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Are spreadsheets and paper costing you customers, staff and profits?

April 26, 2023

Are spreadsheets and paper costing you customers, staff and profits?

Drilling Operations
Mining Data Management
Written by
Sachee Perera

Are you a drilling professional who wants to sign more contracts, work with the best staff in the game and drill more profitable metres?

Of course you are!

Then I have one word to say to you: automation.

This blog will explore the hidden costs of pen and paper workflows commonly used by small to medium-sized drilling business, and how these problems might manifest in your business. Then, I'll provide some suggestions on where to get started on your automation journey.


The hidden costs of pen and paper


Mineral exploration is a data-intensive business activity where accuracy and timeliness are critical to success. The data you collect and share with your geo clients is vital for their decision-making, and the stakes are high.

Let’s compare the experience of an exploration company using two different drilling contractors: Drill Contractor A and Drill Contractor B.

Drill Contractor A uses a pen and paper workflow and Drill Contractor B uses a digital workflow.

After a long day on the rig, the contractors share their daily drill report (plod) with the exploration company. 

The exploration company receives the data and follows internal procedures to process and validate it in their own database.

Drill Contractor A’s data arrives late because the drilling crew had to fill in a paper plod, return to camp, scan it and share it with the geo team. The Exploration Geologist now has to allocate extra time and resources to reformat the data when it arrives, compounding the frustration from the late delivery.

Like a game of Chinese Whispers, as the data is manually copied across to the database, the geo team risk accidentally missing details, typos or other errors. They find numbers that don’t add up and are further delayed by having to go back and forth with Drill Contractor A to make corrections. They now have a shorter time frame to make decisions (if they haven’t missed the deadline entirely). 

Contrast this with the experience of working with Drill Contractor B, who is using a digital operations platform to collect and share their drilling data. Drill Contractor B’s team enter their plod data into an app throughout their shift and it's instantly sent to their supervisor at the end of their shift for approval. The supervisor approves it with a click and the explorer instantly receives a notification that their data is ready.

The data not only arrives on time but is also pre-formatted according to their requirements, saving them valuable time and money

Putting yourself in the client's shoes, which driller do you think they would call back for their next drill campaign? 

It’s now increasingly common to see exploration companies writing digital data sharing into their drilling contract requirements. Is your drilling business prepared for this rapid shift in client expectations? 



Everyone wants to have great people on their team, but they can be hard to find in the current market conditions

Low unemployment rates and a generational transition in the workforce mean that drillers must review their talent acquisition and retention strategies to maintain competitiveness.

According to Deloitte’s 2022 Tracking the Trends report:

“(mining and minerals) companies are already seeing workers come through who are frustrated by the willingness of current generations to adopt new ideas. This will only accelerate as zoomers move through the ranks.”

Most drilling professionals we know say that one of the most frustrating parts of the job is the never-ending stack of paperwork. They’d much rather be out drilling, meeting with clients or heading home on time on a Friday to spend time with family and friends, not trawling through spreadsheets well after 5 pm to generate an invoice that should have already been sent. 

The issue above is entirely foreign to the emerging generation of drilling professionals that have grown up with technology and automation as an integral part of their everyday lives. Working with traditional paper systems and legacy software feels like a step backwards in comparison to life at home, where tech is central to almost everything; from ordering a coffee to paying bills or deciding what time they need to leave to get to work on time.

The incoming generation of workers are motivated by meaningful and engaging work opportunities. They would rather spend time looking for efficiencies or finding new business than copying data from paper into spreadsheets (let’s face it, wouldn’t we all - it just hasn’t been possible until recently). 

Introducing automation into the drilling workflow places the drilling workforce where they belong: in the present and the future. By automating repetitive administrative tasks employee time can be reallocated to more rewarding work. A more satisfied workforce means slower turnover and reduced costs associated with replacing a position. 


Unnecessary costs

As a drilling professional, you have to build a range of direct costs like staff, materials and equipment into our budgets in order to operate. 

Some of these costs are non-negotiable, like staff, rigs and a place to keep your plant. But, thanks to the accessibility of digital tools and automation, it’s now possible to draw the line on others. 

How much are you spending on printing, plod form books, audit and safety documentation and stationery from every rig and worksite across your business? Imagine instantly wiping these expenses from your budget, not to mention the time associated with ordering, transporting, scanning, and packing these materials. Using digital data capture and sharing tools, you can!

But, what about indirect or hidden costs? It’s easy to gloss over inefficiencies that really add up over time when you’re collecting your data on paper. Being able to monitor things like consumable usage could lead to significant savings, but what about the indirect cost of your one truly non-renewable resource, time? Chances are if you’re in the drilling business you want to be spending as much time as you can drilling, not processing paperwork. An exception to this might be invoicing. But what if you could automate this too?


How can this impact your profits?

Without clients, it’s pretty hard to run a business. By giving your customers a great experience, they’ll be more likely to hire you again (and maybe even tell their friends down the road to hire you too).

Motivated and engaged staff drive great customer experiences. Not to mention that it would also be pretty hard going trying to run a drill program without them!

Finally, controlling costs opens up opportunities to reinvest in your business by hiring and retaining great people and giving them the tools so that you can provide award-winning customer service to your clients and continue that cycle.

These three pillars are like a game of Jenga: get one move wrong and it’s easy for the rest to come crashing down. 

It sounds serious, but before you start to panic - it’s all very preventable. 


Drilling operations automation!

Operations automation is really common in other industries but it’s only really begun to emerge in drilling the last few years. But, whether you have one rig or one hundred, every drilling business can stand to benefit from reducing their costs, attracting and retaining quality staff and impressing their clients.

Right now, drilling businesses like yours are using a range of different digital tools to automate processes like capturing daily drilling data, generating invoices and sharing data with clients.

Whether you want to digitise your drill plods or run a full end-to-end workflow from the cloud, there’s a digital solution for your business.

Discover the types of software drillers are using and our tips on how to pick which is right for you in this article.

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