Improving safety at Australia’s largest aluminum smelter

Tomago Aluminium is Australasia’s largest aluminum smelter and has been operating 24 hours a day since 1983. The company contributes $1.5 billion annually to the Australian economy, of which $800 million is spent locally. The smelter produces 585,000 tons of aluminum every year, which is 25% of Australia’s primary aluminum. 90% of the product is exported to the Asia-Pacific region.

A disconnected IT infrastructure, combined with a surplus of paper forms and email-based processes, led Tomago to seek out an automated solution for many key processes—beginning with a critical safety process around its life-saving controls. Today, Tomago has implemented several solutions with K2 Software, saving employee time, improving data accuracy, and making it easier to identify issues among its 840 pots.

96%

Time savings to complete pot audits

5

Hours faster to receive crucial reports

840

Pots audited daily with K2 Software

Company
Tomago Aluminium
Website
Industry
Manufacturing
Country
Capabilities Used
K2 Software

Who they are

Tomago Aluminium is Australasia’s largest aluminum smelter contributing $1.5 billion to the economy and has been operating 24 hours a day since 1983.

What they needed

A disconnected IT infrastructure, combined with a surplus of paper forms and email-based processes, led Tomago to seek out an automated solution

How they did it

Tomago has implemented several solutions with K2 Software, saving employee time, improving data accuracy, and making it easier to identify issues among its 840 pots.

Improving visibility around safety-related processes

Challenge: Paper processes lack transparency

Safety is paramount at the largest aluminum smelter in Australia. It’s vital that workers are able to safely record that tasks are being carried out and that safety issues are addressed quickly.

Before implementing the workflow solution, Tomago was using surveys within SharePoint and forms on paper to conduct these “life-saving controls.” This created safety risks and made reporting difficult. TAC reviewed another platform that specialized in tracking and measuring Life-saving Control (LSC), however found that the software was clunky and did not offer integrations with SAP.

In addition, paper-based forms did not provide the level of transparency the company needed. Papers would end up in drawers, with little follow-up or visibility into whether a task had been completed.

Solution: Gaining visibility

Tomago selected K2 Software to automate its life-saving control process for several reasons. First, they could utilize an SQL database and integrate solutions with SAP. Second, K2 Software allowed for the flexibility to develop additional business solutions to help improve efficiency and cut costs.

After implementing their life-saving control solution, employees are now able to log issues automatically or quickly and easily check the status of certain safety tasks. For example, anyone can access data to help them assess a piece of machinery’s level of risk and find out whether action has already been taken to improve the situation.

“It’s used extensively every single day,” says Lesley Anne Clifton, IT Superintendent at Tomago. “Once we saw the value of being able to gather data with K2 Software, people started to think about all the other tasks they perform with paper and how we could streamline and improve those, too.”

One particular team would perform pot audits at 5:00AM and the data wouldn’t become available until lunch. Now, they go out for audits, and by the time they’re back at their desks by 6:00AM, the data has been published and emailed to the right people. It’s been a huge hit.
Lesley Anne Clifton, IT Superintendent, Tomago
Generating comprehensive reports in minutes

Challenge: An untimely auditing process

The smelter occupies a huge area of land, and potlines are nearly a kilometer long. Tomago’s 840 pots are extremely important to the business, as any instability could cost the company millions of dollars. As such, it’s important to find and resolve problems—an uncovered pot, for example, or a broken part—as quickly as possible.

That’s why each of the 840 pots receives an audit every single day. Throughout the day, teams walk from their desks to the pots to collect data in order to analyze pots for any potential issues.

Before implementing the automated solution, each person had to write down data from the pot with a pen and paper, return to their desk, and enter data into a shared spreadsheet. Someone else would then need to access the data to produce a report.

This process could be extremely tedious. First, jotting down data with a pen and paper is difficult with the required PPE, which includes bulky gloves. This meant data could occasionally become difficult to read or inaccurate. Second, potline operators, their supervisors, and the teams conducting the audits all required a report after each daily audit, which could take several hours to produce and email.

Solution: Reports generated faster than ever

Today, pot auditors walk out to the pots with their mobile phones and a stylus, rather than a pen and paper. They enter the data on-site, and by the time they walk back to their desks 5-10 minutes later, all of the data has already been consolidated.

The time savings is significant. “One particular team would perform pot audits at 5:00 AM and the data wouldn’t become available until lunch,” says Lesley Anne. “Now, they go out for audits, and by the time they’re back at their desks by 6:00 AM, the data has been published and emailed to the right people. It’s been a huge hit.”

After data is entered into a SmartForm on a mobile device, a Power BI report is automatically generated with appropriate data and graphs. Copies are then emailed to all necessary parties. For many stakeholders, this was a big enough improvement to nominate the team working on the K2 Software solution for an internal award.

Teams feel more confident about the quality of data within these reports than they did in the past. According to Ian Macdonald one of the developers at Tomago, “The data that’s been entered is more accurate than writing a number on a piece of paper. You don’t have to worry about whether that number is actually a 3 or a 2—that sort of data has been improved because it is captured at the time you require it.”

Tedious paper processes present an opportunity

Challenge: Paper overflowing from cabinets

A key theme around Tomago’s automation plans is paper elimination. Automating paper processes can help the company make data far more visible to anyone who needs it.

For example, one employee devoted nearly 90% of his time to managing data around statutory compliance. This statutory recording process was once completely paper-based, and the employee had filing cabinets full of documents, making it difficult to find anything.

Contractor onboarding was another paper-heavy process, requiring contractors to sit in a room and waste time filling out a paper form, which then had to be manually transferred to the company’s internal databases.

Solution: A plan for future growth

Tomago has automated over a dozen processes with K2 Software with many others in the pipeline.

The employee who managed statutory compliance full-time was able to move reports into SAP, allowing him to act on data much more quickly. Because he now spends only about 10-20% of his time on statutory compliance, he was able to take on more high-value responsibilities within the company.

Contractor onboarding also works with SAP, allowing contractors to enter all of their details into a digital form and receive a contractor number before they even get to the site.

Tomago believes that K2 Software has been a positive investment. According to Lesley Anne, “The mere fact that information is available and can be analyzed and reported on is a huge help. We are responding to data faster and moving from being reactive to becoming proactive. It’s been a huge help.”

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