There are many enterprise asset management (EAM) systems on the market, often provided by companies as adjuncts to their ERM, CRM and accounts systems. Most EAM is used by people sitting in offices keeping an eye on equipment in the factory next door. Its general purpose is to monitor just about any physical (or in the case of IT, virtual) assets from the manager's desktop.
The technology is not ideally suited for mining where the assets might be hundreds or even thousands of miles away in remote locations, where a relatively small number of highly-mobile staff oversee vast, complex and expensive assets.
Australian-based Mincom is different, its very name is a contraction of Mining Computing, and the company began by producing EAM software for Australian mines. A lot of these mines are in remote locations, so the mining companies often run their own water treatment plants and generate their own power. They operate road and rail networks too, and manage fleets of trucks and trains. Mincom developed its EAM to cover those assets too, and now it is used by some of the world's biggest oil and gas, energy, pipeline and transport companies, public utilities and defence forces.
Mincom has been trading for 30 years, which in the IT industry is a long time.
John Benders, vice-president of Asset Intensive Industry Solutions, says: "Our solutions are focused on asset intensive organisations, mining, transport, public infrastructure and defence. Organisations such as these are vastly different to manufacturing companies; they are 'outside' business, with a lot of large assets that operate outdoors."
Many of these operations face serious problems if major assets are out of action for any length of time. Unlike most manufacturing where a few hours' overtime can claw back lost production, an operation that sweats its costly assets 24/7 has no means of making up lost production. Good EAM is not just desirable, it's vital.
Mobilising Ellipse 8
Mincom has the broadest collection of applications in the mining industry. As well as EAM, it has a suite of mining software for mine designing, planning, production accounting, but it's the latest version of its Ellipse EAM application, Ellipse 8, that is grabbing attention.
The first two customers are the Australian Defence Force, whose implementation went live in July this year, and Arch Coal, the second-largest coal producer and operator of the biggest mining site in the US. Arch and Mincom are working on tailoring Ellipse 8 to Arch's requirements and expect to go live early next year. Many existing customers are considering upgrading, and Benders reports an increase in interest from potential new users.
Asked about key differences between Ellipse 8 and competitors, Benders says the technology was designed from the start to be useful to staff working on large sites using mobile devices. Key to this is a flexible inspections and defects capability which allows staff to codify quantitative information about assets that can be used to automate business processes.
At present, Ellipse 8 users rely on ruggedised PDA devices running Windows Mobile, but the software runs entirely in JRE (Java Runtime Environment), so it is perfectly feasible to run it on any device with a JRE-enabled browser that supports Adobe Flash.
Mincom Ellipse 8 was built around the PAS 55 framework, which is fast emerging as the global best-practices approach for asset management, making it easier for companies to reach this standard.