Kevin Taylor knows the aluminium industry. With 29 years experience across a range of Rio Tinto and Pacific Aluminium sites and offices - 20 of those in senior leadership and nine in and out of Health, Safety and Environment roles - he has seen if not all, then close to it.
And one key lesson learned over that time is this: the only constant is change.
Appointed as the general manager of Bell Bay Aluminium in April last year following the retirement of Ray Mostogl, the past 12 months have cemented the importance of adaption and building the reputation of the site - which will mark 65 years of operation in 2020.
Pushing the site to the front of the Rio Tinto pack, and bringing its employees and the broader Tasmanian community along with it, are key to Taylor's future vision. A vision honed since his first big break.
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Taylor's career began at the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter, or NZAS, in 1990. Located at the far south of the state's south island, it was a rare opportunity to work for such a large employer in that part of the world.
"Joining a big operation, being able to stay in that location and being well paid for it ... was a good start," he said.
After eight years at NZAS Taylor had stints at Gladstone's Boyne Smelter and in the Brisbane head offices, with two years at Bell Bay from 2008 to 2010, across a range of HSE and operations roles. In his latest Brisbane-based role, he was the general HSE manager for all of pacific operations. Then Tasmania called, again.
Back to Bell Bay
In November of 2011, three Rio Tinto smelters were packaged up by the company for sale: Bell Bay Aluminium, Boyne and NZAS. Seven years later, though a range of potential buyers had demonstrated interest, no sale eventuated.
Just months after Taylor stepped into the top job at Bell Bay, the company integrated the smelters back into the business last year.
"The only thing that's been certain about our business over recent times is change," he said. "So you've got to be ready to adapt and quickly get on the page with respect to change"
"It's not a big deal. We've still got our identity, we're still Bell Bay Aluminium, Rio Tinto. We'll continue to do what we do. And guess what? Rio Tinto is prepared to invest in our business for the long term benefit of the assets that we've got, so the long term betterment of the business."
He thought the seven year sale period was too drawn out. "And the whole business acknowledges that it was too long. So we're recovering from that now."
As part of a smaller packaged business, many young workers might have seen the idea they had of their career change. "Maybe they felt some of the opportunities wouldn't be there ... to advance, travel, develop, grow," Taylor said. "So I think the reintegration has been well received by our ... young professionals that are thinking about their futures."
One thing which has stood out for Taylor in recent months is that level of interest in development. Last month, the site undertook a HSE leadership training initiative. This time it was opened up to anybody who wanted to be a part - regardless of their current role. Almost one-quarter of the workforce attended.
There were current front-line leaders and those with aspirations to do that work in the future, others were looking for career development opportunities. "We only have 30 front-line leaders on site - we had 100 at the training," he said. "And the comments at the introductions were, 'we've seen changes we want to be part of'. We're trying to cater for the appetite that people have."
"There's great people here, there's absolutely great people here. Every week, somebody is celebrating [their] 30, 35, 40, or 45-year anniversary."
In a state as small as Tasmania, being in business means being in the community - and finding the balance between the two. With Bell Bay's place in both spanning more than six decades, this is something Taylor takes seriously.
"It has to be well balanced," he said. "I mean at the end of the day, we're here because the Rio Tinto shareholders have got a business here that they're expecting a return on investment. So what we've got to do is get it right."
What this looks like - for shareholders and the community - is Bell Bay doing its work well, taking the site further up the company chain, being recognised for greatness. Then putting a hand up for opportunities to get better markets, better premiums, better products in the cast house, and more investment.
"The best thing for the community is that Bell Bay is hugely successful," Taylor said. "So we've got to put our energy into getting this right, and we have to have [people] doing the right stuff in the community, in tandem with it to ensure ... we're not losing sight of where we need to be and what we need to be doing."
The way Taylor sees it, there are four main challenges to achieving this. The first: deliver a world class safety result, one that's recognised by the whole of the business. "That, in turn, gives us the right to grow," he said. "You've got to earn the right and safety is first and foremost."
Second is establishing a more regular "drumbeat" on the site, working through bottlenecks created over the years by capital investment without change to match.
"It's all the people-associated benefits of having something that's predictable, something we understand - a given state, a known state. At the moment, people have been coming in the turnstile thinking, 'how far behind are we today?' And there's really no future in that state."
The third is engagement, or "adults working as adults". Enjoying the company at work, solving problems together. Which leads into the fourth: presentation. "So just how proud we are of making improvements in our workplace environment," he said.
With aluminium prices hovering around $1750 a tonne, the site is also looking to get ahead in other ways. Though there is no current premium for "clean, green" aluminium, there are products which are preferred.
The Aluminium Stewardship is one such standard, created in an attempt to foster greater sustainability and transparency in the industry. Bell Bay will complete its accreditation in September.
"And we'll be quite early in achieving that outcome," Taylor said. "Whether it attracts a premium or not we will see. But at least we will be at the front of the queue in terms of people looking at the way we make our metal."
"Anything that can support our reputation and character is worth progressing in. We've got a massive schedule of work in front of us now, but it's all about incrementally moving the site to the front of the pack."
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