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Introducing RoyBot: Roy Hill’s innovative AI tool boosting employee productivity at scale

In late 2022, Roy Hill Executive Chairman Gina Rinehart encouraged her leaders at the West Australian iron ore mining company to start using the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT, to increase their personal productivity.

These productivity gains made a strong impression, and the company began considering how a similar, customised application rolled out across Roy Hill’s entire workforce might improve employee productivity at scale.

In March 2023, Roy Hill launched a program to develop RoyBot, a chatbot that harnesses OpenAI’s GPT technology while operating in a secure environment. The first iteration appeared a week later, with the initial proof of concept leveraging Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service and Azure Cognitive Services, as well as OpenAI’s GitHub repositories.

The system is designed to respond to a broad spectrum of inquiries related to production data, company policies and procedures, as well as general HR information. Roy Hill’s employees interact with RoyBot using natural language, asking questions through the internal web application.

RoyBot’s advanced language-processing capabilities enable it to interpret the requests and return accurate, relevant information.

It extracts, analyses and presents data in a user-friendly format, making it a useful tool for anyone who needs to analyse complex company data quickly. 

Informing decision-making and simplifying roles

By providing immediate, easy-to-understand responses, RoyBot helps users make more informed decisions and supports clear communication within the organisation.

The application can answer questions, with context, from Roy Hill’s document management system, Wiki repository, task management system and intranet content. It can also answer questions or chat with no internal context, in the same way public chat services do.

More specifically, RoyBot can draw on natural language inputs to answer queries on production data. It can also assist with writing position descriptions for job advertisements in the right internal format and can even search for people or positions internally.

The chatbot uses OpenAI’s GPT models via Azure OpenAI Service to present information and to refine classification and search results (via embeddings).

In addition, the application uses ‘Content Search’ and ‘Document Content Extraction’ from Azure Cognitive Services, which enable developers of all levels to easily add AI capabilities to apps.

RoyBot offers a range of guided options to assist users in finding the information they need.  Based on the user’s selection, it either provides additional prompts on the backend to ensure the best possible answer or directs the query to the appropriate data store and query language to retrieve the information. Responses are then formatted using Azure OpenAI Service, ensuring clear and concise results.

Roy Hill’s Executive General Manager of Technology, Kate Flanagan, says the development of RoyBot aligns with the company’s effort to have the timely and accurate information at employees’ fingertips, facilitating more informed decision making.

“AI has incredible potential in all industries, including mining, and we are fortunate that through the leadership and encouragement of our Executive Chairman, Mrs Gina Rinehart, we are consistently pushing the boundaries of what is possible in this space,” Flanagan says.

Innovation is intrinsic at Roy Hill. We eagerly embrace opportunities to make work as effective and efficient as possible, enhancing the workplace experience for our people and enabling them to contribute to their full potential.

Increasing engagement levels

Since launching RoyBot, Roy Hill has enhanced the application’s functionality through a series of updates and additional releases. The chatbot also has a feedback tool built in to monitor employee queries, which helps the company improve new releases.

So far, the feedback has been very positive. Employees are impressed that the chatbot can provide such relevant information, and expert users are impressed with RoyBot’s ability to perform tasks such as coding and code debugging.

Despite having only been released in March 2023, RoyBot is already proving popular, with approximately 30 per cent of Roy Hill’s workforce using the chatbot on a regular basis. The company expects this high level of engagement to continue increasing, as it assesses ways to improve employee literacy in terms of how to use and get the most out of the chatbot.

RoyBot is only the beginning of Roy Hill’s plans to use AI, given the chatbot’s success in helping employees increase their productivity.