Achieving Optimal Site Performance for waste industry facilities

optimal site performance

Waste industry veteran Rob McGahey is training his sights on helping waste industry facilities reach their peak. 

“Technology and tools are useful and powerful when they are your servant and not your master,” says motivational speaker Stephen Covey.

It’s a phrase that resonates with Rob McGahey, Machine Application Trainer and Founder of Optimal Site Performance.

A waste and resource recovery veteran, Rob has seen many companies invest thousands in third-party technology and hardware without knowing how to get the most out of it.

Describing himself as a ‘fixer’, he’s now creating a roadmap to help businesses fill the gap between installing technology and achieving their desired results. 

“People invest in new technology and expect it to make them better,” Rob says. “Technology doesn’t make you better. It gives you the tools to see where you’re not going well, but not what’s causing issues. It doesn’t tell you what changes to make to get the results. That’s where you need insight into the operation, and the influences that effect performance.

“Optimal Site Performance is guiding operators to understand the information they’re getting and how that should be interpreted.”

Rob has held supervisor and operational management positions in waste operations in Australia, Hong Kong, and China. He also had managing roles with a global engineering equipment manufacturer working in the Asia Pacific and North American regions. This diversity has given him a broad knowledge of issues faced by the industry.

He started Optimal Site Performance in 2022 with his wife, Environmental Scientist Liz Spooner, after being asked to help establish an accelerated landfill start-up in Brisbane in response to the 2022 Queensland floods. 

During this time, he realised how passionately he felt about the industry. Working specifically with the waste industry, Optimal Site Performance aims to help landfill, transfer stations, and material recovery facility operations achieve the best results possible, whether that’s improving landfill density, recognising equipment under stress, or staff training.

One of the common problems, Rob says, is that people don’t analyse the information that’s available to them as well as they could. Businesses presume once they have the technology that ‘someone’ will provide that information, but they don’t have anyone who can do that. 

Rob’s providing the tools to analyse the information, understand what it means and providing a pathway to act. 

He’s currently working with a Queensland council to develop a filling plan, coaching them on site boundaries, levels, and road and drainage placement.

“Many times, site profiles are input into machines by people who don’t necessarily work on the landfill,” Rob says. “You need consultation with the site. We’re trying to get the consultation process started so everyone understands what they’re trying to achieve and helping them develop a design that works.”

Something that works, is key to Rob’s business philosophy. He measures success by results. 

It’s one thing for a business to recognise it has a problem. It’s another to understand what that problem is and what’s causing it so they can get better and take charge of the situation.

He cites an example of a Victorian council landfill where he helped site operations staff achieve a 16 per cent improvement in waste compaction over five months, then maintained the results in the following months. 

The landfill receives about 65,000 tonnes of mixed waste annually and historically averaged densities in the low 700 kilograms per cubic metre. 

To extend the life of the current cell and maximise the life of the landfill, the council set new density targets with its waste contractor.

Rob began work in the first week of May 2022. During initial site visits, operational practices were assessed to identify changes that would maximise density while limiting interruptions to site operations. 

optimal site performance
Site visits are common for Rob McGahey to help identify operational roadblocks.

He says the changes identified were small and helped the site get back to basics – thinner layers of waste, multiple passes on each layer, recovering previously applied day cover, and raising the lift height to three metres. 

Clear expectations to implement the changes were set, and pre-start discussion topics were established to help the site supervisor drive the process of change.

As the changes were implemented the operators reported that they could see the difference they made. The working face did not advance as fast as before, allowing constructed roads to stay longer in place. Fewer engineering works were required so they could spend more time at the face.

By the end of May 2022, they achieved a density of 820 kilograms per cubic metre, a 13 per cent improvement, and the highest single month improvement to date. 

Rob returned to speak to the operators about the results and identified what they had been doing differently, and how it made a difference. He says this energised them and they pushed harder because they understood their role in achieving success.

In June 2022 density numbers were 850 kilogram per cubic metre with a lot of smiling faces from operational staff to management. 

“We’re not interested in trying to sell our time but want to know customers are going to get value for what we’re doing,” Rob says.

“What we do at Optimal is like being a personal trainer. Clients come to me and ask to get better. We see where there’s an opportunity for change and what is achievable, then we set a plan. There are regular meetings, clients will be asked to do certain things to make the change. At the end if they follow the process and do the work they will see the results.

“What we do is make them accountable, push them to turn up and make site visits to provide guidance. At the end of the day I can’t do the work for them, but if they follow the plan, and do what I ask, they will get the results.” 

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