Cert. IV site visit to Northern Quarries Epping

By on May 14, 2013

NOEL PICKERING, Industry Training Consultant for Box Hill Institute of TAFE provides an overview of the site visit to Northern Quarries in Epping.

ON the 26th August 2013 the Certificate IV in Surface Extraction Operations students from Box Hill Institute of TAFE were privileged to tour the operations at Northern Quarries Epping.

Pat Kerr and Wayne Deakin kindly opened their visitor’s book for the fifteen students. They supplied a detailed insight into how effective co-operation and open consultation in the workplace can result in a well-planned, well maintained and highly productive quarrying operation.

Following an interesting welcoming session with Pat Kerr who outlined the history of the Kerr family’s contribution to the quarrying industry and the progressive development of the Epping site, it was on the bus to see what all the “fuss” was about.

The anticipation and enthusiasm of the students over the past months lead right up to the site visit. Students were constantly informed of a “best practice” quarry where it is always clean. Everything is kept up off the ground. Everyone has a voice. Their ideas, if useful, actually became reality. This quarry is a working environment where everybody takes responsibility for their actions. They take ownership of their tasks and responsibilities. Employees put their hand in the air and say “Yeah, sorry, but I broke that. Next time I’ll be more careful” – and the next time they are more careful. A place where the workers helped design not only the plant but the way in which it is operated, maintained and kept clean. A quarry where the working environment allows workers to take their time to think about what went wrong. They consider the best approach to rectifying the problem, both in the short term and more importantly the long term.

Wayne Deakin explaining how things work

Although David Kerr had been in their class for the whole year quietly nodding in agreement, the students were not convinced that such a place could, yet alone did, exist. Undoubtedly, it was the most eagerly anticipated site visit of any year and for very good reason… it is real and genuine.

Before we visited the plant, we were taken to the top of the rehabilitated boundary that separates the old pit from the current excavation. Wayne briefed the boys on the progression of the landscape from the very beginning to where it is now and where it will be in the future. The students who had basalt flow source rock experience gained an insight into how another operation had to deal with the clay and other inconsistencies so common with volcanic flows.

Next stop was the much talked about plant. As the bus descended into the plant pit some students were wondering if it was actually in production. There was no visible dust. Then a wisp of dust came from the primary as a truck tipped off. We knew it was operational. That wisp of dust from the primary was the only dust being generated and everyone was critically aware of it.

“We’re working on it as we speak but as you will appreciate it’s hard to get right at the primary. We don’t want to rush into it… we want to fix it properly…” This was the response to the students’ questions as to why the primary was still making dust (albeit minimal by usual standards). It was noted that the remainder of the plant was dust free.

The students were split into groups and spent the next couple of hours learning. looking, asking, listening… learning, as they explored all facets of the plant. The list of what they learnt is beyond the scope of this article but it was extensive to say the least.

The overall design of the plant incorporates old and new items of capital equipment. This has allowed ease of access for inspection and maintenance while still being one of the most heavily guarded plants most have experienced. All were impressed with how the guarding varied according to purpose. The guarding was practical and easily removed for maintenance tasks when required.

This highlighted the way consultation and input from the workers doing the job at the design stage resulted in effective and efficient solutions. The small things like the strategically positioned boards of ply to cleverly protect moving parts and redirect the seemingly minimal spillage away to the concrete floor. The spillage could then be easily swept away at the end of the shift.

Wayne Deakin has their undivided attention when explaining the benefits of the KVX GET

The lanyard system around the radial stacker which reached around to the pug mill protected people and property. The idea attracted many and changed the minds of some sceptics…

“Who in their right mind would park a ute there? It’s a waste of time!” “Contractors.”
“Oh yeah…that’s right…brilliant idea.”

The students appreciated the simplicity and ingenuity of their isolation lock out and tag out procedures which were demonstrated when one of the chutes blocked. The plant operator calmly communicated the blockage to others. They set about making the plant safe before they cleared the problem.

One student was heard to remark “That would have taken us a couple of hours and a lot of angst” – it was done in less than 15 minutes with total plant isolation and minimal fuss.

Another gem was the way in which the plant had been designed to be easily demounted. In the future when the quarry had run its course it could be moved to other locations.

Following the plant inspection we headed off to the pit. Wayne was keen to show their new KVX ground engaging tool on their Komatsu face loader. Everyone was totally amazed at the reports of longevity, lack of required maintenance (compared to the usual GET systems of adaptors and teeth); increased performance and the elimination of the risk of having a tooth jamming in your secondary cone crusher….again. I am sure there will be requests to a few managers for the set up to be considered for their loaders.

Back to the old impressively restored farm house which is now being used as a dedicated training facility, meeting room and lab, for a debrief and question time. As totally expected from the way they operate at Northern Quarries we were asked for our feedback. This would be considered and valued so they could not only improve the next tour but also improve their operations.

Undeniably, the lasting impression from the tour was how communication, consultation and the valuing of ideas and input can lead to a remarkably well designed plant. A plant that incorporates a mix of relatively old and brand new capital equipment. It is not only productive but highly effective and exceptionally efficient. And by all accounts a pleasure to work in. If you are still sceptical, as some of the students were before the tour of Northern Quarries, I suggest you call Pat or Wayne and see for yourself.

On behalf of all the students and myself I would like to again thank Northern Quarries, Pat Kerr, Wayne Deakin and all the crew at the Epping Quarry for accommodating the Box Hill Institute Certificate IV in Surface Extraction Operations class of 2013 and look forward to next year’s visit.

Box Hill Institute offers opportunities to students fr om Certificate II level to Advanced Diploma of Extractive Industries Management to enhance their learning.

The site visit to the Northern Quarries is a good illustration of this learning opportunity. The focus of their programs supports participants to ensure success.

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