COVID-19 brought a lot of uncertainty to business operations across the world. The need for constant iteration of the business model in response to the uncertainty takes agility across the value chain of the business. GRT is not immune to these challenges and the only way through the COVID-19 uncertainties, is to keep fighting and doing so in an agile way. 

GRT’s 5 horizon response took this approach:

  • Resolve 
  • Resilience
  • Return 
  • Reimagination
  • Reform

Resolve in making hard decisions on immediate challenges. We had to implement physical-distancing measures during transport, shift changes, and breaks. The introduction of temperature checks was inevitable whilst providing additional PPE and sanitization strategies. The COVID-19 pandemic weighed a lot on mental-health of employees. Conversations around well-being became increasingly important and genuinely no one ever planned for the pandemic to happen. Digital transformation became the pinnacle of the transition from the pre-COVID times to the new normal. We adopted technology for remote working, ad hoc training, and communication across the GRT team. 

Key to our success as a business is production and supply chain. There had to be a way to guarantee operational flexibility. In the interim, we build short-to-midterm plans and schedules. With the imminent closures, we had to adjust strategies by prioritizing critical operations. It was key to reinforce communication across the whole GRT value chain: mines, plant, final customer, external stakeholders: contractors, suppliers and communities. For our customers, we had to prioritize strategic contracts, constant communication with stakeholders as often as possible and renegotiate conditions of active client contracts. The final resolve approach involved immediate liquidity in understanding our current cash position and preparing rolling forecasts. The pivot was in finding short-term cash reductions in inventories and operations whilst managing them to mitigate longer-term risks such as shortages and secondary disruptions.

Resilience through speed and discipline for midterm strategic response. Firstly we took a look at fixed-cost reduction implemented through restructuring and central consolidation. This was followed up with reviewing contracting strategies. To rebalance supply and demand we had to introduce production cutback with shutting down of high-cost operations. Adaptation of the GRT planning strategy was key to the fast-evolving environment. Capital-expenditure strategy review was performed to evaluate projects in the pipeline through prioritization, resequencing and reassessment. To optimize, we focused on divesture of noncore assets in secondary assets and projects. Reviewed targeted Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) strategy and opportunities in a post-pandemic environment. Difficult as it may sound, we had to do some balance-sheet restructuring with the intention of securing and monitoring cash positions, extend duration of bonds and dividend cuts. 

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

Return by having a plan to bring operations back to scale. The 3 core signs of recovery are based on decline in positive cases, demand stabilization and decreased volatility on global markets. It has been critical to refine operational instructions in the constrained environment by introducing new standard operating procedures. We have dug deeper by increasing provisions for a quick ramp-up via updating annual plans, replenish production inventories and review our short and long term strategies. Reviewing supply chain and discussions around stock management with stakeholders such as clients and suppliers. Continuity is key, hence we focused on cash-cost reduction via spend-control towers, lean operation programs, application of advanced analytics to Yield, Energy and Throughput (YET), procurement, and reviewing capital-expenditure strategies. 

Reimagination in what is the next normal for GRT. There is room to reposition our product portfolios to leverage new demand whilst accelerating GRT presence as a global leader supported by a strong digital and analytical strategy. We have committed towards change and progress for our people, operations and management infrastructure. The people approach involves new training and response programs, revised health, safety and environment strategy and a people strategy based on digital and analytics fostered by new skills and functions to develop. Operation strategy has taken a more value-chain optimization concept. We can never be certain but can harness a probabilistic and agile GRT planning strategy. A firm drive for automation and remote-based operations increased our survival abilities with our management structures focusing on key performance indicators on stability and variability. Monitoring has been integrated across the entire GRT operation with new oversight structures implemented across the GRT team. 

Reform through asking ourselves what will the new environment for GRT be? Our operations are spread across the resources sector, infrastructure, farming, oil and gas, renewables amongst many other operations. We cite an example of our operations and potential for growth in the Australian infrastructure sector. The 3rd of September 2021, will commence a new journey in infrastructure reform with the release of a 15 year roadmap – the 2021 Australia Infrastructure Plan. This roadmap re-calibrates in many ways what we define as infrastructure, how it delivers greater prosperity and how we can take the Australian Government’s record $110 billion infrastructure spend and supercharge it with digital and data enablers. The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan carries forward the unfinished reforms of the 2016 Plan and outlines a cohesive vision for reform. It is intended to deliver infrastructure for a stronger Australia, and support our national recovery from the still-unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the bushfires, drought, floods and cyber-attacks that have tested our resilience in recent years. We are looking forward to the launch of Australian Infrastructure Plan 2021 – 2036. 

So how does GRT intend to engage in meaningful changes in participating in the competitive environment in the industries that are going through shifts:

  • Engage with State governments on viable relationships in our spheres of influence.
  • Engage with authorities about our new technologies and our futuristic approach.
  • Collaborate on regional development plans to achieve environment, social and governance goals as per UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Review our GRT community-engagement practices.

In Summary – The 5R approach 

Resolve through addressing immediate challenges that COVID-19 presents. Resilience by addressing near-term cash management challenges, broader resiliency issues during virus-related shutdowns, and economic knock-on effects. Return via creating a detailed plan to return the business back to scale quickly while the crisis unfolds and knock-on effects become clearer. Reimagine what the “next normal” will look like, its implications, and how GRT should reinvent itself. Reform in being clear about how the regulatory and competitive environment in the industry may shift. 

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Mining companies enduring the first wave of COVID-19 effects on their operating models need to think about responding across five horizons. Retrieved 02/09/21.