Getting Better with Age


Getting Better with Age

Dr. Fiona Buttrey and Peter Martin, accept the award for Innovation of Practices
Dr. Fiona Buttrey and Peter Martin, accept the award for Innovation of Practices

At the ripe age of 112, one of our flagship refineries still brings a fresh face to innovation, thanks to Vale employees' keen dedication to productivity.

Our Clydach Refinery in South Wales, U.K. is being celebrated as an innovator, and our colleagues there recently accepted the South Wales Chamber of Commerce award for Innovation of Practices, showcasing the tangible benefits of their Continuous Improvement (CI) program.

Staying productive for the next century

Implemented in stages since 2009, the CI program has focused on ensuring the refinery remains competitive, securing the future of our plant and people for years to come.

"The really important bit is to sustain it long term, through leadership support, changing behavior and engaging employees," said Dr. Fiona Buttrey, technical manager, Vale Europe Ltd., who has led the CI effort. "You need to have a really clear vision of what you''re trying to achieve as a business, and what role each person plays in the vision."

Employees drive innovation

At the refinery, employees actively rose to the occasion in a united mission to improve safety, production, environmental efforts, performance and employee engagement while reducing costs and boosting productivity.

"We found leaders in places we didn't expect - throughout the business. It has enabled us to really identify and develop the people who shone, so they could advance into more senior roles," said Buttrey.

The business award is only the latest of many honours to be earned by our Clydach clan, including the prestigious Shingo Silver Medallion for Operational Excellence as reported last year in Vale News. The refinery also marked the most productive year of its existence in 2013.

Organizational benefits to CI efforts include:

  • Fewer injuries: Over 90 per cent reduction in lost time injuries between 1999 and 2013;
  • Higher production: Average annual production increase of over 9,000 tonnes between 2007 and 2013;
  • Cleaner environment: Energy efficiency improvement of 16 per cent between 2008 and 2013;
  • Happier customers: Customer complaints reduced by 70 per cent through root cause analysis, FMEA, error-proofing and employee quality awareness.

“An innovation award is not something many people would expect from a 100-year-old nickel refinery. We've had to find something that works for us, implement it and be disciplined to sustain the change.”

Fiona Buttrey


Getting Better with Age