Out in mining country the distances are long and the reception is lousy. It’s the last place you’d want a bus carrying a service crew to breakdown.
To avoid such a dire situation, global facilities management company Sodexo – which has been providing services to mines in Australia since 1982 – have been rolling out communications and analytics tools made possible by what the company calls a ‘major digital and business transformation initiative’.
“Given the sort of long distances people are travelling between mine sites and different locations, in order to protect the safety of individuals we have to monitor the performance of people in the field,” explains Paul Bean, Sodexo’s CEO of Mining in Asia Pacific.
GPS locators, for example, have been fitted on all vehicles to monitor driver performance and how the journey’s progress. Contact is maintained by voice and data, and if a vehicle being driven a long distance is lost when it hits a GPS dead spot, the technology predicts the vehicle’s average travel time to its destination.
“If we’re not seeing them come out of those dead spots within a certain timeframe then it automatically kicks in an emergency management procedure, finding out whether everything is okay,” says Bean. “It gives a high degree of comfort.”
The predictive analytics alert system is one of a slew of solutions which have come as the result of an Australia-wide transformation at Sodexo. The new capabilities mean new client offerings, and new clients.
Last year the company won a 10-year, $2.5 billion contract with mining giant Rio Tinto.
Bean added: “In recent bids that we have won I think technology solutions played a significant part.”
A will meets a way
In Australia, Sodexo delivers facilities management services to some of the nation’s leading miners, as well as corporate, schools, offshore oil rigs, aged care facilities and prisons. In Western Australia alone Sodexo transports more than 6,000 workers to and from their work each day; produces 18,000 meals and services 16,000 rooms.
The desire to digitally transform Sodexo, which employs 4,000 people locally, had been building for several years. However, there had been barriers to adoption.
“Having short term contracts with degrees of uncertainty make it more difficult to invest in new technology,” Bean says. “And also the technology itself: it’s advancement and it’s maturity.
“The main driver for us was having the clients that were looking for longer term arrangements and agreements and the development of the technology, which had advanced pretty significantly in the last five years to enable sort of changes that we really want to make. The move into digital was almost inevitable. We just saw the opportunity in the last couple of years to make that move.”
Last year the company brought together a number of disparate systems onto Microsoft Azure and is now making use of Dynamics 365 Field Services and Power BI.
The company worked with partner Velrada, and replaced an original plan to build equivalent functionality from 25 best of breed solutions, to go all in with the Microsoft suite. A Sodexo team of around eight is supported by up to 20 from the partner depending on the project in hand.
The move has already had a direct impact on profits, Bean said. The allocation of around 300 field service technicians, for example, is now determined by Dynamics tools.
“Knowing from every trip the vehicle’s performance, the value of the stock it’s carrying, the time it is productive, the total cost of the vehicle and the recoverable revenue from the trip gives a true metric of profitability,” he said.
“This then allows field allocation based upon metrics that determine profit. Different utes may be used with different stock, certain drivers may only use certain vehicles, different weather may restrict the usage of certain vehicles.”
Sodexo management meanwhile has live data online dashboards and reports that clearly reveal overall contract performance and transparency across the enterprise in real time. A more real time view of operations is also available to Sodexo’s clients as well.
One example is reacting to fly-in fly-out flight delays. Previously a message would go via phone to the client and on to Sodexo.
“We have to manage the safety of those people, we have to feed them, we have to make sure that they have sufficient water – a lot of these aerodromes are not, you know, they’re not modern airports – so we have to create the right environment to make sure that we provide people with what they need at the time they need it,” says Bean.
Now any delays, and the actions they prompt, such as supplying food and water to the 200 miners stuck waiting, can be seen on a dashboard accessible to all parties.
“The technology simply enables all of the affected parties to see the information at the same time and get comfort from the fact they can see the action being taken and the time it has been taken in. That makes the whole process more efficient and it gives everybody a single view of the same issue. So everybody sees that information at the same time.”
In some cases Sodexo employees, such as drivers, are also made aware of their own data.
“Once we surfaced the data we saw rapid and dramatic improvements – if the individual can see the data relative to themselves they feel more part of the solution,” Bean said.
“We saw a clear shift in driver behaviour over days – not weeks – to be more compliant with standards – and that never dropped back.”
As time goes on, Bean says, the analytics will lead to more accurate predictions and help increase the savings already made. As he puts it: “Information is king”.
“Many organisations work to traditional measures like cost of labour or the cost of raw materials. This system allows us to go deeper and understand where efficiencies can be delivered through integrating services more, or in some cases less,” he says.
“Information is king and if you haven’t got the empirical data then every decision you make can influence positive or negative cost results. This gives us certainty – I talk in the business about which levers to pull. We can analyse the financial impact on us and the client if we change a route or a schedule.
“As the system matures and the data provides a richer output – then the efficiencies and opportunities for optimisation become stronger and pretty dynamic. When the client’s world changes we are able to change with it and predict with reasonable certainty what the impact will be on them and us.”