In Conversation With Brad Allsopp

Australia’s resources sector is in a production boom phase with new records for coal, iron ore, gold, base metals and LNG having been set in 2018.

In a recent interview with Brad Allsopp, our Materials Handling Executive for Resources in ANZ, we discussed the opportunities and challenges clients are facing, including the important role that technology is playing in changing the resources landscape.

“Clients come to us with a myriad of challenges needing solutions, and the tendency is to find solutions only for those particular challenges,” says Mr. Allsopp.

“For us, we explore the challenges holistically. Helping our clients fully assess their current and future needs allows them to gain greater perspective beyond the immediate, so they are better prepared for the long term. In other words, what they want may differ from what they truly need. A good project manager will steer that, driving more integration of project management and stakeholder engagement.”

Stronger Together

Mr. Allsopp believes that first and foremost, a collaborative approach with clients is the key to success.

He says, “Listening to our clients’ needs, coming alongside to help them navigate through obstacles, providing new alternatives and solutions where others may have given up or presented a costly, capital intensive approach rather than helping reduce operating costs – these are the things that matter.

“Having a track record of people who also retain that long-term site experience and industry knowledge is what gives our team an edge. For example, many of our people remember what happened on a particular site 20 years ago and for clients, that’s quite valuable, because we possess important historical knowledge and understand context. Clients resonate with that level of relevant expertise more than providing untested concepts.

“We actively support WSP teams around the world in the US, Canada, UK, Asia, Africa, Middle East and South America with opportunities, proposals and projects in materials handling,” says Mr. Allsopp. “With clients, we work in the same, integrated way to deliver successful outcomes.

“For example, we’ve recently wrapped up a significant five-year mining project in Western Australia where 42 of our people worked with the client as an integrated project team. A high degree of openness and trust existed between team members, resulting in reduced management, greater alignment, improved change management, and better use of resources and funds.

“WSP is here to partner with clients both locally and internationally and come up with the right solutions. We don’t take over. We don’t control and command or man-handle projects. We are here to build a future with our clients for the long haul.”

Give Us Your Challenges

For many of our clients, approvals are an ongoing challenge as legislation, regulations, and the social licence to operate continually evolve. Our approach involves strong consultation and stakeholder engagement, helping them navigate the environmental and key stakeholder requirements needed for successful board approval and finance for their projects.

“Our systems, people and capacity for completing feasibility studies efficiently leads to successful acceptance by governing boards for project authorisation and execution,” adds Mr. Allsopp.

“Exciting opportunities exist in the EPCM (Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management) space for very large projects. Offering services that address the whole life cycle, not just the build phase, will better support clients during inevitable downturns.

“Currently, we’re working with clients on projects that explore and understand their existing assets and identify activities that will support and extend the life of their assets and reduce costs, helping address the potential changes to come, so they are better prepared for the future.”

Future of Mine Life

With the emergence of new technology constantly impacting clients, there is pressure mounting on consultants to deliver technical capabilities through tools such as modelling software, visualisation, data and analytics and GIS. But is this what our clients want?

“While the mining industry is still learning to adopt new technologies, we’re finding that clients differ in their approach and take up may be impacted by the scale of a project scope,” says Mr. Allsopp. “Larger capital projects do have a requirement for solutions involving technology and we offer tools such as real time cost and schedule management, smart BIM model and digital twins to help them achieve their goals.

“Many operations are focusing on mine life and maximising the performance of their assets. As a result, this involves a priority around data, but we haven’t found a strong demand for data management and data handling yet, even when involved in projects.

“I recall a feasibility study where we built a predictive model of how the plant would perform. Data was provided from an existing plant, but the data was not in good enough shape to help make predictions of how a new plant would perform without significant cleansing.

“The challenge for our clients is to understand the benefit of good data or being able to capture it in a form that they can use. Clients need to get data fit and in shape, or look at acquiring systems to generate and interpret data in a way that’s useful for supporting their ongoing operations.

“Advances in innovation and technology are helping to enhance the industry’s competitiveness,” adds Mr. Allsopp. “Emerging and disruptive technologies such as drones, automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are presenting both opportunities and challenges to the sector.

“For example, drones are extremely effective in collecting spatial information, both surface and underground, and we’re seeing their application become more widespread. Machine learning AI and 3D mapping are other ways our clients are improving the efficiency of their operations. But these techniques generate huge data sets that can obscure trends and overwhelm people and systems.

“As a result of automation, we are also seeing a boost in safety as well as health outcomes. Autonomous drills reduce the health risks associated with dust, noise and vibration while autonomous trucks are reducing worker hazards, driver fatigue and human error.”

Solutions in Real Life

Mr. Allsopp continues, “Our collaborative work with clients is what leads to successful outcomes. Upgrading the Rolleston coal handling facility and upgrades to the Matraville gypsum handling and storage system are two recent examples that demonstrate the benefits in working closely together so that clients can determine the right solutions that fit their needs, now and into the future.”

From 9-11 July, 2019, you can find Mr. Allsopp presenting two papers at the 13th International Conference on Bulk Materials, Storage, Handling and Transportation in the Gold Coast. Upgrading Rolleston Coal Handling Facility and Upgrading the Matraville Gypsum Handling and Storage System were each written in collaboration with the associated client, WSP colleagues and peer-reviewed.

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