Lake Shore Gold, a Subsidiary of Pan American Silver, operates two mines in the area, Timmins West and Bell Creek, with both targeting production of 160,000-175,000 oz of gold between them this year. In 2019, Pan American Silver acquired the company from Tahoe Resources, therefore adding these two fantastic underground operations to their long list of worldwide leading operations. To continue success, a great Procurement leader is paramount to any organization regardless of the industry. However, gold mining is somewhat different in terms of the cost to produce per ounce and to maintain a good profitable yield, to do this comes vision to reduce costs but maintain the exceptional service of supply chain partners. We spoke to Hillary Laughren, Procurement Manager for Lake Shore Gold about recent successes and her plans for the future.
Moving into Mining
Starting at Lake Shore Gold as a warehouse clerk in 2008, she left for a time before returning as a Contract Administrator in 2015. Perhaps key to the industry itself and the importance of each mine sites responsible production values, Laughren’s background is originally of an environmental one. Her Post-Secondary School studies were in Environmental Studies before moving on to an Environmental Protection Course at Canadore College. After graduating she returned to her hometown of Porcupine, where she “had a few small contract roles at various companies within the city, but nothing permanent.” Looking for something steadier she became the “buyer/warehouse person” at her grandfather’s company. “They had some big projects on the go and this where I realized that I really quite enjoyed the aspects of warehousing and buying, the day to day challenges with all that, so I worked there for a few years.” It was then she first moved to Lake Shore Gold, growing within the company from Warehouse Clerk to Warehouse Coordinator/ Junior Buyer purchasing all the inventory items.” She also managed two warehouses at different sites but was “looking to grow” so moved to a senior buyer position at a different mine, Brigus Gold (now McEwan Mining). She had recently taken the Supply Chain Designation at the Supply Chain Institute of Ontario and was ready for fresh challenges. “I’d just finished my designation, so I jumped at that opportunity. But in my world people seem to move around but stay connected,” so in 2015 after a couple of years senior buying, she came back to Lake Shore Gold and has been there ever since.
Her strategy has always been to be the hardest worker in the room. “This is something that was instilled on me from my parents, from this has come the determination to succeed to and to progress in my career and stand out amongst the rest”
Fresh Ideas and Future Plans
Laughren has implemented new processes since progressing into her current role, although plenty of the workload is standardized and steady state. She he has worked especially hard to standardize the procurement procedures between Lake Shore Gold’s two sites. “We’re trying to make the two sides a team,” she says, “and make sure processes are done the same. That way if a new person comes in, they can see the process for how we want the warehouse, procurement functions completed, it also allows us to share the team between the two sites when required.” Laughren is intensely future orientated and her plans for the company all chime with allowing it to continue its work for decades to come. This year her focus is on succession planning, “someone each team member can count on when they are off to assist with their day to day roles, so I’m putting those goals in place with individuals within my team.” Laughren already has one team member in mind and is working closely with her to allow for future possibilities and improve her skillset and has made sure they do the same by training up further colleagues. “If I’m looking to move somebody up, I’m looking for them to train somebody they feel is moving in the same direction. It is all about building the best team possible for future growth.”
“To keep with the strategy of being the hardest worker in the room, I do this with integrity and now as a leader I am trying to do this by encouraging others to work to their potential and recognizing them for their accomplishments. It is important to recognize people as they grow, because at the end of the day you’re only as good as your team and a strong team allows for continued growth and improvement in the supply chain.”
She is also looking to implement Performance Management such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based) Goals to move forward results with inventory reduction and cost savings. This forward-looking approach looks set to build on Lake Shore Gold’s successes in the coming years.
Focus on the local
Lake Shore Gold is a part of the Timmins community and a good portion of the companies they work with are local. This is both a choice and a necessity- “working with local companies ensures that we have what we need when we need it.” As a mining town, the Timmins mining region has seen a great deal of businesses expand through their services and products provided to producers and, as Laughren says “if we’re thriving, they’re thriving.” Lake Shore Gold believes strongly in supporting the local economy and aside from items that are impossible to secure locally, they tend to use local providers. Harder to find items are mostly sourced from Canadian companies and Laughren is proud of the company’s “focus on the local”. This approach extends to the local indigenous community. This approach extends to the local indigenous community. Both Timmins West and Bell Creek have IBA Agreements with First Nation communities and we include them in upcoming opportunities. Laughren is a member of the SCMA and has built a working relationship with them and works closely with the Institute to bring courses to Timmins to do their seminars vs having to travel to southern Ontario. It makes sense to do this with peers in the same industry and she is very aware things can look different in a busy mining town than they do in a city classroom.
This local focus has seen real benefits for the Timmins economy. Local businesses are growing and Laughren points out that several have had to move to bigger locations in order to house the items they supply or built or upgraded shops for added workspace and technology improvements. Companies are hiring more people and working longer hours. “Timmins is a strong mining camp all round, not just with Lake Shore Gold,” Laughren says and the industry is helping the town thrive. It isn’t just Lake Shore Gold. Newmont ( Goldcorp) has been mining in Timmins for a hundred years, Glencore, Kidd Operations for fifty and there are other mines in the area in operation or with the potential to move forward. “It’s a pretty busy area. There are lots benefits for the local suppliers. Lots of mining suppliers have set up shop here or in Northern Ontario over the years.” The town’s prosperity looks set to continue, with benefits for all. Lake Shore Gold alone works with over a hundred different companies for their two mines.
Laughren tells us there is room for Lake Shore Gold to grow. This applies not just to the company, but her team in particular. She is planning to expand her team, which currently has seven members including herself, and to organize her teams’ structure to better support the organization. The company is also “happy to add new vendors”, but there are specific requirements that are needed to become a vendor and must be willing to follow specific policies we have on site, such as our Drug and Alcohol Policy our vendor due diligence requirements, etc.
Coming from an environmental background, Laughren is very aware of the need for environmental best practice in an industry that doesn’t always come with the greenest reputation. “We always try to keep those best practices in place and have a great environmental team that are always supportive,” she says. Within the supply chain, we are always looking at ways to reduce shipping. We are also aware of the opportunities for technological change to improve their impact on the planet. Underground technology changes rapidly and reducing emissions is a key factor in Lake Shore Gold’s future planning. The skills of people like Laughren, with their combination of environmental and mining acumen are vital to this task.
Building on Success
Lake Shore Gold is thriving but Laughren is anything but complacent. She always sees her task as “building on my leadership skills to bring it back to my team.” In 2020 she is looking to “reduce costs, which will include reviewing our aged and obsolete inventory, reducing freight, following best practices and ensuring that we are getting the best price and service out there by issuing more RFX’s.” She will be continuing to build relationships with suppliers and her team. Laughren is passionate about the need to reduce costs even in prosperous times. “Even when you’re thriving, we should be doing everything we can to reduce costs.” This focus on the long term promises to keep Lake Shore Gold’s mines profitable in years to come.
Laughren’s determination to be the hardest worker in the room is an ethos that has served her well, rising from Warehouse Clerk to Procurement Manager in seven years and taking her team and company department from strength to strength. “It can be tough sometimes,” she says, “but that’s what makes it interesting.” Her focus on future and succession planning, determination to reduce expenditures, openness to new technologies and ways of reducing environmental impact, indicate that Lake Shore Gold -and the town of Timmins- look set to continue succeeding for many years to come.