Brett Andrews, manager of drills and aftermarket service at Atlas Copco Exploration, was having a hard time keeping up with all of the calls from customers needing information to fix their diamond drill rigs.
He would often send the paper version of the service manuals to the print shop to be photocopied for customers, but this was expensive and time-consuming.
“Every one of the drills had a parts book and service manual that was associated with it. It was difficult to serve customers calling for help without the (right) book at your fingertips,” he said.
“That’s when I started to look for a web-based system so my customers could help themselves.”
Andrews set up an appointment with Mindoka, which has developed a process called drag and drop data conversion, or D3C technology, to put large amounts of information up on the Internet.
Files that would normally be difficult to download, such as PDF or Microsoft Word documents, are converted to easy-to-download HTML or XML coding, while still retaining their original formatting. Print versions of documents are scanned and also converted to HTML or XML.
“It allows users to have worldwide access without installing any software on their computers. To view a Word file, you don’t need Word. To view a PDF, you don’t need Acrobat. It can be viewed simply by a web browser,” said Todd Shortt, business development officer at Mindoka.
The D3C technology also automatically converts documents so they are 100 per cent searchable, a function useful to heavy equipment mechanics who don’t have the time to flip through a whole manual to find the relevant information, said Andrews.
Bulletins can be sent out to the owners of certain drills when changes are made to the service manual. The Internet technology is also sufficiently user-friendly that customers can publish information themselves with a minimum of training.
“There were a couple of things that really got me excited,” said Andrews.
“One was that people could access manuals fast, and it was searchable. What really got me excited is that we could publish from our desks in our office instead of going to a website provider to put a file on the web.”
Andrews estimates the number of service calls he receives has dropped by half since implementing the technology last fall.
Diamond drillers working in the bush can even access the information because many exploration companies are now providing satellite-based Internet access, he said.
“You’d be surprised what’s out in the industry now. People have satellite uplinks right from the drill site,” Andrews said.
“Some of our customers use the Internet for real-time reporting. They want to know how many metres were drilled on that drill site, and how much core was recovered. The reports get sent out every day. This is getting to be commonplace now.”
Other companies in the mining supply and service sector, as well as unrelated industries, would also benefit from the technology, said Shortt.
“Any company that is looking to get information out to its customers or its workforce in real time, without having to hire Internet programmers, would have use for this system,” he said. “It’s made for the person on the floor to be able to update documentation if they have authorization.”