We all know it: the strategic mine schedule is important. The considerations are great and the situations often complex, and the result has a huge effect on the business. What many don’t know is that a great deal of potential value can be gained or lost through the way the problem is handled. To illustrate the result of improper handling of a complex problem, let’s step out of context and compare a similarly precarious duty: planning for your daughter’s wedding banquet.
The Complex Problem
So here’s the situation: There are over a hundred guests to be catered to, each with their own distinct characteristics and requirements. There is a seemingly endless range of venues and menus to choose from; the possible combinations are overwhelming. There are a range of activities that require sequencing, and decisions need to be made which meet the insistent, none-to-gentle, and often variable demands of your primary stakeholder.
The Piecemeal Approach
As the stress builds and your blood pressure rises, you, being the resourceful and resilient parent that you are, decide to break up the problem into manageable pieces. To reduce the complexity further, maybe you make a few simplifying assumptions, and perhaps spread the load and give some of the planning components to trusted friends solve independently. Seems logical, right? So, you enlist the help of one “trusted friend” to take care of the venue and seating plan. Another looks after the menu & food, another the wine. Someone else takes care of the music, and yet another the limousine for the bridal party, and so on. Each of these friends duly delivers their completed component tasks, on time and within your overall budget, so everything is looking great…….or so you think…….
The Big Day
The big day arrives. Your master plan is about to unfold; the moment of maximum anticipation is at hand. Your palms sweat as the hordes of guests begin to arrive, mingle, and look for their seats. In shock you find that your seating plan has the most strikingly incompatible people at the same table. Mayhem ensues at Table 23. Couples wander in search of their seats, only to find they have been seated at different tables. Other guests continue to wander about aimlessly, finding no table at all. You scramble to rectify the situation and meanwhile discover the kitchen is running on a different schedule and is not even near ready to serve the meal. Biting your tongue, you answer your ringing phone to learn that the hired limousine transportation is inadequate for conveying the wedding party to the venue. After hours of fighting one fire after another, and your plan in tatters, the party arrives and the meal is served.
Not Over Yet
Thinking you are through the worst of it now, you gently become aware that the deep Italian entrée of hand-made tagliatelle in marinara sauce (her favorite) is completely out of synch with the thin, white, expensive chardonnay being poured. While concealing your rising horror and indignation, you hear the band, now on overtime, strike up the dinner music, and your ears detect a Mariachi tune of obscure and despicable origin. As your jaw hits the table, you hear, closing in fast and with a purpose, marching heels biting on the hard floor followed by the swoosh of white silk and fury heading your way.
The Parallel with Strategic Mine Planning
Whilst the situation I describe may be completely facetious and is very much “tongue-in-cheek”, in many ways the situation surrounding the requirements for developing a strategic mine schedule can be equally as daunting. Your stakeholders demand a plan which delivers maximum value while balancing a multitude of constraints. There are a whole host of inter-dependencies between the various components of the problem which cannot be ignored. If any aspect of the problem is misrepresented, or if any component is solved in isolation (physically or temporally), then the appropriateness of the resulting schedule (and the success of the mine) is at stake. Our perilous wedding example, whilst obviously rather cut down in complexity compared to a mining case, demonstrates how a piece-wise, assumptive approach can lead to disaster.
The Integrated Approach
A more suitable approach would be to address all aspects of the problem together, then through optimization solve the whole in an integrated fashion. To find out more about how we do this with strategic mine scheduling, check out this article.