With a large workforce spread across remote areas, ASX listed engineering and construction specialist Decmil was well aware of the tyranny of distance when it came to the various records, policies and procedures that are part and parcel of running a large organisation.
Since 1979, Decmil has been delivering specialist building and civil construction services to the oil and gas and resources industries, with all the attendant problems and inconveniences that come from working in such far flung areas.
Moving to a paperless future
In 2009, the company began to explore, with Microsoft partner Ignia, an information technology system that could replace the paper records kept by site supervisors to log daily events, track the day’s progress, and be responsible for employee hours, equipment allocations, client reporting, client billing, client billing and tracking productivity. The app that Ignia created to facilitate the management of Decmil’s mine construction contracting projects was ‘Site Diary’.
Fast forward to 2014 and ‘Site Diary’ has undergone many changes. The implementation of Windows 8.1 meant the app could undergo a transformation from a desktop only application to an agile, mobile app. The Site Diary app can now be accessed from employees’ HP Elite Pad 1000 G2 tablets on site works when disconnected, pushing out data as soon as it’s online.
Using Site Diary, employees found everyday tasks, such as managing timesheets and logging results, much easier, freeing them up to focus on the project at hand.
“A key element for us is the productivity that can be gained through cloud working, meaning remote workers can log information on site rather than having to return to the office, effectively giving them back a part of their day”
Connecting remote miners at all times
Now in 2015, Decmil is broadening its technology vision even further. Working alongside Ignia, the company is strengthening the connection between its remote workers across its disparate sites by deploying a sales productivity solution Office 365, Dynamics CRMOL and Power BI in Microsoft’s local data centres.
Office 365 will complement the ‘Site Diary’ application in helping the company towards its goal of having a truly mobile workforce. Employees can now access emails and documents anytime and anywhere. Decmil’s processes have always created large labour-intensive paper trails, but Office 365 will now transform these into a series of shareable, working documents that staff can update as needed while working remotely via the Office suite or SharePoint.
Moving to the cloud will enable its workforce, many of whom attend several different mining sites, to work remotely and collaborate while on the move. This transition will be made easier by Decmil’s one-platform approach to provide staff with a consistent experience across all devices, from smartphones to PCs and tablets. The company has deployed a range of Lumia 630 and 830 Windows Phone devices to frontline staff and plans to roll out Surface Pro 3.
“Over the years we have been continually fine-tuning our operations to improve collaboration across remote areas,” said Jenni Campbell, Group Manager – Business Systems at Decmil. “A key element for us is the productivity that can be gained through cloud working, meaning remote workers can log information on site rather than having to return to the office, effectively giving them back a part of their day.”
Keeping employees safe and standards high
Keeping people safe and projects incident-free is central to everything the company does. Its award winning safety program, SHIELD (Safety and Health in Every Level at Decmil) aims to keep essential health and safety practices top of mind for every employee.
Office 365 will increase this high level of safety, and play its part in the success of the SHIELD program. This will ensure safety guidelines, which were previously only accessible via a physical document, will now be available to all at anytime and anywhere through being hosted in the cloud.
It is a reality of the mining industry that people need to work from a number of mobile sites which can often be in very remote areas. Connectivity in these areas can be difficult, however, since Decmil moved on to Microsoft Azure, workers can synchronise their devices automatically and at speed, with the server ensuring communication is at its easiest at all times.
“We had several ambitious design goals,” Jenni said. “The implementation had to be fit for purpose, it had to enable staff to take their work with them on site and let them upload files at any time. Access to SharePoint and OneDrive without VPN is a huge bonus of the implementation.”
“Technology continues to re-invent the way Decmil does business. It now has an agile, remote workforce that can collaborate seamlessly throughout the day and as the technology evolves, Decmil’s workforce will grow with it.”
It is easy to imagine how an engineering and construction company like Decmil would be overflowing with documents that only need to be accessed occasionally, but when they do, they are required quickly. To combat this, Decmil is implementing a document management tool linked with Microsoft Azure to ensure all their paper is stored in the cloud and can easily be discovered if need be.
Moving to an app centric organisation
Jenni has pioneered a number of transformational projects using the entire Microsoft platform to enable Decmil’s employees to go mobile and have worked with Ignia on a number of apps which have had an immediate impact on employees and customers.
“Employees has to commute hundreds of kilometres to each site, which are located in remote areas where phone network connections are patchy and weak with limited capacity,” Jenni said. “Many of the sites are located on private land, with private access roads that are not available on public mapping service. Each individual property has a set of negotiated Land Access Rules (LAR) which has individual requirements, such as weed management and crop cross contamination prevention processes, to be followed when accessing a property.”
“Employees had to commute hundreds of kilometres to each site, which are located in remote areas where phone network connections are patchy and weak with limited capacity”
For such a high risk area, the Maps and Rules app is a significant improvement on the current process. The app makes compliance easy for Decmil workers, with the crew having to acknowledge each LAR prior to accessing the wellsite each day. Previously, they had to go through a huge amount of paper, kept in a large tin box at the access gate. Now, it’s a matter of simply checking the app to see if there has been any updates to the LAR, followed by one touch confirmation. A digital audit trail ensures 100 per cent transparency for Decmil and clients.
The Files and Forms app works together with the Maps and Rules app, syncing the files and forms associated with each well site through Office 365 SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business as well as Azure SQL Server It plays a key part in quality control process and saves considerable time and effort for filling out Electrical and Mechanical Inspection and Test Reports (ITR).
Previously crews could not start filling out Electrical ITRs until Day 2 of construction, since Serial Numbers had to be verified and sent to the back office quality assurance team to turn into valid ITR documents. Two couriers used to run between 10 construction sites driving over 500km every day, just to pick up serial number sheets and deliver Electrical ITR documents to crews.
A continuous evolution
The company will explore ways to make better use of its data by using Power BI by allowing the organisation to become data-informed by having all the relevant data in one place with Power BI dashboards.
Decmil is in the midst of moving to Dynamics CRMOL which will allow them to build and customise the platform to fit the business’ specific needs. It includes a familiar user interface, a flexible development platform and interoperability with other Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Office, which will help contribute to user adoption.
In short, technology continues to reinvent the way Decmil does business. They now have an agile, remote workforce that can collaborate seamlessly throughout the day and as the technology evolves, Decmil’s workforce will grow with it.