Denver, CO 13 May 2021– Paul Higgins, CEO of DINGO Software interviewed by Ailbhe Goodbody (Mining Magazine)
Congratulations on winning the Austmine Innovation Award for METS! Could you tell us a bit about the Trakka Field Inspection App, and how it was developed?
Thanks! It’s a great honour for the DINGO team to win this award, especially given the quality of the other entrants.
The beauty of the Field Inspection App is that it’s a simple yet powerful tool that was developed to solve a real customer need. We worked in collaboration with BMA’s Blackwater mine in Australia and Newmont’s Nevada operations in the US to develop, test and optimise it. Both of these customers wanted the ability for technicians to take photos of things such as used filters and magnetic plugs on-site, and then get them evaluated by centralised experts off-site. They also wanted a permanent record of this inspection data stored in an organised place.
Our product manager and R&D team used the agile development method to quickly create a prototype that we could put into the hands of our customers. The sites started using the app and provided ongoing feedback so that we could continuously enhance the functionality to best meet their needs.
How can it help to improve maintenance decisions at mine sites?
We have all heard that ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, right? Well, it’s probably closer to ten thousand words in maintenance. Simply by looking at an image, a subject-matter expert can quickly advise the maintenance team if they have a problem – and if so, what to do about it.
It’s a bit like an expert reading an X-ray. To the untrained eye, an X-ray doesn’t say much, but to an expert, a subtle difference could mean something significant. The trouble for mine sites is that the highly specialised experts are usually located somewhere else. The Field Inspection App provides a simple solution to that problem.
Do you have any examples of mine sites that are using the Trakka Field Inspection App, and how they are using it?
We have major mines in Australia, Canada and the US now using the app. One mine alone captured over 200 inspections in a single week: magnetic plugs, filter cuts, equipment tear-downs, damaged parts and more.
It’s so easy to use, people are now planning to extend its usage to inspections on scaffolds, pipe junctions, safety equipment and even haul roads. We didn’t imagine these uses, so it’s great to see how people are adapting it to their needs.
How has the current downturn in the mining industry affected the demand for this type of product? Is there increased focus on predictive maintenance?
In fact, the demand for low-cost products that improve asset health and drive efficiency is increasing. Everyone is trying to do more with less, so keeping machines running for as long as possible and avoiding unnecessary costs is at the top of the agenda.
In this challenging environment, mines are realising that a strong predictive maintenance programme, one that is based on the condition of a machine rather than hours operated, is a smart way to run a leaner operation.
Despite the many challenges the mining industry is facing, there are heaps of great people who are doing their best every day to improve their operations with technology and innovation. When the industry was booming, I don’t remember this level of focus on innovation. All the discussion was around labour and tyre shortages.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and my sense is that the fight for many mines to simply stay in business is actually driving positive change. I’ve worked in this industry for over 25 years and think that it’s one of the most exciting, innovative times that I’ve witnessed.