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Is your mine training program crippled by these 10 hidden inefficiencies?

Updated: Mar 11

Your mine’s heavy equipment operator training isn’t as effective as it should be. But you probably never noticed, because you think your existing training program is "good enough." It may have been adequate when mineral prices were high and your mine was profiting from an extended boom. But now that cost-cutting is norm in the mining industry, you need to take a fresh look at all aspects of your operations for ways to improve efficiency. Here are 10 hidden inefficiencies we see in many mine training programs:

1. A lack of clearly-defined learning objectives Effective instructional design begins with a clearly-defined set of learning objectives. For example:

  1. What should the training program accomplish?

  2. What problems does it need to solve?

  3. What pain points should it address? In other words, what should success look like?

2. A lack of program success measures Once you have established objectives for your training initiative, you need to decide on the metrics you’ll use to measure its progress. Success measures should address the questions, "How will you know the program was successful?" and "What results will demonstrate success?" Potential metrics may include:

  1. A reduction in incidents

  2. An increase in productivity

  3. A reduction in equipment damage

  4. Reduced worker turnover In any field, without a specific goal, you can’t measure performance. Training is no different.

3. Training as a "brain dump"

Many mines utilize operator training that is a collection of tasks, procedures and other knowledge, with little or no structure. According to best practices in learning and development, adult learners retain knowledge best when it is delivered in "chunks" - digestible bites that focus on a single task at a time. But a lot of mine training resembles a "brain dump" of knowledge that no human being can possibly remember, much less apply on the job. If trainees become overwhelmed, they will disengage - and learning and on-the-job performance will suffer.

4. No attention given to foundational skills Some tasks require foundational or enabling skills, which the trainee must master before they can successfully perform the tasks to which they refer. These skills must be included in the training program, too, and must be positioned just before the task they enable. Trainers and instructional designers need to give careful thought to the progression of knowledge when they’re designing training programs. Think of it as a pyramid, with the basic, must-know information at the base and more advanced topics in layers above it. The bottom layer forms the foundation for the more complex topics and tasks to follow. Each lesson builds upon the ones that came before it, in a stair-step progression. This approach helps ensure that trainees will understand how to perform critical tasks safely and productively.

5. Too equipment focused Operator training in many mines tends to be very equipment focused. Trainees may learn about operator controls and how to conduct a pre-use inspection, but learn far less about how to perform critical tasks safely and efficiently. Instructional designers also need to take a close look at which tasks are performed frequently, which are most difficult or risky, and which could have the greatest impact on mine operations, and include course content to address those issues. Ask yourself, "What are the current problem areas we face with this type of equipment?" Problems with haul trucks, for example, could include over-use of service brakes to slow down and stop the truck, dry steering and overspeeding on grade. These issues should get special attention when the training program is being designed and structured, so it delivers the desired business impact - and solves these common problems.

6. Field training is unstructured

All too often, it’s up to the field trainer to decide how much, or how little, knowledge is conveyed during in the field training sessions. At best, field training is inconsistent; at worst, bad habits or inaccurate and unsafe practices can be passed on to trainees, which can be difficult to correct later. For best results, structured on-the-job activities should tie in with the knowledge being conveyed in the other parts of the training program. This will help trainees to remember what they’ve learned and apply it on the job.

7. Poor presentation of mine procedures Often, mines dump all of their procedures into one lesson or include them in the training program via external links or in a thick binder of paper documents, which trainees are expected to read. This is instructionally poor practice and it renders the program obsolete at worst and difficult to maintain at best. For best results, the information contained in these procedures ought to be incorporated into on-the-job (OJT) activities and should be introduced at the moment the knowledge needs to be applied. When they’re presented in the proper context, mine procedures can be much more meaningful and memorable to trainees.

8. Not explaining why

Adults learn differently than children. They prefer to be problem solvers. They want to know "What happens if I do this?" or "How will doing this negatively impact safety?" Learners will always try to take shortcuts unless they understand the consequences that may occur as a result.

9. Tasks are not adequately demonstrated in the training materials Giving trainees a written list of steps to perform a task is one approach. But a much more effective learning tactic is to show them what to do using videos or animation. There is no substitute to having an expert operator show you what to do, step by step - if not in person then via a video that demonstrates the best practice for performing a task. This type of multimedia learning material is ideal for not only classroom instruction, but for delivery via a tablet in the field. There, it can be used to provide trainees with "just-in-time" refreshers on tasks they’re about to perform. It also gives trainers an opportunity to compare the expert’s performance to that of each trainee - perfect for performance coaching.

10. A simulator-centric approach to training Most medium- to large-sized mines have invested in simulators to help trainees and experienced equipment operators to refine their skills. But a common mistake is to focus the entire operator training program around this costly piece of hardware rather than instructionally designing a sound learning curriculum and integrating simulation exercises into it. What’s the difference? When a mine puts new hires immediately on a simulator, they can quickly become overwhelmed. They don’t understand what they’re seeing and experiencing and what to do during these early sessions. They need to first have a foundation of knowledge and context to make their simulator sessions truly valuable. In a haul truck training curriculum, for example, trainees need to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the jobs haul trucks perform, the truck’s major components and controls, rules of the road and other basics before they can get the most from a simulator session. Ideally, the simulator lessons should be tightly integrated with the other elements of the training curriculum. For example, for loading at a shovel, trainees could:

  1. View a computer-based training module that explains the basics of backing up to a shovel from the cab and blind sides.

  2. Practice this skill in a simulator.

  3. Practice it in an actual truck. This see/practice/do progression helps anchor the knowledge of how to perform this task in their minds, so they can better recall it later.

The proof is in the performance Want proof that these concepts really matter? One mine we are aware of experienced a 4.5% increase in productivity and a 50% reduction in incidents by addressing these issues within their existing, well-intentioned training program. Read more details about this case history here.

Conclusion: You can’t fix a problem you can’t see Collectively, these hidden inefficiencies may be having a negative impact on the productivity and safety of your equipment operators. Why not assess which of these inefficiencies may be affecting your operations, and then take steps to correct them? When the upturn hits, you’ll be glad you did! If you need help performing an assessment of your mine training, please contact us at 800-942-2886, 262-514-2886 or via

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