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Manual Control, Process Automation or Operational Performance Excellence – What is the Difference?


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Author P Thwaites


The mining industry uses many types of mineral and metallurgical plants to produce saleable product from ore mined. Plant design history has left current operations with a mixture of manual operation and various forms of automated process controls. Consequently, we typically see high-variability in the continuous operations together with a shortfall in the attainment of full capacity or higher utilisation of consumables.

At a level of best practice, ‘operational performance excellence’ focuses on process control, using automation and control systems to deliver process optimisation. This more sophisticated delivery is a great deal more difficult than the first stage of equipment selection/installation. It includes the appropriate selection of the right instrumentation and control system, key process knowledge, individuals with a solid control engineering background/experience and the essential backing/support of the operations management team together leading to higher-value delivery. Robust solutions can be realised, considerably minimising process variation, thus leading to process optimisation. This approach results in an easier, efficient and safer process while providing considerable returns for the plant owners.

How variable are your processes, and do you maintain optimised process performance with dedicated resources, modern instrumentation, ‘best practice’ control systems and performance monitoring tools? In this paper, these questions and their possible answers are discussed.

I say we can do much more and be ‘more efficient’ in our efforts to remain competitive. This

area remains a major opportunity for improved efficiency,
minimising tailings losses and other milling costs.


Thwaites, P, 2014. Manual control, process automation or
operational performance excellence – what is the difference?, in Proceedings
12th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2014
, pp 13–40 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).