Smelter Production Planning


This example illustrates how we improved the production rate at a metal smelter by changing business processes and building appropriate decision support tools.


Smelting copper is a complex business. The process requires a continuous stream of powdered concentrate to be smelted in batches in a primary furnace and for the molten material to then be progressively refined through two more stages, before being cast into copper anode. The process is complicated by the fact that the furnaces are largely manually controlled and the molten material is transported in large "buckets" by overhead cranes between the primary, secondary and tertiary furnaces. In this process, there is a constant tension between the need to increase production rates while maintaining the various furnace levels and other process constraints to ensure that the process operates efficiently.


Quantalytic was engaged by the smelter to work out how to improve the production rate, without spending more money on infrastructure. After detailed analysis of the process, we realised that one of the main challenges in achieving higher production rates was to implement better planning and coordination between the various furnace operators, the crane drivers and the maintenance teams. In order to facilitate this, we created a series of sophisticated daily, weekly and longer term planning tools that allowed all parties to plan more effectively and more collaboratively. In addition to the tools, we helped institute a series of business processes that ensured that the appropriate level of risk identification and mitigation was undertaken at a daily, weekly and monthly level. As a direct result of this intervention, the smelter was able to increase production rates by approximately 15% without compromising the metal recovery efficiency.