Mining construction specialist Decmil moves to a paperless future

“Since introducing Site Diary to assist supervisors manage projects, the app has saved Decmil over $3M. ROI for Files & Forms and Maps & Rules apps will be apparent soon but Decmil expect to save $1M per year alone by eliminating the need to courier paper across projects.” – Jenni Campbell, Decmil’s Group Manager – Business Systems

With a large workforce spread across remote areas, Decmil has been delivering building and civil construction services to the oil and gas and resources industries for almost four decades, with all the attendant problems and inconveniences that come from working in such far flung areas.

This case study explores Decmil’s vision for a better way of working, which completely transformed the way the company delivers exceptional value to its clients- from project management to customer service and everything in between.

Working together with Ignia, Jenni Campbell, has pioneered a number of transformational projects using the Microsoft platform to address the following problems:

Problem #1: Paper

Solution: Site Diary App

Jenni’s first priority was to improve project controls at Decmil; which was 100% paper based. Together, Decmil and Ignia invented a new way of doing things: a desktop app called Site Diary, for recording a job’s progress against budget and supervisor notes.

The desktop Site Diary was a good first step. But it also got Jenni’s mind ticking. She saw just how much all of Decmil’s workers could benefit from going mobile.

“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?”

- Explains Alastair Waddell, Solution Architect at Ignia.


So Decmil and Ignia modernized Site Diary, transforming it onto a sleek Windows 8 App. Please read the full case study on this project for more details.

Paul Premerl, Project Manager, sums up the new app,

 “Since the crew got tablets, productivity has increased because paperwork is submitted electronically. For example, I get materials information up to 24 hours quicker than before. This puts all of us in a far better position and places us at the forefront of innovation and transparency to which the client strives for. Thank-you!” 

Problem #2: Geographically dispersed workforce

Solution: Maps & Rules App

One of Decmil’s clients extract natural gas from coal seams using a network of thousands of wells. Decmil construct these wells, at a rate of about 40-100 wells per month, each taking only days to complete.

The crew has to commute hundreds of kilometres to each site, located in remote areas where phone network connections are patchy and weak with limited capacity. Many of the sites are located on private land, with private access roads that are not available on the 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 and limited access points.These need to be strictly followed when accessing a property and failure to comply with these rules could put million dollar projects at risk.

Decmil had been using hard copy LAR documents, some of which were out of date by the time the crew got on site. The crew also carried hard copies of maps, finding it very hard to navigate in areas without landmarks or any signage. This was obviously a very time consuming, stressful and not to mention risky process- the crew could very easily, unintentionally violate access restrictions.

Jenni and the project team saw an opportunity to improve this process and that’s how the aptly named ‘Maps & Rules’ app was created.

Pat Furlong, Senior Project Manager, describes the success of the app,

 “Maps & Rules App has significantly reduced the risk of our employees breeching land access rules, and is a major step change in productivity for us. A breech can result in the contract ceasing with land owner denying access to our staff, which is a major risk factor for Decmil. Now, there is no need for paper and we can detail all movements and compliance to our contractual rules in real time.”

For such a high risk area, the Maps & Rules app is a significant improvement to the current process. Now, the Land Access Rules (LARs) are automatically synced to the tablets via Azure Mobile Services, so that the crew always has the correct version. The back office staff keeps the LAR documents updated using SharePoint Online based Documents library. The process is simple- in the morning, the crew add sites they are likely to visit as Favourites, and the application automatically downloads the LARs. Then they are off for the day, operating the app offline in poor reception areas.

Using Bing Maps, the app guides the crew to the well site with incredible GPS functionality – nearest public roads, dirt roads and even gates are shown to help navigate literally in the middle of nowhere.

Telstra mobile towers are displayed to help locate the strongest mobile reception if the crew needs to make an unscheduled delivery or stop at another wellsite and download and accept the associated Land Access Rules.

The app has played a big part in increasing safety for the workers, by supporting fully dynamic location markers synchronization from a SharePoint Online List. The crew can select to show items like Heavy Vehicle Decoupling Yards and Rest Stops, along with route hazards to plan out their daily route and schedule, saving time and reducing safety risks.

The app makes compliance a breeze for Decmil workers. The crew has 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% transparency for Decmil and their clients.

Problem #3: Compliance, no connection and yes, more paper!

Solution: Forms & Files App

Continuing with the well site example, each site requires over a 50 different forms filled out. An equivalent of two filing boxes is filled up with paper for a day’s work. You can only imagine the time required to transport, scan and record the information.

The Forms & Files app eliminates all of that tedious work.

This app works together with the Maps & Rules app, syncing the files and forms associated with each well site from Office 365 SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and Azure SQL. It plays a key part in the quality control process, and saves considerable effort for filling Electrical and Mechanical Inspection and Test Reports.

Previously, two couriers used to run between 10 construction sites driving over 500km every day, just to pick up Serial Number sheets and deliver Test Reports documents to crews. With the app, crews now fill a Serial Number sheet electronically, which allows the forms to be generated and filled out immediately. Any discrepancies or duplicate serial numbers are automatically detected, and the QA team can immediately contact the crew while construction is still in progress and rectify any issues without having to dispatch a crew to site weeks later, which was the standard process before.

Mr Furlog testifies,

“Forms & Files app has created a leading change in the way we document our daily activities, I have led major projects for 25 years and it’s the first time I have witnessed the collation of real time information within hours for onward transmittal to our client.”

The app also allows back office administrators to easily create new dynamic electronic forms for the client, such as Hazard Reporting, Equipment Ordering and Maintenance Requests by simply creating a new SharePoint Online List and adding it to the list of Offline Forms for the tablet applications. SharePoint Online based lists are dynamically converted to XAML Forms by Azure Mobile Services and rendered on the tablet application without any need for development.

Workers can upload any supporting documents to the form, for example photos to support the Hazard Reporting Form. A ‘Save & Submit’ functionality has been built in for all files and forms. If a worker saves a dynamic form, it will be saved on Azure Mobile Services. Any crew member from the same wellsite can then open and continue where the previous crew left off. If the worker is without network connectivity, the files and forms are available offline and changes are submitted once the app is connected.

Eric James, Contracts Manager – Wellsite Installation Services at Decmil sums up the impact of the apps:

“The applications we are currently using on the Wellsites Project, will in many ways turn the Project on its head. In essence they are simple changes, however the effect they have on the project economy and in keeping our labour resources working at the job front where we need them, instead of trawling through realms of paperwork and traipsing around the countryside, is massive. Each baby step we make with the applications has a huge knock on effect in terms of efficiencies, and in a lot of senses is revolutionising the way we do business here.”