Where’s the Meat?

Please note that the following news item is an archived article. Therefore any links and information may now be out of date.

Ever since those heady days of software boom in the early 1990’s it has been an elusive dream of my company to be able to offer the site investigation drilling industry a simple and robust method of logging boreholes electronically in the field. For us the obvious motivation is to bring an innovative product to market and reap the benefits of doing so. But what’s in it for the end user, and what drivers could we bring to bear on a traditionally conservative and often techno-sceptic community?

The quick answer is of course to exploit the time and cost savings of effective data management. But to many in our industry this is just so much gobbledygook and often interpreted as a gimmicky sales slogan with little actual substance. So where’s the meat for the Driller?

For a comparison we could go back to the development of a similar package for site engineers we launched in 2002, PocketSI. Designed to run on a rugged PDA this software produces an AGS file which can be quickly transferred to the office and imported into the resident data management system. Because it is handheld the engineer can easily move between several boreholes in progress and log the results. The benefits of this kind of workflow are significant and easily understood: the client gets results quicker, with fewer errors, and the SI plan can be quickly modified to address unexpected ground conditions.

Making similar claims for KeyLogbook, an application for the drilling specialist, is trickier however. The driller (in UK at least) gets paid for his drilling meterage, tests carried out, and time spent waiting for something to happen. There is no obvious benefit to recording the information electronically, rather than on the traditional paper logging sheet. Furthermore, because the driller’s solution requires a rugged tablet rather than a PDA, the package is about twice as expensive. How can a valid business case be made?

Well to answer this we need to look beyond the mere mechanics of the drilling task. It is not after all the hole that the client pays for, but the information abstracted from the operation. The quality of the product lies in the completeness of the records, the accuracy of the recorded measures, and the amount of further data processing the client needs to carry out before the data becomes usable. So the driller benefits indirectly from a system that prompts him to record everything required by the client in accordance with the standards to which he is working: BS and/or Eurocode.

He will also dispense with the laborious and messy process of writing sample labels with a marker pen or completing paperwork at the end of the day. Labels and reports can be produced instantly at any stage. So here at last are three tangible benefits for the driller: 1. A better end product for the client 2. A time saving of up to two hours per day 3. Accurate and efficient measure sheets and invoicing for work carried out. And there is one more: better job satisfaction from fewer repetitive tasks and a more professional image.

Mike Rothery Keynetix Ltd