WINNER: Joe Rea was
WINNER: Joe Rea was "proud” and "humbled” to accept the Best In Business Award in November. Contributed

BSL's GM says they're in it for the long haul

BOYNE Smelters Limited has been producing aluminium in Gladstone for over 35 years. Last month it took home the Best in Business Award for Industry, Engineering and Manufacturing.

We caught up with general manager Joe Rea to find out what's happening at the organisation.

How did it feel winning best industry award?

I feel proud and humbled to be part of the BSL Team who have won this award for the fourth consecutive year. Particularly because of the difficulties that we faced at the start of 2017.

What makes BSL stand out?

We are part of a great Australian story that has purpose and vision.

Our purpose is all about adding value to Australian natural resources to strengthen the manufacturing future for young Australians. Our vision is to be proudly Australian operating beyond 2030. What makes us stand out is how our people are working together to innovate and live this vision every day.

Can you tell us about the new technology used this year?

We are a business that makes world-class aluminium, competing on a global stage with current technology. We have some very talented people at BSL who have worked closely with our Pacific Technology Centre in our Brisbane office to model ways of taking our original technology and making it perform close to technology considered state of the art.

How has it made a difference in terms of productivity?

What we have done is show a credible pathway to enable 1970s technology to perform at close to 90 per cent of reduction cells built in the past five years in terms of power consumption and productivity. This is a bit like getting a car designed in the late 70s to perform like one that comes off today's assembly line.

What have been the highlights and lowlights this year?

The highlights for 2017 include BSL being selected as the Rio Tinto Chief Executive Safety award winner for the whole of Rio Tinto and being named The Observer Best in Business for Industry, Engineering and Manufacturing for the 4th conservative year.

The low light has to be the curtailment we had to take in March, taking off 15 per cent of our production and losing more than 100 roles.

That was gut wrenching.

Despite having our highest productivity, best ever purity metal in our 35-year history and world- class safety, we had to make the curtailment decision because we were unable to secure a globally competitive power price.

What are your plans for the new year?

We are not happy with our current safety performance compared to how well we've done in the past three years and we want to improve our performance first and foremost. We are looking forward to gaining final sign-off to modify 20 more reduction cells in 2018 which I'm convinced will see us convert all 240 reduction cells in Line 2 over the coming years. Once modifications to Line 2 cells are completed we estimate an additional 9200 tonnes of metal will be made per year with no additional power.

Despite the obstacles we face gaining access to a globally competitive power price, we are delighted to continue to invest in our future and are taking on 14 apprentices and a small number of graduates next year.

How is BSL, as one of the biggest employers in the region, helping to keep jobs in Gladstone?

We will achieve this through that legendary "Queensland spirit" that relies on great Australian tenacity in the face of headwinds and adversity. What is so special to me is that we have demonstrated the flexibility of our on-site talent to make this happen time and again, including this most recent small scale modelling work in the field, which has given us sufficient confidence to recommend expanding the trial to a wider group of reduction cells.

We might get knocked down from time to time, but I can tell you, we will get up again to achieve our vision to be proudly Australian operating beyond 2030.