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Fly in fly out presents a difficult issue for mining companies.

FIFO workforces pose a huge challenge for mining companies, with the spotlight rarely levelled at how they manage to get people from A to B and on site where and when they're needed.

Trying to organise hundreds of people travelling, changing shifts, moving from place to place and getting them on and off remote sites is often an overwhelming challenge.

Added to this is the basic communications issues that each remote site faces, coupled with the typical problems faced in any logistics chain and mining firms are suddenly facing a huge series of hurdles.

Throw offshore operations and floating oil rigs in the mix and the operation seems almost insurmountable.

To get people where they need to go, on time, from a variety of different places is a modern logistics marvel.

And one that is relatively unique to the resources sector.

Speaking to Peter Brady, managing director of specialist business travel company Carson Wagonlit Travel Australia, he told Australian Mining "in our experience travellers in the energy, marine, and resource (ERM) sectors face a number of specialised travel management challenges".

"The logistics of managing a fly-in-fly-out workforce from urban centres to rural and remote locations have traditionally been complex as travellers need access to air and accommodation options that are considered 'unconventional' by other industries," Brady said.

"Knowing where employees are at all times, whe­ther they are qualified to be there and are on the right rota­tions, are day-to-day con­cerns faced by these companies.

"This includes unique tra­vel arrangements that may involve helicopter transfers to offshore oil rigs and charter flights to regional mine locations."

He went on to state that "operational efficiency, asset utilisation, and unit costs are primary concerns for organisations in this sector; [however] business continuity and work force management (WFM) optimisation are key ingredients in achieving operational efficiency".

Unfortunately for many companies this process is man­ual, or only semi-automated, which increases the risk of error or processing in­efficiencies, increasing costs.

"For example we are aware of many scenarios where companies have people co-ordinating rosters and logistical spread sheets to manage beds of a mining campsites and then transferring the spread sheet to different people in charge of booking charter flights, road, and/or commercial flights," Brady explained.

He went on to say that CWT had spent a number of years working on developing reliable day-to-day logistics rotational crews and other personnel, conducting effective contingency and crisis management planning, as well as establishing continual cost and performance optimisation of travel programs, and had developed a new tool for operators.

"By talking and engaging with our clients who have constantly evolving needs, it became evident there was a significant opportunity for improvements in this specialised sector; to respond to this need CWT is announcing the development of a first-to-market, fully integrated online tool for FIFO travellers and travel buyers that will automate the entire process, thus virtually eliminating any margin for error and generating significant process cost saving opportunities.

"We expect the potential impact of this unique offering, on both travellers and arrangers in this industry, to be game changing."

In regards to FIFO in the mining sector, Brady explained the industry will continue to cut costs and automate.

"Technology is clearly the game changer; travellers are looking for a mobile one-stop shop so they don't have to organise or deal with their trip in fragments," Brady said.

"A recent report we released titled CWT's Travel Management Priorities 2014 highlighted that 37 per cent of surveyed travel managers will be prioritising the development of a mobile strategy this year; from what I've seen this is reflective of the consumerisation of corporate travel, as travel managers and travel management companies seek to provide increasingly sophisticated products and services.

"An example of this is the future of single-use payment cards, these cards feature pre-set controls, authorisation and spending limits, which allow companies to reduce fraudulent activities, maintain central billing and accurately reconcile expenditures.

The report went on to show companies have a need for simplified crew management technology and a 24/7 travel service aligned with mine operating hours.

"In terms of wellbeing and the security of their employees, companies want to be assured that their travellers can be easily tracked and are safe throughout their journey," Brady said. 

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