Decmil Improves Operations across Remote Areas with Windows 8


“Ignia were great to deal with from the start. Their knowledge of Windows 8 and mobile apps development was key to the success of the project. Plus they do a lot of work for mining companies so they also brought a wealth of mining experience to the table. They really engaged the users to understand their needs and designed the app around our people. The feedback from the field is testament to the great job done by Ignia.” Jenni Campbell, Group Manager- Business Systems at Decmil Australia.

Summary

Decmil worked with Ignia to develop a Windows 8 app to facilitate the management of its mine construction contracting projects.  With a large workforce spread across remote areas, the brief was to produce an innovative Windows 8 Mobility solution. The final app replaced a time consuming, paper based process and increased productivity as well as raising safety and OH& S standards.

“The tablets and app are nothing short of excellent, hats off to you and your team as this type of infrastructure and support puts all of us in a far better position and also places us at the forefront of innovation and transparency to which the client strives for. Thank-you!” Oil, Gas and Water Manager – Project Manager QGC Well Sites

The Decmil Story

Since 1979, Decmil has been delivering specialist building and civil construction services to the oil & gas and resources industries. Keeping people safe and projects incident free is central to everything at Decmil; their award winning safety program, SHIELD (Safety and Health In Every Level at Decmil) aims to keep the best health and safety practices top of mind for every employee. Its strength and success can be seen in significant incident rate reductions, with recently recorded 1.7 million man-hours lost time injury free, on the Pluto LNG Project. Decmil’s long and respected association with almost all major mining and energy projects arises from its partnering approach, high regard for the environment, and sharp focus on innovation in all aspects of operation.

“Innovation through technology is integral to Decmil’s success and Ignia has been a valued partner on this journey by helping Decmil reimagine our processes with Windows 8.” Jenni Campbell, Group Manager- Business Systems at Decmil Australia.

The Evolution of Site Diary

Back in 2009, the plan was to develop a desktop based supporting system called ‘Site Diary’ for the purpose of providing on-site supervisors with a more sophisticated method of capturing daily events, tracking the day’s progress and having the ability to capture general OH&S information required for processes such as incident reports and injury claims. With the previous process being manual and paper based, Decmil wanted to make life easier for the supervisors along with increasing compliance and OH&S for staff. Fast forward to 2014 and Site Diary has seen continual development, with the initial function of tracking the day’s events seeming almost insignificant compared to the other functions that have been added since the arrival of Windows 8 and the transformation from a heavy desktop application to a streamlined, modern and mobile app. The Site Diary app is now responsible for employee hours, equipment allocations, client reporting, client billing, project tracking and more. With Decmil’s desire to push the boundaries of innovation, Site Diary has become quite a large and complex application, yet at the same time maintaining the agility and ease of use required of a mobile application.

Challenges & Design Goals

Having developed mobility solutions for a number of other clients with highly distributed workforces, Ignia has experienced the usual challenges associated with such projects but the layout of Decmil’s work sites proved to be one the most challenging projects.

These people had to work literally in the middle of nowhere; they would fly in, drive for five hours and that was just to the site office. Then, they’d be driving for another couple of hours to get to the actual crew, and a supervisor may be responsible for three crews. Did I mention that some of these sites were in cyclone areas?” Alastair Waddell, Solution Architect at Ignia.

Remoteness comes with the expected lack of communication links and therefore the app had to be functional when disconnected, yet able to push out data as soon as possible, with the device as light weight as possible. Ensuring that all of the functionality of a complicated desktop system was supported and improved upon by the tablet application was paramount to Site Diary’s success.

“We had several ambitious design goals” says Jenni. “The app had to be fit for purpose, occasionally connected with a functional, attractive and professional user interface.”

The HP ElitePad 900 was chosen for Site Diary due to it being cost effective, 3G and Windows Pro.

User engagement workshops were conducted to test different devices. Screen contrast, usability while wearing gloves, battery life and camera performance were all considered before selecting the HP ElitePad 900 as the best option.

While some Decmil staff were sceptical at the idea of working with tablets at first, the benefits quickly outweighed any doubt and now people are finding everyday tasks, such as managing timesheets are made much easier with Site Diary, freeing them up to focus on the project at hand.

I’d been hearing about these tablets for a while and how they were going to make everyone’s life easier but you have to understand I was pretty sceptical. Once I saw it, it actually seemed pretty easy. So far I’m sold. I don’t have to do paper timesheets for my crew and drive them in to the office, I don’t have to wait around for the camera’s memory card to be cleared because I can email or save them to the shared drive. I can open my drawings and zoom in on them, same with maps. I spend less time driving to find a signal to call the office and driving to the office with paperwork and more time with my team on the tools.” Leading Hand, Oil & Gas project.

Taking advantage of the touch-rich features and fluid interface of the app, Decmil staff have embraced Windows 8 and its capabilities.

“I had a tablet to start testing our new app that runs on Windows 8 for a week in place of my laptop. I’m so keen, I had IT upgrade my laptop after three days of using Windows 8. I needed an online tutorial but once I learnt the Windows + Q shortcut, I can’t be stopped.” Business Systems Trainer

A New Way of Working & Future Plans

As the tablet was only occasionally connected to the internet (via its GSM modem), Windows Azure was chosen as the intermediary platform. The Azure platform facilitates the synchronisation and communication between the device and server, and only costs Decmil $70 per month.

Workers out in the field have some great feedback about their experience with Site Diary:

“Since the crew got tablets, productivity has increased because paperwork is submitted electronically. For example, I get materials information up to 24hrs quicker than before. I also get more information from my Supervisors and Leading Hands because they can record it at the time rather than when they remember it. The Admin team spend less time harassing me about paperwork now too.” Superintendent, Civil project.

Life is also made easier for the Admin team, who previously would have spent all day entering timesheets for a crew of approximately 400 people. With Site Diary, it takes them just one hour to check that everything has been correctly submitted.

The Business Systems Trainer responsible for the Site Diary rollout sums up her experience,

“My role includes training Leading Hands, Supervisors and Site Admin in the use of our Windows 8 app that we developed with Ignia. The major advantage to me when training is that most people have a mobile device already, so they understand the nature of the interface. I also like that I can work with the OS instead of trying to find ways to workaround it to achieve what I need to.

The reaction I get from the staff is almost invariably fear on first contact with a tablet, usually accompanied by some comment that they expect to have great difficulty or to fail. The most gratifying part of my job is when they look at me at the end of a thirty minute training session on our app and how to use Windows 8 and say ‘that’s not that hard… Don’t worry about the training session tomorrow, I’ll call you if I have any trouble’.”

With Site Diary reinventing the way Decmil does business and after being impressed with the Windows 8 device’s performance in such a harsh environment, Decmil are now looking at rolling out Microsoft Lync and Exchange via Office365 companywide to further enhance productivity.

“Over the years we have been continually fine tuning our operations to improve collaboration across remote areas,” said Jenni. “The Site Diary app overcomes this challenge by providing an intuitive mobile platform on touch enabled tablets to streamline our business processes. Project efficiency is gained by providing authorised users with secure, direct access to the information they need, regardless of their location, 24 hours a day.”