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14 Reasons Why Every Exploration Manager Needs to Shift to Digital Now

January 28, 2024

14 Reasons Why Every Exploration Manager Needs to Shift to Digital Now

For Exploration Managers
Digital Transformation
Written by
Sachee Perera

If you're an Exploration Manager, then you know that a lot is riding on the success of your next drill program. Not only do you need to find mineralisation, but you also need to do it efficiently and within budget.

That's why more and more Exploration Managers like you are turning to digital solutions to help them run better drill programs. Here are 14 reasons why you should join them and consider shifting your drill programs to digital!

1. Greater visibility into real-time performance

Do you know how many metres you drilled today and how much it cost you? What about last week, last month - or across the entire drill program?

If you’ve been using paper and spreadsheets to run your drill programs, it’s difficult to see exactly how the business is tracking at any given moment. 

If your MD calls, you probably can’t get them the answers they need at the drop of a hat. It takes time and effort to see how many metres you’ve drilled and how much it cost you in consumables, equipment etc., for one shift, let alone multiple shifts, drill rigs and projects. 

Whilst you’re praying the MD doesn’t give you a buzz, you’re desperately trying to keep up with the rig and crossing your fingers that your drill contractors haven't charged you incorrectly along the way.  

Modern drill program management software can put an end to this never-ending race against the clock by ingesting your daily drilling results to deliver instant insights into the day's performance for quick and accurate decision-making. You can also view accumulated metres and costs to date by filtering the report over days, weeks, months or the entire drill program. 

So, next time your MD hits you up, you can give them the information they need right then and there.

2. View and compare all of your drill programs in one place

Are you running multiple drill programs at once? Do you know how each program is affecting your bottom line?

Most Exploration Managers have a dedicated folder or database for each drill program. This makes sense from a traditional data storage and handling perspective, but the problem with running drill programs in isolation from one another is that you never really know where your entire business stands in a way that’s quick and easy for you to see. 

The more you can remove these artificial barriers and bring this data into a complete digital ecosystem, the more information you can draw on to make timely and informed decisions. 

Modern drill program management software can help you do this by removing silos between projects whilst maintaining the data integrity you need for accurate reporting of individual drill programs. 

By centralising, standardising and filtering all of your data, it’s possible to deliver targeted insights right across your business using reports and dashboards that facilitate easy interpretation. 

This level of visibility enables you to zoom in and out across your operations and start targeting bigger-picture goals like, for instance, your overall cash flow management so that you can redirect funds toward more holes.

3. Fewer errors

What could be worse than leaving the site without realising that you’d forgotten to collect all of the data you needed, didn’t log all of your holes or even left some samples on the back of a truck, never to be seen again?

It’s easy to skim past mistakes like these in spreadsheet data - only to find out once it’s too late. Modern software can help prevent simple errors by using built-in checks and balances that flag potential mistakes and visualisation to show you where holes and workflows are falling behind schedule.

For example, if you’ve skipped a drilling interval or there’s a discrepancy between the drillers’ recorded end-of-hole depth and your drill plan, an alert will bring this to your immediate attention.

Rather than relying on field notes and spreadsheets to track your field or earthworks activities, holes are assigned to a workflow that displays colour codes on a map. Displaying the data visually in this way makes it clear which holes are falling behind so you can follow up with your field crew.

4. No more manual processing of drill plods

One of the biggest frustrations faced by exploration geologists is having to manually wrangle plod data from multiple contractors into a standardised format. 

For you, as the Exploration Manager, it’s a hidden cost of running the drill program because it chews up your teams’ time and takes their attention away from discovery.

Translating data between paper, spreadsheets and inflexible, old-school software is a slow process that’s prone to human error. Accidental mistakes or misinterpretations can blow out geologists’ time, create version control issues and impact the reliability of your results. 

It’s an inefficient way of working that’s been the status quo for so long. But now, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Using automation found in modern software, it’s possible to process any drill plod and place it into a standardised format in just a few seconds so that your geos can get back to work sooner. 

5. It helps you determine whether you should hire that contractor again

The actual cost of drilling is the most expensive part of running a drill program, so you want to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Are you sure that you’re getting a good deal from your drill contractor?

If you’re relying on spreadsheets to process your drill plods, it takes a lot of time and effort to understand exactly how much time your drillers have spent drilling and why. This complexity increases as the number of drill contractors on your project increases. If only there were an easy way to see which drillers and performing - and which aren’t…

Using modern drill program management software, all plod data can be centralised and standardised into one place regardless of your drillers' data collection and sharing processes. This delivers instant time savings, straightforward interpretation and a more consistent data experience between your drill contractors.

You’ll also get a comprehensive time activity breakdown that enables you to dive deeper into how much time is actually being spent drilling and what’s getting in the way of bit-on-bottom time. This makes it easy to go back to your drill contractor and work together to find a solution if you’re not getting the results you expected.

Standardisation of the data across your contractors also makes it possible to compare performance between rigs, crews and contractors. This can help you to determine if you should hire that drill contractor for your next drill program!

6. It helps you keep up with the rig

Do you know exactly what your drillers got up to on each of your rigs today?

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re constantly trying to play catch up to the rig. You aren’t on top of what the drillers are up to (let’s hope they’re not trying it on!), and if any unexpected problem arises you’ll be slammed with double the workload tomorrow. 

This matters because when your team aren’t able to keep up with the rig, you can’t make proactive, real-time decisions that can save you time and money throughout the drill program. You’re forced to be reactive, risk opportunity loss, and worse, you might spend more than you needed!

Modern software enables you to keep up with each day's drilling without the hassle. Automation means data entry is a task that can now take minutes, not hours. And because your geos aren’t having to spend time entering the data into the system, they can spend more time analysing it.

Further, the actual analysis of the data can be done much quicker and easier with instant visualisation. Graphical breakdowns and charts can show you exactly where your money is going and help you to identify opportunities to reduce costs.

For example, a rig time activity breakdown may reveal an excess of standby time that you could target by optimising your shift preparation processes. Similarly, a consumables report may show that you're using too much fuel on a particular rig, and a meeting with the driller may be required.

7. No more manual invoice reconciliation

One of the least glamorous parts of an Exploration Managers' job? Reviewing drilling invoices at the end of the month. 

If your experience is anything like the Exploration Managers we talk to, you're probably spending far more time on this (tedious) task. 

You get the invoice, you read it, and it’s completely different to your database, leaving you wondering - what is this garbage? You already know you’ll have to spend hours or days trying to figure out what went wrong a fortnight ago, going back and forth with the driller until you finally come to an agreement days later.

The good news? This process becomes almost entirely obsolete using modern software.

Because you will have already run the plods against the drilling contract each day and generated a cost summary report, there's no going back and forth with drillers to query charges from weeks ago. Instead, these questions can be asked immediately after a shift or the following morning before everyone forgets what happened. 

8. Faster delivery of samples to the lab

The goal of every drilling program is to acquire great samples, but they aren't helping you sitting in a core yard - they need to get to the lab, stat!

Have you ever worried about whether that sample is on the way to the lab or sitting in the core yard? Those days could soon be behind you.

Modern operations software makes it possible to track all of your samples from draft through to receipt of results. But it’s also possible to have them consigned much faster by using automation to digitise your sampling paperwork.

Rather than using a spreadsheet or paper sampling form, the software can automatically generate a sample dispatch order form and sample list along with an email to the lab with the particulars on your behalf. 

When the samples reach the lab, there is a QR code for the technicians to scan so that you’ll be notified upon delivery.

You'll never worry about where that sample is again!

9. Easier collaboration across your entire team

One of the main reasons your team will love modern operations software?

It can help them to do their jobs better!

The traditional way of running a drill program splits the data into multiple spreadsheets, paper reports, databases etc. This means that the data related to a single hole is split across multiple locations. How can you make sure each data source is up to date? How is everyone supposed to know who needs to do what and when - or what’s been missed along the way?

If you're a geologist that needs to find specific time-stamped datapoint related to a hole or sample, it might take you half an hour (or more) to consult numerous data sources to locate that information. This is a bad use of your time. But it also makes you want to tear your hair out!

Modern software offers everyone on your exploration team a more collaborative way of working by bringing together traditionally siloed areas of a drill program's operations into one place.

Every data point collected by your team from the field is associated with a hole, including:

• hole plan details
• pre and post-drilling field activity status and notes
• plods and drilling intervals
• samples acquired from the hole
• change history log

and more.

Holes can also be colour-coded and displayed by workflow stage on a map, making it crystal clear where in the workflow a hole is and who needs to move it to the next stage.

10. It puts the geology back into being a geologist

Geologists aren't admins. So then, why are they spending so much time doing manual paperwork?

In this economy, if your geologists have had enough of working with spreadsheets, it's easy for them to go work for someone else and do what they studied to do - geology! Let's hope they don't take all of the knowledge and insights from the drill program with them….

The solution is simple: give them the tools they need to succeed by removing the roadblock of manual paperwork and putting the geology back into the geologist!

11. It bridges the divide between your other software packages

Powerful visualisation and interpretation software help you to understand what's in the ground. But what about your operations?

Have you noticed a digital void between your high-powered geology software for planning your holes and your visualisation software for processing the results of the drilled holes?

Paper, spreadsheets and overcomplicated databases have been accepted as the frustrating normal for operational data for far too long.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Seamless integrations and smart data import and export functionalities in modern drill program software create a streamlined experience that bridges the gaping hole in your end-to-end software stack. 

The result is a superior user experience that enables your team to get more out of your entire software stack because everything links up beautifully with one another.

Not only will you have:

• a better grasp of your operations
• confirmation that drilling on time and on budget
• confidence that you’re getting the samples you need

but you’ll also be able to achieve this result in less time and cut down on stress along the way. 

That sounds like a better way to work, doesn’t it?

12. It helps you meet your compliance goals

There are many rules and regulations that you are accountable for as an Exploration Manager. It's essential to be sure you've dotted your i's and crossed your t's on your moral and legal obligations.  

Processes like environmental preparation and rehab are usually tracked in spreadsheets and physical maps in site offices, OneDrive or DropBox. The problem with this method is that it limits visibility by dispersing the data across multiple systems.

It makes it difficult to connect the dots and proceed with the next step in the workflow with confidence that everything has been done correctly. 

Modern software changes this through a simple but transformative solution: digital field activity and tenement tracking.

Forget maps and documents covered in handwriting and switch to interactive, colour-coded maps that reveal the status of every hole, including who worked on it and when, and what needs to happen next.

Make it easy for yourself to complete your Form 5 and annual tenement reports by filing all of your invoices and expenditures directly into the platform under the relevant tenement.

Which method would give you more confidence that you're meeting your compliance goals?

We know which one future-focused Exploration Managers are choosing….

13. It's great for your career

Do you want to stand out from the crowd as an industry leader on the way to mining's digital future? Then the time to act is now.

Technology and market conditions are rapidly evolving. Now more than ever, it's critical to stay up-to-date with the changes. Enter the opportunity: demonstrating that 'future-focused' is more than just a buzzword for your exploration company by digitising your operations ahead of the competition.

We are on the cusp of mining's digital transformation - it's time to jump, not be pushed!

14. It's cheaper than traditional mining software

Mining software has a reputation for being expensive, so all of these benefits are only available to explorers with the budget to be able to afford it, right?


In fact, it's cheaper than you might think. In many cases, the time saved and efficiencies gained can outweigh the out-of-pocket costs of purchasing this software to run your next drill program.

Plus, it can be paid in monthly instalments and can also be put on pause for the times when you're not drilling (especially handy for Juniors!).

What's next?

As you can see, there are so many reasons to try digital for your next drill program.

Not only can it offer you increased visibility across every aspect of your drill program, but it can also reveal time and money-saving insights to help you improve the overall efficiency of your operations.

So, what are you waiting for?

Keep reading to learn more about digital drill program software and how it can help make your next drill program a success on our exploration blog. Or, cut to the chase and see it for yourself at a free demo

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