Destination: The Future
Some of the fondest memories I have of our summer family vacations as a kid are the couple of times we travelled in an old metallic-green Dodge Caravan (complete with hood ornament) from Denver, Colorado all the way to Orlando, Florida. Orlando has turned into the undisputed king of themed amusement parks, but back then there was only one true destination – Walt Disney World.
For a young kid in the 1980s, Walt Disney World was a life-altering experience. You had thrilling attractions like Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, and Star Tours. However, I might have been the only kid whose favourite ride was the Carousel of Progress.
Progress Then, Progress Now
For those of you unfamiliar with the Carousel of Progress, it’s essentially a small rotating auditorium with six animatronic stages. The first and last stages serve as bookends that allow people to get on and off the ride. The middle four stages are different household scenes throughout the 20th century.
It starts off with a guy marvelling at his telephone, ice box and other “modern conveniences” of the early 20th century. The next scene occurs in the 1920s and features electric lighting, a radio, a Charles Lindbergh reference and other marvels. The next two scenes showcase the 1940s and what the future could look like in the early 1990s!! Each scene has the main character, John, spending time with his family during some sort of holiday. I think there were a lot of reasons why I loved the Carousel of Progress.
It was a great representation of the accomplishments we’ve made over the course of a century. It wonderfully demonstrated the world through one man’s eyes, painting a picture of the progress one might witness in his life. Throughout this journey, you can find John expressing the joy that innovation brings while relaxing with his loved ones. But, I think the part I appreciate most of all is the ride’s ability to instill a sense of awe and excitement about what is possible over the next 100 years.
How About Progress to Make a Mine Planner’s Life Better?
Due to the recent downturns in the mining industry, anyone who hasn’t been laid off is now working at maximum capacity. What once was three jobs is now a job for two persons, or even one. Even though the bus leaves site to take us back home every night, the portability of our laptops enable us to work through the night. Tons of dirt still need to be moved, mills still need to be fed, and investors still need a return on their investment.
I’m sure any one of us would rather have a job that allows us the ability to feed our families while working 65 hours a week, instead of not having a job at all. But as Mining Engineers, why not leverage progress to make our lives easier? Let’s take Mary as an example. Mary is a mining engineer out at site. It’s July, and she’s extremely busy updating mine plans. No matter how hard she works, she never seems to have enough time to run through all the scenarios she wants.
A Typically Busy Day
Mary has had a full day – she’s gone to the face a couple of times, met with the blasting foreman, spent some time reviewing the block model with a geologist, and worked with the surveyors to update a couple of maps. When she gets back to her desk, she realizes that she forgot to start the optimization runs for the scenarios that she wanted to check throughout the day. Her plan was to run an optimization scenario before hopping in the truck, check on it and start another one before meeting the geologist, and then start a third before her surveying meeting. She would run a fourth before getting on the bus to go home, and start the fifth and final one as soon as she got back to work the next day.
Now she only has time to run a couple scenarios, cutting her number of potential data points by more than half, and ruling out any option to adjust the model or constraints of her mine plan. Mary opts to work late and skip dinner with her husband and kids, just so she can produce and analyze one more potential mine plan. She makes absolutely sure to set up one more run before she goes home for the evening.
After a few winks, a quick breakfast with her family and a nap on the ride out to the mine, Mary arrives to work with a full docket of work for the day. She’s ready to make her rounds in the pit, as any good engineer does, when her boss walks in the door. He says, “Hey Mary. We need to make a few changes to the mine plan parameters I gave you. I know this will change your previous models, so go ahead and take an extra day on the report.”
Mary thinks to herself, “WHAT? I fought tooth and nail to get those 5 optimization runs in yesterday. I can’t skip dinner again or my husband will KILL me! How in the world will I make all my meetings today and still make it home for dinner while getting enough optimization runs in to produce a quality report for tomorrow??!?!?” If only there was a better way…
Keep Your Boss Happy! Keep Your Spouse Happy!
I believe a tangible measure of a Mining Carousel of Progress is the use of innovative mining software to make our workday more efficient. If you’re in mine planning, you’ve probably seen the powerful mine planning, optimization and strategic scheduling tools in Minemax Scheduler. But, many people don’t realize that Minemax Scheduler also has a batch optimizer that would have been a great help to Mary the mining engineer.
The tool allows you to configure batches of projects/scenarios for optimization and specify times for when these batches are to be processed. Instead of worrying about how to please both her boss and her husband, Mary could have prepared a batch of scenarios to optimize at work while she played with her kids in the backyard at home. Even though we’re all stressed in the middle of a bear mining cycle, we can still leverage available tools to maximize time spent at site and at home.