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CIO50 2022 #26-50 Chris Seysener, Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator

  • Name Chris Seysener
  • Title Chief information officer
  • Company Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator
  • Commenced role September 2015
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 20 staff, 4 direct reports
  • Chris Seysener says while he has achieved many things as chief information officer at Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator (HVCCC), the delivery of an inflight project (a supply chain cola tower) when he first joined the organisation became the biggest mistake of his career.

    “As an experienced executive, but new CIO, I failed to quickly recognise the scale of what the team was trying to achieve, the relative inexperience of the team and application team leader, and the underlying risk in the platform, which included several end-of-life components, including the Oracle database,” he says.

    Seysener says that while his team achieved the project’s objective – it was six months behind schedule – it came as a significant personal cost to him and his team.

    “Over time, it became obvious that many of the risk realised throughout the project were known to the team and initially raised with the application team leader, but dismissed. The problem was not that the team didn’t know, but the culture did not encourage people to speak up,” he says.

    As a result, Seysener spent five years building a culture that recognises the contributions of every team member. System developers and analysts now openly contribute to plans, discuss risk and highlight opportunities.

    “Not only am I more aware of culture walking into any new team, but I actively seek to establish connections throughout the organisation to build trust and ensure I’m genuinely informed,” he says.

    HVCCC delivers thermal coal to make electricity for hundreds of millions of people. Its mine-to-port-view of the Hunter Valley coal supply chain lets the organisation monitor performance, identify constraints and manage network disruptions for the world’s largest coal export chain.

    With demand exceeding 155Mtpa (millions of tonnes per annum) increased market volatility, complexity and disruptions, the organisation’s ability to deliver analysis for supply chain optimisation, and real-time information for decision making was no longer meeting member expectations.

    Seysener and his team responded creating a bespoke analytics platform, HVCCC Insight, built on the Microsoft Azure Cloud, that addresses the complexity and demand for coal chain analysis.

    The platform enables members to understand variations between modelled, planned, and actual performance to drive supply chain optimisation; identify constraints to improve operational planning and scheduling in real-time; and analyse and validate modelling, which underpins strategic investment decisions.

    It also provides a ‘self-service’ feature that enables individual members to access information related to their assets, orders, and performance.

    “HVCCC Insight is integrated into our planning processes and improvement forums across the organisation and our members’ businesses. With spot prices over US$400 per tonne, every improvement to coal chain performance enhances the profitability, reliability and therefore, internal competitiveness of the Hunter Valley.

    Seysener says that supply dependability has been improved, making the Hunter Valley a preferred supplier of high energy, low ask thermal coal or electricity generation.

    “It also improves operating efficiency by allocating only the required assets to meet demand; and positively impacts the profitability of coal chain members, federal and state revenue – through taxes and mining royalties – and our local community through high-paid local employment.

    “In an industry where just 1% improvement unlocks hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, HVCCC Insight provides a powerful capability with enormous further potential,” he says.

    Data warehouse needed to be world-leading

    Creating and implementing a data warehouse that consolidates information from 20 competing organisations on the scale and complexity of the Hunter Valley Coal Chain demanded world-leading innovation, says Seysener.

    The innovation spanned three areas:

    First, the data architecture needed to capture details of all physical assets, the relationships between these assets as they interact in and move through the supply chain across several planning phases (modelled, planned and actuals).

    Second, system integration was required as HVCCC moved from capturing parts of daily plans and schedules to capturing every transaction in real-time such as network and user-driven changes to plans, schedules and Live Run execution.

    Third, HVCCC and member decision-making required up-to-date information across the supply chain. To meet this requirement, HVCCC integrated confidential data from across the organisation and member systems. This provided a secure view that members can use to understand coal chain performance and constraints.

    HVCCC is now in the unique position of storing data in a logical model that not only captures the physical performance of assets, but also every decision and change made to the planning and execution process, he says.

    “This allows the organisation to closely track every aspect of the supply chain from the moment an order is placed, to a loaded vessel leaving the harbour and everything in between,” he says.

    The impact of HVCCC Insight was measured across several areas:

    - HVCCC’s annual customer satisfaction survey identified a 10% improvement (79% to 89%)

    - HVCCC planners use the product to make data-driven decisions. Dashboards to plan 12 weeks ahead in relation to emerging supply chain constraints, maintenance, risks to delivery, and opportunities to improve throughput and assets efficiency.

    - The project has delivered more than 100 reports and interactive dashboards for member organisations to analyse and integrated planning tools for decision making by HVCCC planners and schedulers.

    - There has been a 95% reduction in deployment time to produce reports. The structure of the data warehouse and analytical platform enables development of new reports in hours to days, compared with historical delivery of 12 weeks.

    - System integration eliminates double-keying and data entry errors and the need for a dedicated employee.

    Finally, the platform has revolutionised the company’s ability to explore the impact of supply chain changes. Rather than report on the final state of the coal chain, Seysener says, HVCCC now assesses how disruptions such as track flooding, harbour swell and derailments are impacting the performance of the coal chain. 

    This allows HVCCC to take a proactive approach to disruption recovery to maximise coal chain capacity and efficiency and more rapidly return to business-as-usual.

    Byron Connolly

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