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7 strategies for managing drilling data across multiple contractors

April 26, 2023

7 strategies for managing drilling data across multiple contractors

Mining Data Management
For Managing Directors
For Exploration Managers
Written by
Megan Gammie

Every exploration professional knows that having great drilling data is critical to the success of your drill program. 

But it’s easier said than done. Particularly when you have daily drill reports (plods) coming in from multiple contractors and projects each day. To make things worse, the data is usually supplied in various formats depending on what systems each of your drilling contractors are using.

It’s a daunting task to begin untangling this large volume of data and create a central place where it lives in a standardised format, regardless of who collected it.

Here are 7 strategies that you could use to speed up the manual process of data wrangling.

1. Be selective in your choice of contractor

Hiring a drilling contractor that's already using a digital data capture system like a digital plod app can help remove some of the manual work in transferring paper-based records onto your digital system. 

It’s even better if the drilling contractor can customise their digital plod to suit your requirements. Then, you can exchange .csv file transfers that will match your system.

This will save you a lot of time copying data from paper plods into your system or re-ordering spreadsheet data to make it compatible with your software.

Here’s a list of drilling contractors that already have this kind of capability.

2. Automate data transfer with your contractors

Modern, cloud-based technology has enabled automatic real-time data sharing between two parties, removing the need for email and USB drives. This can save time, reduce the chance of errors, missing data and prevent loss or theft of data. 

Is your drilling contractor using a digital system? Ask them if their system can integrate with your software using API or webhook integrations, or if there is a client portal for direct data download.

3. Communicate and negotiate before signing a contract

It’s essential to communicate with prospective drill contractors up front your expectations regarding data collection and distribution so that everyone is on the same page before any paperwork is signed. This also allows you to negotiate if you have specific requirements and find a solution that will keep both parties happy.

Ideally, if you can replicate these conditions across your drill contractors, you would then have an easier time collating and analysing the data at scale.

When it’s time to drill, another communication consideration is that your driller will probably not be the same person you negotiated the contract with (unless they are a very small business). Never assume that the driller has complete insight into the ins and outs of the project unless they’ve been involved since the beginning. 

This goes for the expected ground conditions and safety procedures, right through to what data you expect them to collect and when you expect them to share it. 

Once drilling is underway, it’s vital to keep drillers informed of your requirements if anything changes and work with them to make adjustments. Sometimes, training your drilling contractors to demonstrate how you need the data collected can be helpful. 

After the project, a debrief session to discuss the outcomes of the drilling and data procedures may be helpful, particularly if you hire that contractor again in the future.

4. Ask your drilling contractor if their systems can validate data

Plod management software with inferential integrity can help validate your contractors’ downhole data during the plod logging process. It can do this by ensuring that the relationships between the data are consistent with the rules and constraints of the system. When the rules are consistent across all your contractors and projects, you can be more confident that your data is accurate and reliable. This can save you a lot of time when it comes to tasks like invoicing down the track.

For example, a set of validation rules could include downhole interval validation, ensuring that downhole intervals can’t overlap. Conversely, cross-naming validation ensures the correct metadata and geospatial information is associated with the correct hole under the correct hole label.

A system with inferential integrity also helps you to track changes over time at the plod level across a drill hole’s lifecycle. Including time/date stamps and a staff ID for all actions makes it much easier to follow up with the right person later on to query any issues arising with the data.

Ultimately, it helps your database administrator to correctly import data from all of your contractors into your database and ensure that they’re able to build reports that satisfy regulatory requirements.

5. Provide your contractors guest access to your system

Another option is to give your drilling contractors guest access to your system so they can enter plods directly.

The feasibility of this solution may depend on what user roles your system can enforce. For example, you want to ensure that guest users can’t view sensitive data like costs or contract details with other drilling contractors. 

This would be worth discussing before signing the contract. Your drillers may require additional admin time if they still have to generate records on their own system, essentially double-handling the data. 

This is not ideal for many reasons, but a workaround could be explored if your system can export this data to save the drillers from double-handling the data.

6. Use automation to process the data for you

This is the most efficient strategy because the data processing burden is completely removed from personnel. It also opens you up to a broader selection of contractors because it’s system agnostic and works with any drill plod.

Automation found in digital tools like drill program planning software can easily reformat drilling data to suit your requirements in a matter of seconds. It can also help reconcile invoices faster and with improved accuracy as it simultaneously runs the numbers against your drilling contract rate schedule.

This means less time spent processing data and more time reviewing it for insights that can improve how you run your drill programs.

7. Take matters into your own hands and implement a system that can do all of these things - and more 

The above strategies all work in isolation, but they provide an incomplete solution in the context of a workflow. 

What if we told you that there is a software system that can:

  • import plods from any contractor in any format, and instantly standardise the data for you using automation
  • connect to your contractors’ system using an API or other type of integration to automatically import drilling data for you
  • can host your drilling contractors as guests for easy plod entry
  • has inbuilt validation with inferential integrity to protect the quality of your database

and more, including managing your field activities, sample dispatch, costs and reporting?

This software is called drill program management software. It’s here to help exploration teams run better drill programs - without the hassles found in clunky old-school software. Find out more about this software on the CorePlan website or see it for yourself in a free demo over Microsoft Teams or Zoom today.

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