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Drilling Software for Mining and Drilling

Understanding Drilling Software:
How to Choose the Best System

Sachee Perera
5 mins read
31 March 2024
Drilling forms the backbone of exploration and mining. It's how you get data, build models, find orebodies, and ultimately make money in this business.

But let's be honest, drilling can be a slow, expensive, and frustrating process. Miscommunications happen, paperwork piles up, and surprises derail the best-laid plans.

That's where drilling software comes in. It's not a magic bullet, but the right software can transform how you plan, manage, and analyze your drilling operations. Think of it as a powerful toolkit designed to streamline your workflow, ditch the spreadsheets, and let you focus on what you do best – whether that's running a drill rig or making strategic decisions for your project.

In this guide, we'll unpack what drilling software can do for you. We'll cover what it is, why it's worth your time, and what features to look out for. Whether you're an exploration manager, a drilling contractor, or someone involved in running drilling programs, there's something in here for you.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Drilling Software?
  2. Why Choose Drilling Software Over Paper and Spreadsheets?
  3. Drilling Software Overview: For Mining/Exploration Companies vs. Drilling Contractors
  4. Drilling Software Use Cases: Exploration Teams
  5. Drilling Software Use Cases: Drilling Contractors
  6. Core Features of Drilling Software
  7. Popular Drilling Software
  8. The SaaS Advantage
  9. Considerations When Evaluating Drilling Software
  10. The Future is Digital

What is Drilling Software?

During the operations of drilling programs companies need to capture all the activities conducted on rig operations. This information is typically captured on a DDR or Plod which is typically on a paper form or spreadsheet.

Drilling software digitises this information capture using a mobile app, enables delivery to the office for review and then tracking of drilling costs, utilisation, hours and drilling progress.

However in the industry drilling software isn't just one thing. Most exist in the form of custom built solutions or legacy software which can takle different aspects as per company originally sponsoring the development.

Some drilling software solutions are highly specialized, while others offer a wider range of functionality.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premises

It's also worth noting that drilling software can be either cloud-based or on-premises.

  • Cloud-based software is hosted online and allows you to access your data from anywhere with an internet connection. It's often the more scalable and flexible option.
  • On-premises software is installed on your own servers, which can give you more control over your data but may require additional IT support.

Why Choose Drilling Software Over Paper and Spreadsheets?

Whether you're managing an exploration team or running a drilling operation, you know the frustrations of dealing with mountains of paperwork, fragmented data, and outdated spreadsheets:

  • The Efficiency Struggle: Every wasted hour on manual data entry, chasing down missing information, or wrestling with spreadsheets is an hour lost for what you do best – maximizing discovery potential or delivering exceptional drilling services.
  • Accuracy Matters: In drilling, mistakes cost money. A misplaced decimal, lost plod, or miscommunication in reporting can significantly impact budgets, project timelines, and your reputation.
  • Siloed Data, Siloed Decisions: Critical information scattered across documents, emails, and different systems makes it hard to see the big picture and spot issues early. This leads to slow response times and missed opportunities for optimization.
  • Chasing Your Tail: Endless back-and-forth with clients or internal teams for approvals, updates, and invoices creates frustrating bottlenecks and delays.
  • The Frustration Factor: You didn't get into this industry to become a spreadsheet expert. Tedious admin tasks and outdated processes take away from what you're passionate about.

Drilling software addresses these pain points and provides tangible benefits:

  • Work Smarter, Not Harder: Drilling software automates data collection, reporting, and validation, streamlining workflows and minimizing errors. This frees up time for strategic initiatives, optimization, or delivering exceptional client service.
  • Data-Driven Confidence: Real-time access to reliable data supports informed decision-making. You can track costs, performance, fleet efficiency, and other key metrics with ease, making adjustments on the fly.
  • Centralized Knowledge: Break down communication barriers. Drilling software provides a single source of truth, ensuring everyone works off the same data and stays aligned.
  • Powerful Insights: Uncover trends, identify areas for improvement, and gain a competitive edge through drilling software's analytics capabilities.
  • Focus on Your Core Business: You'll finally be able to ditch the spreadsheet overload and let software handle the tedious tasks while you focus on delivering value to your clients or advancing the exploration project.

While exploration teams and drilling contractors have distinct needs, the real magic happens when their software systems connect. Integrated solutions enable:

Drilling Software Overview: For Mining Companies vs. Drilling Contractors

Drilling software isn't one-size-fits-all. The tools you'll need and the results you'll see depend on whether you're running an exploration program or overseeing drilling operations.

For Mining Companies

If you're on the exploration side, priorities lie in maximizing discovery potential with a careful eye on the budget. Drilling software is your secret weapon for:

  • Efficient Planning and Execution: Optimize drilling campaigns with the aid of data-driven insights. Adjust your program on the fly, make the most of your budget, and get to that orebody faster.
  • Cost Control: Accurate, real-time cost tracking eliminates those nasty budget surprises. You can ensure that every dollar spent is working towards hitting your targets. Case in point – Maronan Metals uses drilling software to gain real-time insights into drilling costs, empowering them to make adjustments and optimize their drilling program.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Make informed choices based on hard numbers, not hunches. Drilling software gives you the insights to optimize operations and reduce those 'coulda, woulda, shoulda' moments.
  • Collaboration Made Easy: Keep everyone on track, from geologists to drillers to head office. Data flows smoothly, reducing miscommunications and keeping the project moving forward.

For Drilling Contractors

As a drilling contractor, your goals center on delivering top-notch service, boosting operational efficiency, and keeping clients happy. Drilling software helps you:

  • Streamline Workflows: Ditch the paper chase and digitize your operations. Field data capture, plod generation, and reporting become faster and more accurate. For example, drilling contractors like Topdrill and DDH1 leverage drilling software to streamline workflows, improve data accuracy, and enhance performance tracking.
  • Track Your KPIs: Identify areas for improvement and make data-driven adjustments to enhance performance, whether it's maximizing rig utilization or optimizing crew shift patterns.
  • Get Paid Faster: Simplify invoicing processes with instant insights into billable hours, materials used, and extra charges. This leads to smoother communication with clients and faster payments.
  • Demonstrate Your Value: Provide clients with detailed reports and transparent data, showing them exactly how their investment translates into drilling progress.

The Power of Integration

  • Seamless Data Flow: No more messy handoffs or re-keying data between systems. When information moves effortlessly, everyone benefits.
  • A Shared Understanding: Break down silos and ensure everyone is working from the same playbook. This fosters trust, reduces friction, and helps you get the most out of your drilling campaigns.
  • Proactive Problem Solving: Address issues and potential bottlenecks early, preventing surprises and keeping the project on track and within budget.

Drilling Software Use Cases: Mining Companies

harnessing the power of drilling software lets you optimize your programs and get the most out of your budget.

Let's dive into the specific use cases where drilling software shines for exploration teams

1. Drill Program Design and Planning

  • Data Export for 3D Modeling Software: Drilling software can export planned hole designs in standard formats (CSV, DXF, etc.), allowing you to import them into your geological modeling package. This streamlines the process compared to manual entry.
  • Efficient Planning and Scheduling: The software aids in resource scheduling, budgeting, and anticipating potential logistical constraints.
  • Data-Driven Hole Design: Access to historical drilling data, assay results, and geological interpretations within the software helps you make informed decisions on hole depth, orientation, and target zones. However, you would still need to import this data into your geological modeling software for 3D visualization.

2. Data Capture and Validation

  • Streamlined Drill Hole Data Capture: The software replaces paper plods, making it faster and easier to record drilling information like depths, hole status, shift details, and operational notes.
  • Built-In Validation Rules: The software enforces data quality standards, ensuring required fields are filled and data matches expected formats. This minimizes errors that can impact cost tracking and reporting.
  • Simplified Integration with Exploration Databases: Drilling data can often be exported (or integrated) in formats readily digestible by an exploration team's geological database or modeling software, eliminating the need for manual re-entry.

3. Real-Time Cost Tracking

  • Automated Cost Calculations: The software uses drillers' plods and pre-loaded contract rates to automatically calculate costs at the hole, shift, and program levels.
  • Visual Dashboards: You'll have instant visibility into current drill rig costs, allowing you to compare these against the budgeted spend for the campaign.
  • Course Correction: Live cost data empowers informed decision-making. You can quickly identify areas where costs exceed expectations and adjust your drilling program accordingly.

4. Performance Monitoring

  • Drilling Metrics at Your Fingertips: Track key indicators like penetration rate, meters drilled per shift, downtime events, and more.
  • Identify Improvement Areas: Benchmark performance across rigs, crews, or geological terrains. Spot bottlenecks and opportunities for optimization.
  • Data that Drives Results: Use insights to adjust drilling strategies, negotiate better rates with contractors, and improve overall project efficiency.

5. Reporting and Analytics

  • Automated Report Generation: Say goodbye to manually compiling spreadsheets for reports. The software generates progress reports, cost summaries, and geological logs at the click of a button.
  • Customizable Insights: Analyze data by time period, project, commodity, rig type, or any other variables relevant to your exploration program.
  • Informed Decision-Making: Use data-driven insights to optimize future drilling campaigns, secure further funding, and gain stakeholders' confidence.

Note on APIs: Some drilling software solutions offer APIs that can facilitate data exchange with other software packages. While these may require custom development work, they hold the potential for enhanced integration in the future.

Drilling Software Use Cases: Drilling Contractors

Great drilling contractors constantly strive to optimize operations, deliver exceptional value for clients, and boost their bottom line.

Let's check into specific ways drilling software benefits your operations:

1. Daily Drilling Report (DDR/Plod) Management

  • Digital Plod Creation: Drillers ditch paper forms and enter data directly into the software on tablets or ruggedized devices at the rig. Built-in validation rules catch errors early on (like missing data or incorrect codes), preventing costly invoice disputes later.
  • Streamlined Validation and Approval: The software automatically routes plods through pre-defined approval workflows, ensuring the right people sign off without manual chasing. This significantly speeds up the process.
  • Reduced Invoice Rework: Accurate, approved plods lead to correct invoices generated with minimal effort. It means fewer revisions, quicker payments, and improved client relationships.

Use Case: A driller completes their digital plod. The software flags that they are approaching a contractual depth limit.  This allows for proactive communication with the client and timely adjustments to the drilling plan, averting potential disputes and rework.

2. Operational Efficiency Tracking

  • Maximize Rig Utilization: Real-time visibility into rig uptime, downtime, and movement between sites empowers you to optimize schedules and minimize non-productive hours.
  • Data-Driven Crew Optimization: Track meters drilled per shift, downtime events, and safety incidents across crews. Identify high performers, pinpoint areas for improvement, and reward performance.
  • Preventative Maintenance Made Easy: Schedule and track routine maintenance tasks, receive alerts when equipment is due for service, and access equipment history. This minimizes costly breakdowns and extends asset lifespans.

Use Case: Drilling data reveals that a specific rig consistently has extended downtime due to a particular malfunction. The drilling operations manager uses this data to justify investment in either an upgrade or replacement, improving productivity and reducing long-term costs.

3. Client Reporting and Communication

  • Effortless, Professional Reports: Generate detailed progress reports, safety metrics, and other client deliverables with minimal manual effort. Customizable templates make your reports look professional and consistent.
  • Build Client Trust with Transparency: Provide clients with secure access to real-time drilling data, progress updates, and plods through the software's portal. This fosters collaboration, reduces inquiries, and demonstrates your efficiency.

Use Case: Instead of regular requests for updates from the client, the exploration manager logs into the software's portal at their convenience.  They can see drilling progress in real-time, visualize completed holes, and access any information they need, reducing the need to interrupt the drilling contractor.

4. Invoicing and Payment Streamlining

  • Accurate, Instant Invoices: The software automatically creates invoices based on approved plods, pre-populated rates, and negotiated contract terms. No more manual calculations or invoice revisions due to errors.
  • Get Paid Faster: Clear invoices backed by auditable drilling data expedite client approvals and payments. You'll see improvements in cash flow and fewer disputes.
  • Financial Insights at Your Fingertips: The software provides granular analysis of revenue, expenses, and profitability across projects, clients, and time periods, informing strategic business decisions.

Use Case:  Rather than reconciling invoices against multiple spreadsheets or outdated records, the client uses the software to easily compare invoices against approved plods, drilling data, and the original contract, streamlining the payment process.

Core Features of Drilling Software

Drilling software is multifaceted, with solutions tailored to the needs of exploration teams and drilling contractors.  However, there are core functionalities common across many platforms:

For Exploration Teams

  • Data Capture and Management: Secure storage of drilling data (depths, assays, geological observations), plod/DDR management, and often data validation tools.
  • Cost Tracking and Analysis: Real-time cost calculations based on contract rates, budgeting tools, and dashboards visualizing cost performance.
  • Performance Monitoring: Metrics dashboards (penetration rates, downtime, etc.), and the ability to benchmark performance across rigs, crews, and projects.
  • Reporting: Automated report generation, customizable templates for progress reports, drilling summaries, etc.
  • Advanced Features: Downhole visualization tools, directional drilling support, integration with core photo capture systems, earthworks management, and geophysics data integration.
  • Integration Capabilities: The ability to import/export data seamlessly to/from geological modeling software, databases, drilling contractor software, and data lakes.

For Drilling Contractors

  • Plod/DDR Creation and Management: Mobile-friendly plod forms, built-in validation rules, and automated approval workflows.
  • Rig and Fleet Management: Real-time tracking of equipment location, status updates, and preventative maintenance scheduling.
  • Operations Monitoring: Dashboards showcasing rig utilization, downtime tracking, crew performance, and safety metrics.
  • Safety Management: Incident tracking, safety training records, and reporting tools to promote a safe working environment.
  • Client Portal: Secure access for clients to view drilling progress, data, and reports.
  • Invoicing and Financial Tracking: Automated invoice creation based on approved plods and contracts, revenue/expense tracking, and profitability analysis.

Additional Features for Both

  • Mobile Apps: Field data entry and access to real-time information for drillers, supervisors, and exploration geologists.
  • Advanced Analytics: Tools for predictive analysis, identifying trends, and uncovering potential bottlenecks.
  • Document Management: Centralized storage of contracts, safety documents, equipment manuals, and other important documentation.
  • Custom Reporting and Analytics: The ability to configure reports and analytics to gain tailored insights into your operations and performance.

Here are some of the top drilling software as of 2024:

  1. CorePlan
  2. Krux Analytics
  3. Colleagues Matrixx
  4. Reflex Hub
  5. BlackFox

CorePlan

CorePlan is an integrated drilling management platform that extends beyond traditional drilling software capabilities. It's designed for both exploration teams and drilling contractors, offering a comprehensive solution for managing drilling operations and data.

Key Features: Drill program design, integrate with any drilling contractor, geological data integration, drilling management, earthworks management, real-time cost tracking, performance analysis, custom reporting and drag-and-drop report builder

Learn more about CorePlan here

Krux Analytics

Krux Analytics specializes in data analytics and business intelligence for drilling companies. Their platform helps optimize performance and efficiency through powerful insights and predictive analytics.

Key Features: Advanced analytics, performance optimization tools, predictive modeling, and customizable dashboards.

Learn more about Krux Analytics here

Colleagues Matrixx

Colleagues Matrixx provides enterprise-level solutions for mining operations, including a robust drilling management module. Their software focuses on streamlining workflows and ensuring operational success across the mine site.

Key Features: Fleet and equipment management, maintenance scheduling, safety management, and customizable workflows.

Learn more about Colleagues Matrixx here

Reflex Hub

Reflex Hub offers a cloud-based solution tailored for exploration drilling management. Their software emphasizes seamless data management, geological data integration, and real-time insights from the field.

Key Features Drillhole data management, geological modeling integration, real-time data visualization, and mobile accessibility.

Learn more about Imdex/Reflex Hub here

BlackFox

BlackFox prioritizes operational efficiency and safety management for drilling contractors. Their platform streamlines field data capture, incident reporting, and compliance, promoting a safe and productive work environment.

Key Features: Plod/DDR management, incident tracking, compliance reporting, and asset management.

Important Note: It is always recommended to thoroughly research each software solution and request demos to determine the best fit for your specific needs and operational requirements.

Learn more about Blackfox here

Drilling Software: Considerations Beyond Basic Features

While core functionalities like data management, cost tracking, and reporting are essential, choosing the right software requires a deeper understanding of potential pitfalls, especially those associated with specific competitors:

  • Functionality: Does the software align with your specific needs? Consider the core features we discussed earlier and prioritize those relevant to your role as an exploration manager or drilling contractor.
  • Data Integrity is Paramount: Ensure the software maintains a complete audit trail of data changes. Most systems that overwrite original data when corrections are made raise concerns about data integrity and create challenges for reconciliation and compliance.
  • Beware of Inflexibility: Some solutions are known for their rigidity, requiring extensive customization and making it difficult to adapt to changing needs or unique workflows. This can lead to longer implementation times, higher costs, and ongoing frustration.
  • Ease of Use: A user-friendly interface saves time, boosts adoption, and minimizes training needs. Look for intuitive navigation, clear dashboards, and mobile-friendly options for field teams.
  • Seamless Integration is Key: Avoid data silos by choosing software with open APIs and pre-built connectors for easy integration with your existing systems, including geological modeling software, databases, and accounting platforms.Fragmented API structure can be a significant hurdle.
  • Data Security: Safeguarding sensitive drilling data is a top priority. Inquire about the vendor's security protocols, data encryption, and backup procedures.
  • Scalability: Can the software grow with your operations? Choose a platform that can handle increased project volume, more users, and larger datasets.
  • Customer Support: Responsive and knowledgeable support is essential. Find out about included support channels (phone, email, ticketing system), help documentation, and training resources.
  • Demand Responsiveness and Innovation: Choose a software provider that actively listens to client feedback and demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement. Slow development cycles, can leave you stuck with outdated technology.
  • Vendor Reputation: Research the vendor's track record, industry expertise, and client testimonials. A reputable company is more likely to provide long-term value and support.
  • Total Cost of Ownership: Look beyond the upfront price. Consider implementation costs, ongoing subscription fees, potential customization expenses, and any required hardware upgrades.

Additional Considerations for Mining Companies

  • Geological Data Handling: Ensure the software supports your required data formats and workflows for importing and exporting geological data smoothly.
    • ℹ️ This is typically a capability of Integrated Drilling Management Platforms such as CorePlan
  • Drill Program Planning: Tools for designing drill holes, importing and visualizing geological data in 3D, and integrating those designs with geological modeling packages. Efficient scheduling of rigs and drilling activities.
    • ℹ️ This is typically a capability of Integrated Drilling Management Platforms such as CorePlan
  • Advanced Analysis: If data-driven decision-making is a priority, look for software with strong analytics, visualization, and real-time cost tracking tools.

Additional Considerations for Drilling Contractors

  • Field Accessibility: Mobile apps that enable drillers to capture data at the rig and offline functionality are key to operational efficiency.
  • Client Collaboration: Features like a client portal for secure data sharing and project updates will enhance your client relationships.

Tips

  • Request Demos: Get hands-on experience with the software to assess its usability and fit for your workflows.
  • Involve Your Team: Gather input from end-users (geologists, drillers, supervisors) to ensure the selected software meets their day-to-day needs.

The SaaS Advantage

Software as a Service (SaaS) is transforming the mining industry, offering advantages that might not be available with traditional on-premises software.  Here's how SaaS can benefit your drilling and mining operations:

  • Rapid Deployment and Scalability: SaaS solutions can typically be up and running within your organization quickly compared to on-premises installations. They are also designed to scale easily alongside your operations, whether you expand rapidly or need flexibility during cyclical markets.
  • Automatic Updates and Maintenance: SaaS providers handle all software maintenance, updates, and security patches, freeing up your IT resources to focus on other priorities.
  • Accessibility: Cloud-based SaaS solutions can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, enabling greater collaboration and real-time data access for field teams.
  • Innovation: SaaS vendors are constantly adding new features and improvements driven by feedback from their customers across the industry.

Considerations When Evaluating Drilling Software

  • SaaS: Is it a Saas? Some vendors slap the tag on their services but when you dig deeper it is actually not the case.
  • Data Security and Ownership: Carefully review the SaaS provider's security practices and understand how your data is stored, protected, and who ultimately retains ownership.
  • Internet Connectivity: If your operations are in remote areas, assess the software's offline capabilities and ability to sync when connectivity is restored.
  • Integration and Customization: While some SaaS solutions have extensive APIs, explore the level of integration and customization possible to ensure flexibility in evolving your tech stack.
  • Vendor Support: Thoroughly understand the support included with your SaaS subscription. Are there knowledge bases for self-assistance, and what are the support hours and response times?

Important Note: Even with SaaS solutions, carefully evaluate all aspects, including functionality, customer support, and vendor reputation, as outlined in the previous section.

The Future is Digital

This guide is only scratching the surface of what you can accomplish with a drilling software. And the sooner you get started, the better — it’s really never too early to use a drilling software.

What is CorePlan?

It is a Mining SaaS company which has an Integrated drilling management platform for exploration, production and development drilling. Built specifically for mining companies and drilling contractors, provides you with an Integrated Drilling Operations Platform to run drilling programs.

Learn more about CorePlan's Drilling Software here

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