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The role of suppliers in troubled times

With depressed commodity prices exerting sustained negative pressure on profitability, the mining industry finds itself in the badlands. In stepping up to the plate, every decision is critical, more so in choosing the right supplier partner.

By Tony Stone


Mining is a tough industry, especially in Africa. Global economics and the current operating Stone-Threeenvironment make it enormously challenging. Every focus has got to be on increasing productivity, minimising costs and increasing profitability. As part of this process, choosing the right supplier partners is absolutely vital. Why? Experienced miners know the pitfalls of choosing the wrong supplier partner – a choice made difficult by today’s operating demands for greater efficiencies in an increasingly complex and sophisticated world. Even so, with the right supplier partner, a mine can do and achieve much in the three critical areas mentioned.

Where suppliers fall short

Communication is a science. It’s a skill marketing gurus have mastered, and use to their advantage. This enabler secures the interest of possible buyers and in some instances the immediate purchase of products. When you strip everything away, marketing is all about psychology and influencing a person’s perceptions so that a call-to-action is triggered in the favour of the seller. As psychologists tell us, 89% of what we believe is based on what we see or hear. Knowing this, marketers zoom in and focus on people’s perceptions to influence the buy decision.

Stone Three Mining Solutions’ CEO says, “They inundate you with all sorts of information about their technology products and what these products can do, and what the benefits are. But what they don’t tell you is what their products cannot do, which in many instances is extremely important, and can be the differentiating factor in achieving or not achieving the productivity and efficiencies gains needed in a particular area of a mine’s operations.”

He continues, “Then we get the over eager and at times aggressive sales person, who assumes his or her product is the be all and end all, and pushes the product by focussing on the sale rather than the customer, neglecting to focus on the mine’s problems and needs and whether their product actually meets these requirements. This product and sales focussed approach, in many instances, is counter-productive and a waste of time, and money, for the mine.”

What is needed?

In mining there isn’t one shoe that fits all. Suppliers need to make a point of understanding a mine’s needs first and then strive to meet those needs - and not just focus on making a sale. A measure of integrity, complemented by an authentic effort to satisfy a mine’s real needs, would be a welcome and much appreciated change. And, what is of particular importance is that erudite sales people should not take advantage of less experienced mine staff. And it goes without saying that all forms of bribery should be avoided. These negative approaches invariably leave a mine short-changed, with partial solutions and yet more costs.

Stone Three Mining Solutions states that, “Suppliers who embark on a co-discovery process, in collaboration with a mine’s staff, to understand and establish the real needs of the mine is what is wanted and needed - be it a problem that could be solved by an existing technology product or an entirely new and innovative technology solution.”

“In many instances custom solutions are needed. Whether this is from the ground up or building on an existing piece of technology, a cyclone of collaborative creativity provides the agility to develop completely new solutions that overcome the limitations prevalent in many of the off-the-shelf technology products. This approach is more meaningful and it is one that delivers measurable value. It also assists a mine, in real terms, to achieve its three critical objectives,” they added.

Business sustainability

Through this collaborative process, closer relationships are built between supplier and client, as well as trust, an extremely important factor in the sustainability of both the supplier’s business and the profitable operation of a mine. Suppliers should make it a priority to become a true strategic business partner to a mine.

This being said, there is another side to the sustainability coin. A mine, as a business pursuing the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, needs to take into account its environmental impact. This means that any technology solution, no matter how beneficial it may be from a technical and or operating perspective, which damages the environment in any way, should be disregarded - which raises the issue of ethics and integrity once more.  

“In the end this all boils down to an organisation’s value system, as set by its leaders. And, as much as effective management is needed in dealing with the what, where, when and why, which is so essential to business sustainability, leadership deals with the who and the how that becomes foundational to the sustainability of a business. Applied equally to both the supplier and the mine, it will reflect in the quality of the people appointed to work for either organisation,” says Stone Three Mining Solutions.

It poses the question as to whether one should do business with people who are incompetent, without moral fibre and/or who are unscrupulous.

As businesses succeed or fail through their people, employing the right people will ensure sustainability. It will preserve corporate knowledge, the key ingredient so important to the provision of quality services, and it will preserve the trust relationship between mine and supplier. Given the depth of the relationship between these entities, and to sustain this relationship, it is a business imperative that the right people be employed, and retained. People who, to put it simply, are client-focused and needs-oriented, people who provide real solutions that deliver increased productivity, minimised costs and increased profits.

“To cut to the chase, it is in the interests of the supplier to assist a mine to stay in business and achieve their objectives because the simple truth is, if there is no mine, there is no supplier,” concludes Stone Three Mining Solutions.







Copyright (c) 2016 MCMM Publishers