right manuals, all the spare parts are available, then the quality of the work you do is really down to your state of mind and back to the cultural beliefs that you have. I think to me, I like to think that if a guy has done all that and the preparation is done properly, the planning’s been done, then there is no reason why quality shouldn’t be right.

The thing that starts to come into play sometimes is when somebody looks over their shoulder and says, “Come on, we want to start this up,” or “We want to get this truck out of the workshop in 10 minutes.” That starts to impact on that and I think as a supervisor, superintendent or manager, you have to guard against that and that’s part of your daily job as well to make sure that people are given a reasonable time to do the work and that the preparations are right. The only other thing I believe on quality is that you must audit, physically audit what’s going on in your workplaces.

As a manager, it’s not unhealthy to grab the superintendent and ask him to grab the supervisor, “Let’s go for a walk around the workshop, let’s go for a walk out into the plant.” Not like a policeman, but go and have a look at something that was done. It depends on your personal relationship with the guys on the floor or with the superintendents or supervisors. I believe that the superintendent should take the supervisor and technicians at and get them to show him what they did. When they went and did that job, what did they do? Not often, once every couple of months or something like that.

I think the supervisor clearly needs to audit his people’s work a bit more regularly and I do think it’s important that every now and then, the supervisor picks up one of the PM sheets and goes out and satisfies himself that it was done properly, that it wasn’t done in the crib room .

Gerard: Mate, some brilliant insights there. I just love what you said there. Go out with the manager, go out with the superintendent and the superintendent with the supervisors and the supervisors themselves and really have a critical look at that work and that work quality, the PM checklists. The key thing that you said that really resonated with me was, “Not like a policeman.” You talked about having that relationship with the guys and they know you’re doing it to– Like a coach in a footie team or a captain in a footie team, “It’s all there because we’re all on the same journey. We all want to win the same game.”

Leigh: Hey look, recently, Gerard, in a job I was doing for a company in the Philippines, I noticed that greasing wasn’t happening properly, that these guys, for some reason, been told, You can’t- you shouldn’t over-grease bearings.” Of course, conveyor pulley bearings, it’s impossible to over-grease conveyor pulley bearing unless you’re making a mess on the fluid underneath. That might be the only problem. I spent four hours or so with the guys one day. We grabbed the grease gun. We grabbed a few cartridges in a bag and I walked around with them and showed them what needed to be done.

That simple thing is probably going to save a number of bearing failures over the next few years. Given that in my three months there, we had something like five bearing failures on conveyor pulleys due to lack of grease. I think that they’re the little audits you can do when you walk around and you see things are not being done properly. You take the time to actually coach somebody and show somebody.

Gerard: Mate, I wish we could hear more people talking about that in the industry. It’s as simple as that. Just getting around, having a look, making sure that the grease has been applied correctly. That’s a fundamental. Awesome stuff. I’ve got a bit of a scenario for you. If tomorrow, you were put in as a maintenance manager in a reactive workplace and you reviewed the plant performance, you checked all the aspects of managing maintenance, including strategy, planning, reliability, improvement, work execution, the people, all those things that you talked about in those other stories, and you identified that everything, all of those areas, they needed to improve them, they all had problems, but you only have the power to change one thing. What would you change first so that you can have the most impact on the equipment, reliability and performance?

Leigh: I’m assuming here that it’s a workplace that’s got nothing in place at all. From that perspective, you’ve got to start at the start. You need an equipment strategy. You’re forcing me here to say one thing, the equipment strategy is the key in my view. Assuming that once you develop the strategy and put it in place, that strategy is a whole encompassing strategy that covers everything. My view is that you must have a strategy in place to maintain the equipment. Otherwise, you go on out there not really knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing or actually, what you’re going to do.

Look, I’ve got to say strategy, but I’m assuming that there’s nothing else in place at all and that strategy would include all of the things that come under a strategy. The PMs, the measures, the KPIs, all that sort of thing would come under a strategy. I’m thinking of long-term results here because you can’t change planning if you don’t have a strategy. You could look at execution and quality. I could say to you that I would say that I would make sure that the quality of every repair that’s done is perfect, and understanding that that quality includes the defect elimination or RCA of some form or another so that it’s not going to happen again.

If that’s not going back into a strategy, then it might not get recorded and it might well happen again.

Gerard: Okay. Now, that’s great. It’s your experience that we’re trying to undercover so that’s awesome. Whilst you’re putting all that strategy and everything in place in the short-term, what would you get the guys to focus on?

Leigh: I’d get them to focus on the quality of their work and understanding the failure modes, making sure that they put in place a fix of stops that that failure mode happening again, or if they don’t have the resources or the authority or the power to put in place that fix that it gets recorded.

Gerard: I love that last bit there. Awesome. Look, thank you so much for those insights into your experience and background. I really appreciate it. You’ve got such a detailed knowledge of maintenance in such a breadth of industry experience. Just before we go, what advice would you give to aspiring or new maintenance managers?

Leigh: Well, I was lucky enough in my working career to pick up two mentors. They’re both still alive and just a very quick story. One of them said to me, “Ring me every day on Wednesday at ten o’clock and I’ll ask you a question or two.” I’d ring him up and the question would be something like, “Who have you personally thanked in the last 48 hours for doing a good job?” They were those sort of questions and he was obviously coaching me to thank people for doing a good job in that instance. I would make sure that I’d have an answer for that question but then when I’d ring him up, he’d asked me a different question along a similar line.

Then I left Comalco in Weipa and I went to Indonesia, to Kelian, in Borneo and lo and behold, I get a phone call, one Wednesday morning at ten o’clock local time saying, “You haven’t rung me for a few weeks.” This mentor kept in touch with me and he’s been brilliant and really good to bounce things off. His methodology was to ask me hard questions. Another guy that I worked for who was my manager once back in the early days, same thing, very, very good to bounce things off. I guess that’s just a story on finding a good mentor and keeping in touch with that person is some advice I would give.

The second piece of advice would be when you see something that’s wrong in your view, ask yourself why and try and understand why you think it’s wrong. I like to ask why, particularly with people problems. When I see someone doing something that I believe is wrong, I have to understand why they’re doing it. Quite often, you find there’s a very, very good reason for them to do it. They’re not actually wrong. They’ve come to a decision that works for some logic and they’ve got to where they’ve got. Seek first to understand, I think, would be the advice there.

The last thing I would say to someone is when you’re looking to employ people to work with you and I could say work for you- I’d rather say work with you, but when you’re looking to employ people, don’t be afraid that somebody might be smarter than you and don’t employ them because of that reason. In my view, it’s what’s best for the business that matters. If you employ somebody and they go on to be a bright, shining star and become the leader of the universe, then you’ve done your part to help that happen and they must’ve been good enough for it.

I think don’t be afraid to employ very good people when they’re available. I have found that a couple of times and I ended up with a planning person once that was probably one of the best planners I’ve come across in my working career and very, very pleased to have that person work for me and they’ve gone on to do a lot.