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How Quarry Academy prepares tomorrow’s leaders

By |  February 25, 2019
Lecturers from a wide range of industry professions presented before a Quarry Academy class consisting of more than 100 attendees. Photo courtesy of Dyno Nobel

Lecturers from a wide range of industry professions presented before a Quarry Academy class consisting of more than 100 attendees. Photo courtesy of Dyno Nobel

Quarry Academy, the annual seminar co-hosted by Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology and Dyno Nobel, wrapped up its 13th installment in San Antonio.

A total of 128 employees from 47 companies spanning 11 countries attended the event at the Omni La Mansion del Rio hotel, situated on the San Antonio River Walk.

“What we wanted to do was create an offering for the industry,” says Jeff Heinemann, former vice president, USA, at Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology. “It’s about taking the offering we have and improving the process and instilling expertise in the attendees.”

The educational seminar includes lectures from industry professionals, workshops and simulator experiences across three days.

“Part of the purpose of the event is to do training,” Heinemann says. “In 2008, it was really a challenge when the economy took a dive. It was difficult because there were a lot of quarries being shut down and virtually nobody was spending money on training. We realized people needed training. In most cases, a quarry operation is not going to go to the depth of training we provide in every little piece.”

Education areas

On-site simulators provided attendees opportunities for hand-on learning. Photo courtesy of Dyno Nobel

On-site simulators provided attendees opportunities for hand-on learning. Photo courtesy of Dyno Nobel

Topics covered in Quarry Academy lectures include quarry planning and metrics; chemical crushing; fragmentation management; the fundamentals of vibration control; load and haul cost improvement; safety behaviors; optimizing plant performance; screening and sizing; analytics and business intelligence; and the principles of mechanical crushing, among others.

“It’s about the entire value chain – from planning to when that material goes out the gate,” says Frank Camodeca, general manager of stone at Dyno Nobel. “It’s not about price, but about costs. If you can be efficient with costs, that’s an important part of [the process]. A lot of learning goes on after the formal sessions are over between the networking and discussions of people in the industry.”

As for the more intimate workshop sessions, topics covered include drilling in depth; blasting 101; blasting in depth; crushing and screening best practices; putting the plant together; operator efficiency; tools and methods for process improvement; and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) applications for the quarry industry.

“We try to take every look at the process and improve upon it so you’re getting optimum results – selling the lowest-cost product at the highest quality,” Heinemann says.

The event’s evolution

Quarry Academy included a tour of Cemex’s Balcones Quarry in Texas. Photo courtesy of Dyno Nobel

Quarry Academy included a tour of Cemex’s Balcones Quarry in Texas. Photo courtesy of Dyno Nobel

As the industry has evolved over the years, so, too, has the planning that goes into the event.

“We’ve adjusted quite a bit over the years,” Heinemann says. “Thirteen years ago, we didn’t talk about drones, but today it’s a pretty big deal. As technology advances, we’ve tried to keep up with that.”

Quarry Academy, which is hosted every November in San Antonio, also addresses key industry issues faced by producers and manufacturers alike.

“To a certain degree, this event helps with labor,” Camodeca says. “Technology in our industry is here and it’s moving so fast. To keep up on the cutting edge, this event is helpful. I think, from that perspective, it’s going to be important getting people up to speed.”

Quarry Academy is more than just educational lectures and workshop sessions, though. The event concludes with a visit to Cemex’s Balcones Quarry in nearby New Braunfels, Texas. The visit to the 2,400-acre Balcones Quarry provides attendees the opportunity to get a firsthand look at the largest crushed stone-producing quarry in the United States.

According to the United States Geological Survey, the Balcones Quarry produces 10-12 million tpy.

“We’ve often said anybody that comes to this event and isn’t able to take away at least one thing, we’d refund the cost of the event,” Heinemann says. “We’ve never had to do that. As you listen and watch the presentations, there’s a lot of very small changes you can make and, as long as you can sustain them, we’re talking big, big savings. We call these value creation moments.”

As both Sandvik and Dyno Nobel look ahead to the 14th installment of Quarry Academy in 2019, planning for the event is already underway.

“The planning starts as we’re able to compile survey information, see where we did well, [and] how we can improve this event,” Camodeca says. “We’re constantly tweaking this program. The biggest thing we took away from [2018] is people still want more engagement. We’ll be adding workshops and [exploring] how we can get more engagement in the main room during lectures. We work really hard to establish the Quarry Academy brand and promote it.”


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