Business & Economy

Wednesday, 15 July 2009 19:26

Mines using world-first touchscreen training to slash costs and boost safety and productivity

{pp}Gold mines are stepping up innovative training techniques – using a world-first touchscreen training method developed in South Africa - to boost productivity and ensure greater returns on training.
So far the technique which is also used in the cleaning, petrochemical, health and retail industries has seen training budgets slashed by at least half. Mines using Edutouch say they have recorded measurable worker retention of learning rising at least 60% ensuring improvements in safety and productivity, mine training officers say.

These gains in worker efficiency are critical at a time when the sector is experiencing an array of challenges. The method has been used successfully at Kopanang and is being piloted at other mines. Rob Dersley, CEO of Edutouch who pioneered the method after long research with Unisa’s computer science department said, “what makes our method unique is that it is in whatever language the participant chooses, so they can learn in their own language.

It has been tested and proven that our technology speeds up learning four times. “The employee is able to work from either a portable touchscreen or a computer. In a group situation a handheld wireless control similar to that used on TV game shows allows each person to record their answers. It immediately informs the facilitator which section of the module the learner does not understand. The student can relearn that part only instead of sitting through the whole course again. It is inhouse so can be done during idle time and can be done in short three to five minute modules.” Gerrie Swanepoel, a trainer at Kopanang mine near Klerksdorp said: “We’ve found that workers enjoy Edutouch and become competitive with their peers. They also develop a sense of pride. Instead of being crushed, as some learners are when they pluck up the confidence to ask a question in a classroom setting and perhaps get laughed at. This system encourages the learner to learn at his or her own pace and to build confidence. We find that workers become more assertive in group settings and leadership skills readily come to the fore.”

Kopanang mine in the lucrative Vaal gold mining area has 5 500 workers. Five years ago Kopanang began using touchscreen training for workers. Training manager, Andre Oberholzer who introduced Edutouch says, “Initially I wanted something in place to assess all our workers fast.” Edutouch sends each workers grades immediately he or she has completed a module, allowing management to assess shortfalls with individuals and in teams.” It’s critical because everyone who works on a mine has to receive retraining after even brief vacations. Oberholzer said: “In the past AngloGoldAshanti Training and Development Services would do one on one questions but with medical exams and retraining it could take six days before a worker was back on the job. Using Edutouch it takes three days with 80% pass rates and far better knowledge retention than in the past. Before, if a facilitator stood in front of a class and did training, we did not know how much individuals remembered.”

Cornelius Tsotsotso (46), a miner since 1987 says, “I can understand better if I do it myself.” More productive workers and fewer accidents are critical to keep the gold sector as an important contributor to the Gross Domestic Product. Gold contributed 23% to the health of the economy in 2005 with exports of R101 906m according to Mose Mabuza of the Department of Mineral and Energy. In 2007, gold mining contributed 7,7% to GDP. But in the first quarter of this year mining revenue dropped R9bn or 12,8% to earn R21bn in March and gold contributed around R5bn to that, StatsSA noted. Although the gold price is close to record highs the industry has been bedevilled by poor management seeing some mines close - last week it was announced that 3 300 more jobs will be lost when Harmony Gold takes over Pamodzi Gold’s President Steyn mine in Welkom. But too, mine closures for brief periods to implement safety or better working standards by the Department of Minerals and Energy also takes a toll on earnings and the capacity of mines to employ more. It is essential therefore that training is effective.

More employment and retraining before retrenchment is what President Jacob Zuma has appealed for. Mines like Kopanang are keeping employment sound through persistent training and improving skills with EduTouch. As an example, in a group training session led by Alex Phakasi (32) a former rock engineering assistant; three men are discussing whether the answer to their question is: a bobbejaan spanner or a T-spanner? One mimes the actions of each on a bolt. They slowly consider and hit the handheld electronic buttons similar to those used on television game shows. They can’t move on to the next question until a row of green lights shows that each has answered. Phakasi said the discussions help improve knowledge and engender leadership skills and peer competition among the miners.

Edutouch has cut training costs dramatically – Kopanang now has six facilitators instead of 17 a few years ago (trainers earn around R6 500 a month) and the facilitators have learned new skills too for the electronic devices – they write and film new inserts as safety and training standards rise and do their own voice over’s. The two kilometre deep goldmine is seeing consistent gains in safety and production. Kopanang mine training manager, Andre Oberholzer says: “Ninety-six percent of accidents are human error, only four percent are geological. We can control accidents with the right mindset and the sort of training Edutouch gives us. Last year the general manager challenged us to achieve 15 white flag (accident free) days a month. We achieved five of six months with 15 or more white flag days. Last year we improved safety 25%, this year we will improve that record by a further 20%.”

Dersley said: “We are proud that Edutouch is giving a sense of pride to South African workforces and improving skills capacity at a time when the country desperately needs to boost employment and revenues.”

Contact information:
Rob Dersley,
011 602 7940
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Issued by:
Charlene Smith Communications Pty Ltd
011 646 7637 or 021 762 2656

Contact: Leila Beltramo
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel: 021 762 2656

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