Mines Canada is an integrated "pit-to-port" business that delivers iron ore products to the international steel market and its parent company, ArcelorMittal. Along with two open-pit mines, Mines Canada owns a private shipping port and a 420 km railway. Michel Plourde, Director of Systems, described how Mines Canada created an Enterprise Information Hub to make their supply chain more responsive to real-time production conditions and transform their business from a pure push operation to a client-driven, pull business.
In 2010, ArcelorMittal invested in an expansion project at the mine with the goal of increasing annual production from 16 Mt to 26-30 Mt. When the project culminated in 2012, the price of ore had dropped significantly. Mines Canada realized they needed to find a way to push the extra tonnage through their transportation infrastructure without additional capital investment. Plourde described their supply chain infrastructure. "We haul ore from our production facilities and our mine areas along a 420-km railway out to the port. The port itself is man-made, completely excavated out of bedrock and presents an interesting logistical challenge. There is only one loading facility, and because the port was designed for smaller ships and cannot be modified, you can't move multiple ships at a time - they just won't fit.
Building a Business Case for an Adaptive Supply Chain
Plourde continued, "We started realizing very quickly that over the last 10-15 years, we had geared our supply chain for a 13-16 million-ton operation." With a 23-30 millionton operation, their supply chain operations were going to cause severe bottlenecks. Plourde recalled, "We had to push the more ore through with no additional capital investment. All we could do was apply a bit of smarts to what we had and see what we could do."
Plourde described their approach to resolving that challenge. We realized that we really needed was some sort of architecture to transform the data we had to make the entire supply chain much more resilient. The supply chain had to be able to adapt. We had to be much quicker at figuring out why we weren't delivering, why production targets weren't being met, or why we didn't have the right combination of ships, at the right time, at the port. Plourde described how the PI System was being used. "I understood what was happening in the mine, in the railway, but how could I make all this make sense to business decision-makers? We had to align budget numbers, daily production targets - which came from our business systems to know where we were going off-track." Finally, he said, "it's much more than knowing it, it's knowing it fast enough to be able to react."
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