Software firm has developed groundbreaking solution for inspections
Konverge Digital Solutions is the creator of Field Eagle ... paperless, risk-based inspection software
For mining companies around the world, the inspection process can be an arduous one. It can involve manually answering thousands of questions with a paper and pen. Inspectors then have to go back to their offices to complete the reports, which could take from a week to a month. But Konverge Digital Solutions has created paperless, risk-based inspection software that is 100 per cent configurable to make inspecting and auditing a breeze.
Konverge Digital Solutions has been in business and a gold Microsoft partner for 20 years. It is a custom software solution provider, building solutions for its clients as well as building its own in-house products such as Field Eagle.
Sonia Couto, director of operations for Konverge Digital Solutions, said a few years ago a client came to the business looking for a solution. The client had numerous inspections to do in a very short period of time. Up until then, everything had been done manually with a paper and pen. More clients came to Konverge with the same problem so it started seeing the potential to build an application. A few months later, a client from the oil and gas industry come to Konverge for the exact same type of application, so Konverge decided to go ahead and build something that multiple industries could use.
"When we did a bit of research, specifically in oil and gas and mining, we discovered inspections are being done by a manual process," said Couto. "The problem is mines can be huge, and there could be anywhere from 200 to 5,000 questions an inspector needs to answer, depending on the size of the mine and what they need to do. They also need to inspect machinery and perform regular maintenance so the problem, in addition to the manual process being very tedious, the bigger problem was the reporting."
Problems with the old way
After an inspector goes on-site and does all the work, he (or she) may be scheduled to go to another site and do another inspection. After that, the inspector has to go back to the office, collect all the data from the site and put a report together. Moreover, the inspector does not get paid until the final report is delivered, which could take up to a month. If there is something critical on-site that needs to be fixed immediately, the company won't know until it gets the report. So Konverge Digital Solutions created Field Eagle, a mobile app that is changing the face of inspections and reporting.
The way of the future
The new technology is quite incredible, according to Couto. Field Eagle allows the inspector to go out with a tablet, sign into the system and perform the inspection right on the tablet. The system has two parts, the server application and the mobile app. On the server is where the administrator sets up all the templates and assigns the inspections, then syncs that inspection and assigns it to an inspector. When the inspector picks up his tablet, he is able to sign in and review the inspections assigned to him right away. He can then take the tablet, walk through the site with the app and answer all the questions. The answers are based on how the administrator sets it up; for example, there can be yes or no answers, drop-down menus or a button to push compliant or non-compliant.
"The tablet also has a rear-view camera to take pictures," said Couto. "They can mark up the pictures with the pen on the tablet and it gets stored right in the app. We also have barcode readers or RFIDs. If a customer wants to put an RFID on a machine, the inspector can just scan it and bring up all the questions he needs to answer for that machine with the RFID tag."
After the inspection is done, all he has to do is hit done and it brings him to a page to sign the inspection. If the customer is on-site, there is a signature space for that person as well. After the customer signs, the inspector presses send and it automatically sends the report to the server application where anyone can access it and print it out.
"It completely eliminates the process of the inspector now having to go back to the office to spend a month putting the report together," Couto said. "It is definitely the biggest benefit of Field Eagle."
Field Eagle also has a special reporting feature, punchlist support. If the inspector is walking around the site and sees items that are very critical and need to fixed right away, instead of waiting to finish the inspection and process the final report, he can generate a punchlist report that prints out critical items so he can give those to someone and things can get fixed right away.
"One of the benefits of Field Eagle for our mining clients right now is preventative maintenance," said Couto. "When big machines break down, like the machine that moves the assets to the shipping yard ... if that machine breaks down, they lose up to a million dollars a day per machine. So clients want to be able to predict when machines need maintenance or a part needs replacing, and they can do that with our system."
Field Eagle is very secure, according to Couto. And there are two different packages. The SaaS Solution is for companies that want to use Field Eagle but cannot maintain the infrastructure to host it themselves. With this solution, Konverge Digital Solutions hosts the client's server on its computers and the client pays only for the subscriptions and setup.
The Server Solution is the capital investment solution. With this solution, companies can purchase and manage their own server. This server will host Field Eagle and all their proprietary information. Field Eagle will help with the setup, training and customization upfront, and maintenance fees are applicable whenever needed.
"There’s nothing out there right now like Field Eagle," said Couto. "We have a hierarchy of many questions and things you can put in a template. We found smaller apps out there and there are tools that can do the same thing but not in the same capacity. For oil and gas and mining, there is no solution like ours. The systems out there currently can’t seem to handle the high amount of data. But we’ve built our hierarchy exactly for those industries."
Field Eagle also allows inspections to be standardized company-wide. Right now, Couto said there are inspectors out there with 20 to 40 years of experience and everyone is doing inspections a different way, doing them the way they feel comfortable with.
"Our system allows templates to be built in such a way that anyone can do an inspection," she said. "We can even build video tutorials into the app on how to inspect a specific machine or part. This is very convenient for big companies and companies that are worldwide. Their inspections can all be done the same way."
Mining industry embracing new technology
Couto said applications like Field Eagle are definitely going to help the mining industry with health and safety, environmental issues and its bottom line.
"For companies that need to make sure things are working properly and not breaking down and need to estimate when things will need to be replaced," she said. "This way, they can keep their companies going, machines running, employees employed and be able to hit their bottom line, achieve better production and not lose money."
Some inspectors who've been around for a long time were a little hesitant at first to use Field Eagle but Couto said once Konverge started showing them the tablet, they started to embrace it once they saw how much easier it was to perform an inspection.
"If an inspector is a subcontractor to different mines, he can do more inspections and make more money," said Couto. "For CEOs, directors and operators of mines, they are embracing this technology because it saves them time and money."