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CIO50 2018 #5: Rebbecca Kerr, Roy Hill

  • Name Rebbecca Kerr
  • Title General manager, technology
  • Company Roy Hill
  • Commenced role January 2016
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 120 staff
  • Related

    Roy Hill’s Rebbecca Kerr learned one key lesson last year and that was to walk a mile in the user’s shoes.

    “I had the opportunity to second to our operations business to look at the capacity and capability of our frontline leaders. It was enlightening to see the obstacles the leaders encountered daily but also to recognise the opportunity we had to alleviate the issues through technology,” Kerr says.

    “I came away from the experience with a new insight regarding design thinking and use-led innovation. This has left me with a lasting appreciation of our users and the real opportunity of technology.”

    As general manager, technology at Roy Hill – the $10 billion iron ore mine, majority owned by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting company – Kerr has built a team that is accountable for all facets of technology, including solutions that support the mining organisation’s strategic Smart Mine program.

    Kerr and her team has been instrumental in delivering the program, which launched in 2017, and includes more than 100 different items that deliver increasing levels of automation maturity, supporting by technology.

    Kerr introduced the ‘digital twin’ where each of Roy Hill’s physical assets is paired, which opens the door to optimised ways of operating.

    “The ‘digital twin’ has been a key component of maturity capability modelling and gap analysis to define and enable our road to automation. When complete, the agreed roadmap of work across operations will enable Roy Hill to reach its full potential,” she says.

    Supporting a smart mine

    Kerr and her team have delivered advanced data analytics that provide new levels of understanding about the mine’s ore body while simultaneously delivering operational efficiencies.

    “For example, through machine learning, we can now predict the location of deleterious elements in the ore body. This provides cost savings due to the reduction in exploratory drilling,” Kerr says.

    “We have also applied analytics to provide insights and drive business change across many areas of Roy Hill, including optimising our processing plant, rail and network assets, and analysing the performance of mine operators to improve their effectiveness.”

    Kerr also led a program that uses ‘internet-of-things’ (IoT) technologies to manage the organisation’s mobile towers remotely and overcome the problem of vital lighting towers that illuminate mining tenements were simply being lost between shifts.

    Previously, a field worker would need to visit towers in mines for refueling maintenance every day, which was a time-consuming task.

    A GPS telemetry solution is now used on the lighting towers, which provides field workers using mobile tablets with maintenance information – gathered by IoT sensors – such as how long towers have been switched on and how much fuel has been burned by their generators. This helps them make decisions that cut energy costs for the mine.

    Wearables technologies are also offering advances in safety across the mine. Kerr has rolled out an automated fatigue system to monitor truck drivers. A mounted camera watches truck drivers’ eyes and sounds a warning if they close them or have their eyes off the road for too long. If the behaviour persists, it notifies their supervisor so they can do a fatigue check.

    Drone flyovers are effective for several applications, says Kerr. Drone videos are used for stockpile reconciliation by converting images to a stockpile volume; and providing weekly updates to the graphical information system (GIS) and to inform people of mining area changes.

    Drone video footage also helps engineers complete maintenance checks of inaccessible areas when they are doing fixed plant inspections; and helps them check for weed growth and vegetation changes. Replacement parts for the drones are also 3D printed.

    Finally, Roy Hill completed a trial of an ergonomic exoskeleton suit to reduce manual handling injuries.

    Kerr actively supports innovation in the mining industry, leading Roy Hill’s involvement in the Australian government’s satellite-based augmentation system test bed (SBAS) project (very high precision GPS).

    Under Kerr’s leadership, Roy Hill is providing the government with value estimations and testing of the GPS units in a mining environment. This assists in ensuring a valuable capacity for the future of all mining and other industries. 

    A big influence

    Kerr’s influence on Roy Hill’s operation is significant. Given the organisation’s heavy leverage of technology, she is fundamentally responsible for the way it operates each day – including front line support of critical technology systems.

    At the same time, she is also working towards her strategic vision for the business: building improvement by seeking out and introducing new technologies.

    She ensures technology is rolled out smoothly through comprehensive governance and change management processes. She believes that tech leaders need to collaborate with users extensively to deliver solutions that they need, which can be quite different from what they initially thought they wanted.

    “To ensure continuous collaboration, I have established business review groups where each team meets regularly with business stakeholders. I also carefully appoint steering committees for each major project, so all major stakeholders provide input and reach alignment before key decisions are made,” she says.

    Kerr also embraces gender and cultural diversity across the organisation. To encourage innovation, she looks for people who exemplify the company’s values: lead, think, care and perform.

    “They also need to bring fresh perspectives and ideas,” she says. “I believe in the importance of women in technology and drive efforts to attract and recruit women for more technology roles.”

    To ensure team skills stay relevant, Kerr and her tech group conduct annual training needs analysis. She encourages staff to get away from their desks and physically visit other people across the business.

    “This collaborative approach means decisions always result from actual conversations meaning we can be sure of the best outcomes for the business,” she says.

    Byron Connolly

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