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Web-based software streamlines processes

September 1, 2009
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Technology with 0 Comments

 Mindoka Technology Corp., a North Bay software development company, is supplying Cementation Canada Inc. with a web-based solution for capturing time and materials data from remote project sites across North America.
Until now, the underground mine contracting and engineering firm relied on paper-based systems for the transmission of time and material data to its North Bay head office.

“When the shift comes up from a day’s work, they write down their hours on a piece of paper and give it to the shift supervisor,” said Mindoka president and CEO Dave Crewson. “The information is then faxed to head office. Sometimes it has dirty fingerprints on it, or they can’t read the writing. There’s a lot of back and forth with the site. It’s quite a laborious process.”

Using the Mindoka Information Resource System (MIRS), Cementation staff at project sites in New Brunswick, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia will be able to enter their hours and consumable details in a data collection screen accessible through a web browser. From there, the data is transferred into Cementation’s new J.D. Edwards enterprise resource planning (ERP) application through a link developed by Mindoka.

The introduction of ERP software will greatly enhance Cementation’s business processes, but ERP systems can’t do everything, said Crewson.

“ERP systems do what they do very well. That includes human resources, payroll and finance, but there are some things they don’t do very well and one of them is document control, gathering data from remote sites and anything to do with offsite work.”

Consummables

In addition to capturing and transmitting hours worked for payroll, the tool documents the use of consumables such as rockbolts, shotcrete and screen for budgeting purposes.

“The objective is to minimize data input and become more efficient,” said Roy Slack, president of Cementation Canada. “Paper-based timesheets were OK when we were smaller, but we’re a fairly large group now, so we’re moving ahead with this.”

The Mindoka Information Resource System was developed several years ago as a way to streamline the publishing of manuals for the pulp and paper industry.

“One of Mindoka’s founders, Tobel Graves, used to go into a mill to research its policies, procedures and processes, but by the time the manual was delivered, it was out of date, ” said Crewson. “He decided to look for a way to make sure that when he delivered a manual, it was accessible to everyone and could be maintained. To do that, he had to go to an electronic medium. It had to be in a simple and easy-to-use format and it had to be easy to update.”

Northern College

The Mindoka Information Resource System has also been used to develop a learning management system for Northern College’s surface driller common core program.

“We were looking through Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal and saw a story about Northern College starting this program. We went to see them and discovered that we would be able to handle exactly what they were looking for.”

The web-based application stores the program’s entire curriculum. It also includes tests for each module.

“The student logs in, takes the test online, hits submit and the system automatically tabulates the result,” said Crewson. “It can handle one program at Northern College or the whole college. The neat thing about it is that there are no license fees associated with the product.”

Changes to the curriculum are easy to make, said Danielle Doyon, who looks after instructional support for the program at Northern College. “It’s a real-time user environment,” she explained. “Anytime a file is uploaded, it’s available to everyone in the group.”

Automatic marking is a big help because it allows the instructors to spend more time with the students. It also helps to evaluate instructor performance by highlighting test questions that are incorrectly answered by several students.

“If a lot of the students get the same question wrong, we’ll talk to the instructors and ask them to review the material,” said Doyon.

Another benefit of the Mindoka solution is that it allows Northern College to charge user fees to other schools interested in accessing the curriculum and offering a surface drilling program, said Northern College training consultant Rose-Lyne D’Aoust-Messier.

Atlas Copco

Mindoka has also customized a web-based application for Atlas-Copco’s North Bay operation.

“They had a need to get their drill rig documentation out to their workforce around the world,” said Crewson. The company’s technical support team in North Bay worked from 8 am to 5:30 pm. After that, drillers requiring assistance had to resort to thumbing through reams of paper-based documentation if they wanted to order a part.

“If your hydraulic pump goes down on a drill rig in Peru and they send you the wrong pump, you could be down for another two weeks,” said Crewson. “Time is money in the mining business, so what they wanted was to have their documentation available on the web so that their people in different time zones could access the information.”

According to Crewson, every drill rig goes out with a service manual, a parts manual, an operator’s manual and a start-up manual.

“I could ship your rig today and your documentation could follow eight months later. by then, it’s most likely out of date.”

With everything online, Atlas Copco staff in North Bay can update a document and publish it to the system, so there’s no chance of someone in Peru, or Chile, or Mongolia getting the wrong part number. It’s always up to date. If it’s a critical change, they can ask for a digital signoff confirming that it has been read.

Users of the web-based documentation system can also find what they’re looking for much more efficiently by using the application’s search functionality. Atlas Copco staff in North Bay are using the web-based system, too, leaving the paper-based manuals lining their shelves to gather dust.

According to Crewson, call volumes at Atlas Copco have dropped by one-third.

The Mindoka Information Resource System is able to handle any size document. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 pages or 150,000 pages,” said Crewson.

www.mindoka.com

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