A Copper Producer Increases Smelting Efficiency

The Client

An international metals company with a copper smelting operation in southern Africa.

The Challenge

The client was experiencing production challenges. They were consistently missing their daily production target for blister copper.  On a good day they could produce five charges of blister copper but six charges were always out of reach.

The Solution

After a thorough diagnostic of their operation we jointly determined that planning, scheduling, and communication could be improved for more effective asset utilization and more efficient production.

We brought the mine managers together to help them develop a detailed schedule of the ideal production day.  This involved clear explanations of what should happen at each production stage and the time it should take.  We helped them to identify the different tasks and which processes were currently running over their allocated time.

Together, we found that poor communication hindered production as well as the lack of a formal schedule.  The lack of communication and coordination between the Ausmelt and converter controls rooms often meant that molten copper hardened in the converter staging area causing significant delays, idle time and reverts.

Once we helped the client implement the formal schedule and communication protocols, the mine saw instant improvement.

Performance Results

139 Tons

Average Daily Increase in Copper Smelted

27,000 Tons

11 Month Reduction in Reverts


Increase in Total Blister Copper Production

Adoption of a Continuous Improvement Mindset


Once the client realized the value of the clearer and easy to use schedule that we helped to develop, they began expanding upon it with an emphasis of eliminating as much idle time as possible.  And once reverts started to decrease they began to further minimize how much time the molten copper sits in the aisle.  However, we helped them to understand, that it’s not the schedule alone, but the managerial discipline to use it as a tool, that will help improve and sustain their efficiency over the long-term.

Near the end of the project we collaborated on a system to help maintenance to repair machinery without interrupting production.  By using a pre-start checklist, the management and maintenance teams could identify problems before they occur and plan for repair outside of production times.

With continuous improvement being a key component of this, and all of our projects, we helped our client to focus on following through with their new process to ensure that the improvements are sustainable.

more case studies