An open pit maintenance crew at Barrick’s Cortez mine in northern Nevada was the first to roll out the new Digital Work Management app during planned maintenance on a haul truck. The app helps maintenance technicians execute work more efficiently, order parts and communicate issues through work tablets.
“This is Barrick’s first in-house developed mobile tablet application designed by miners for miners,” says Ed Humphries, Barrick’s Head of Digital Transformation. “We are going to change the fundamental nature of the relationship our people have with their data by building them the intuitive tools they need to make better, faster and safer decisions in the digital era.”
The maintenance work on the haul truck included 140 different tasks. As the crew completed each task, the technicians logged the status of their work on the Digital Work Management app. This allowed them to know what the other was up to and saved them time that they may have used to unnecessarily re-inspect each other’s work. They noted any defects or issues, took photos for documentation and uploaded them to the app’s database for storage. Any replacement parts required were ordered using the app, which is as simple as ordering a pizza.
“This is great, I was going to inspect for oil leaks and when I checked the app, I noticed one of my teammates had already done it,” says John Sena, Maintenance Technician. “I can see how this is really going to change how we work.”
The app was designed and built in-house based on experiences from maintenance technicians and reliability engineers in the field, with a focus on usability. Typically, a vendor will try and sell their application to mine management so their focus is on explaining the functionality of their app rather than how intuitive end users have found their product. When such apps are purchased and foisted upon technicians, the array of functions that it presents can make their lives difficult. The learning curve is typically long and adoption rates may not be great. With the made-in-Barrick approach that the Digital Work Management project team took, user input was obtained throughout the app’s development.
“Our desire was to build an intuitive app that the technicians would actually want to use, not be forced to,” says David Yazzie, Product Owner for the app. “The crews being trained on the app are engaged and have readily adopted the tool; they were not hesitant to give feedback.”
The app is far from a finished product and aggressive user testing will continue to add features and usability, Yazzie says. The long-term tangible vision for the tool is to incorporate new and evolving technology as it becomes available and is proven to work. For example, Yazzie would like to incorporate exploded 3-D views of pumps or other equipment, similar to the way Tony Stark did while working on a hot-rod engine in the first Iron Man movie (minus the holograms… for now). Once in that view, a technician would be able to click a part and order a new one or obtain manufacturer information.
Sentiments across the crew for the current version of the Digital Work Management app were positive, if bluntly worded, as miners are sometimes wont to do.
“We didn’t just say all of those good things in front of our supervisor – we would tell you if it was crap,” says Gabriel Lee, Maintenance Technician.