The project goal was succinct yet outsized: build
the most advanced aluminum smelter in the world.
Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) executives believed they
had the aluminum technology that was next-genera-tion in its sustainability. Dubbed AP60, the technology would deliver 40 percent more aluminum per
container, or pot, than the best smelters in the market—while creating fewer emissions and costing less.
Yet AP60 still had to be proven at an industrial
level. To scale the technology from pilot to a market
reality, RTA partnered with engineering and construction giants SNC-Lavalin and Hatch to build the
;rst state-of-the-art AP60 smelter in Canada.
Because the project would inform future smelter
initiatives, the team knew its hits and misses would
be carefully analyzed. So it started with some analysis of its own, visiting Rio Tinto and other smelters and interviewing operators and people who’d
worked on previous projects for insights on how to
minimize safety risks both during project execution
and throughout the expected life cycle.
In the Quebec construction industry, safety issues
frequently slow project progress: ;e average lost-
time injury frequency rate—re;ecting the number
of injuries su;ered on the job—is 23. 5 per 200,000
hours of work. Instead, the team sought to create a
zero-accident work site. “We wanted to change the
culture in the region, to convince people that this
level of safety is achievable,” says Michel Charron,
project director, RTA.
;e team delivered 35 hours of customized safety
training to each of the site’s 6,000 workers, who
were also taught to report any near-misses or high-risk incidents. “We made it clear we would spend
energy ;nding a new way of doing things, not on
assigning blame,” says Mr. Charron.
When the project was ;nished, the team had
worked more than 5 million hours with a lost time
injury rate of only 0.27.
Safety wasn’t the only place where project leaders took a new approach. ;ey also made iterative
improvements to work ;ows. To more e;ciently
craft the 38 massive pots needed to produce aluminum, for example, the team carefully measured and
analyzed construction of a pot. Most crews reach an
ideal building pace after constructing 60 pots, but
by scrutinizing the data and making adjustments to
the process, the team did it in only 22.
“Instead of waiting until the end of the project,
when we don’t remember half of the good things,
every step involved lessons learned,” says Mr. Charron.
;at project management rigor helped the team
;nish one month ahead of schedule—and fuel e;-ciencies on future projects.
AP60 PHASE 1
viability of a proprietary
Budget: CA$1.3 billion
Location: Jonquière, Que-
ule, s cale