Buying Guide: Digital Work Management App for Mining Operations

Stuart Burckhardt
Chief Executive Officer
January 6, 2021
min read

Digital work instructions can offer a quick win for mine maintenance departments embarking on a digital transformation. If done right, they can have a positive impact on your maintenance operation. However, you need to make sure the software you buy is fit-for-purpose while understanding any hidden costs of the transition. This document discussed some of the things to review when considering purchasing digital work instruction software for your mining operation.

Understand the benefits.

Like any software or project, there must be a clear return on investment before going ahead. So, it’s important to understand the goals and requirements of your work instruction project and the problem the software will solve.

Going paperless is one criterion, but is this alone enough to justify the investment?

More valuable benefits are to protect worker safety, increase job efficiency or streamline planning workflows. Understanding these higher order benefits will help justify your project.

Does the software you are considering support these higher-order benefits?

Understand the whole-of-project costs

The cost of the software is only one element to consider.

By far a bigger cost is the creation or transfer of traditional to digital content.  Make sure you investigate how easy or difficult it is to bring legacy content into the new software. Does the software have automated loading methods? Can the vendor support bulk loading of documents? A mid-sized mining operation has approximately 1000-3000 documents. How will these be loaded into the new software? If you need to start again or handle the conversion yourself, this can be a large cost.

Also make sure that that the software supports the required functionality. For example, work instructions for complex industrial equipment should allow for visual elements (pictures, video, 3D models etc.) and rich content like tables, formatting, symbols etc. Many list-type inspection Apps don’t.

Lastly, don’t forget to include the cost of ongoing training and support.

Make sure the software is easy to use.

To ensure the software helps engineers and technicians, it needs to be easy to use and at least as fast as traditional methods. The harder the software is to learn, the less likely your team will adopt it, falling back to traditional methods.

Evaluate both the use of any Apps as well as the ease-of-use of the tool that builds the documents.

Further, the more difficult it is to use, the more training is required, costing the operation more money.

Make sure the software includes access to online help and support so users can quickly find out answers to their questions without additional costs to the business.

Make sure the software builds smart documents.

Not all digital work instructions are created equal. For example, converting a Word or PowerPoint work instruction to PDF and showing it on a tablet is not a Smart document. It’s just a static view of a paper-based document.

Smart work instructions include rich elements, like video, decision points, data collection prompts with validation and interactive 3D models. They also include the ability to provide feedback and handle updates across documents.

Elements that address worker safety in an interactive way should also be included. This helps the technician identify job hazards and risk-rank the job. Critical hazards can be identified at the step level and supervisor intervention may need to be requested to ensure a job is safe to perform.

They also have advanced analytics capabilities to help understand individual technician performance and identify training and hazard reduction opportunities.

Ensure integration with existing systems workflow.

Work instructions are only one element of a maintenance management system. If they are built in isolation, some of the benefits are lost. Integrating with your CMMS or ERP such as SAP or Oracle is critical to getting the most benefit from the system.

Further, when publishing documents, is there an existing approvals process and does the software support this. ie Many companies use SharePoint or other document management systems. How easy is it to integrate to these systems?

Collect and analyse critical performance data.

One of the main benefits of smart digital work instructions is the ability to collect granular performance data on the execution process. This data can help improve maintenance workflows, protect work safety and identify training opportunities. For example, understanding how long it takes to perform each job step, and the variability between technicians, can identify which technicians may need further training and support. Over time, this can build a skills matrix and development profile for each technician.

Collected data can be further visualised to identify other trends around job performance, adoption and safety across multiple operations.

Product Roadmap.

Does the vendor have a product roadmap and are they committed to continued innovation of the software? This is important to ensure the product is continuously improving and evolving to keep pace with changes in technology and processes.

Ask the vendor to provide a product roadmap.

OnPlan. Safer work instructions, faster.

OnPlan work instruction software by AssetOn is for maintenance departments who are dissatisfied with the time it takes to build and manage maintenance documents. OnPlan software and services let users quickly build, manage and deploy high quality work instructions and inspection sheets in a structured way using repeatable elements. This ensures jobs are well planned and safe, leading to fewer injuries and more efficient job execution. Specifically, the solution includes features designed for asset managers and owners of heavy industrial assets.

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