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Baby steps in mine maintenance planning

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Maintenance planning and scheduling are two things miners do not do as well as other industries. 

According to Absolute Data Group product development manager Michael Halter, who has spent almost 15 years developing software for businesses, the mining industry suffers from a lack of standards in maintenance and scheduling.

To overcome this, ADG has developed R4iBuildPoint, which Halter thinks can help solve some of those shortcomings, adding that many mine maintenance problems stem from companies using Excel spreadsheets to schedule, which is an outdated and unsuitable method.

He told Ferret for planning and scheduling mine site maintenance properly you need software that has been designed specifically for that purpose.

"You need a program designed for managing complex assets. Excel is not designed for that," he said.

One of the biggest problems in using Excel to plan and schedule is that it does not track changes made to job requests, or make detailed records of maintenance work.

Good planning and scheduling should always leave an auditable trail for other workers and managers.

According to Halter, detailed records are some of the first things to go missing from Excel spreadsheets.

"A lot of the smaller miners are exposed in their maintenance. If someone wanted to come through and do an audit of who did what, when, and to what part, a lot of companies would have a hard time answering that."

In an effort to make mine maintenance safer, part of BuildPoint's record keeping involves fatigue management and staff statistics.

Halter told Ferret the more information maintenance plans and schedules made available to workers and managers, the safer the site would be.
"Unplanned maintenance is usually what puts people in danger," he said.

BuildPoint makes sure only qualified staff are scheduled for maintenance work, and that they have the right tools and information for the job.
It also alerts managers of expiring staff qualifications and operator and safety certificates. Apart from working to improve safety and closing auditing gaps, BuildPoint is designed to help planners predict equipment failure.

While downtimes will always happen, if planners can predict failure productivity will rise, he said.

"One of the biggest challenges for miners is solving the problem of maximising uptime without sacrificing equipment servicing."

BuildPoint includes features for documentation, planning, and auditing and combines them with cost, material, and staff management to try and make this happen.

But for all of its features, most of what BuildPoint offers is not completely new or groundbreaking.

Most good miners already know about the importance of schedules managing things like fatigue and audit trails.

And there are already software packages like SAP and Eclipse on the market that offer these functions. 

Halter told Ferret what ultimately differentiated BuildPoint from most pre-existing packages was its smaller size and cost, and maintenance-only focus.

"It's a baby SAP. You could certainly put it that way."

Programs such as SAP manage things like finance and corporate services as well as maintenance.

These programs usually come with high costs and teams of their own expert support staff. BuildPoint's focus on maintenance means it is more tailored to junior miners rather than global giants, and has allowed the developer to keep costs low by excluding tools smaller companies don't need.

In whittling down functionality to provide only what is needed BuildPoint settles comfortably into an important but often ignored sector.

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