Barminco implements document management

Tuesday, 17 February, 2009

Barminco, an underground mining contractor, has deployed a document management system in order to control its many safety and instruction manuals, as well as track critical financial forms.

Established in 1989, Barminco provides expertise for hard rock underground excavation sites. The company has 1800 staff, most of whom work on site at 30 mine locations in Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.

Employees work in a hazardous environment with complex and potentially dangerous mining equipment. Barminco must ensure that all employees are properly trained and that equipment is operated in accordance with government regulations, mine owners and supplier instructions.

To ensure this compliance, Barminco previously kept training documentation, operating manuals, plant manufacturers’ instructions and information on hazardous substances in a paper-based format. These documents were printed, bound and distributed to mining sites.

This process proved troublesome: the documents were subject to frequent updates. Consequently, the company reproduced large volumes of printed material that were frequently out of date.

This was one reason the company investigated document management.

“What we were trying to get away from was having stacks of hard-copy manuals lying about,” says Lisa Deliu, IT systems administrator, Barminco. “Besides being inefficient, it wasn’t the best way of keeping mine sites up to date with what they needed to know.”

Barminco initially trialled an intranet site hosting updated copies of critical manuals. But documents were difficult to find, and there was no system to alert employees of document changes, so the burden of communicating these changes had merely been shifted to another department: IT.

On top of these document control issues, communication from mine sites to head office was hampered by dependency on paper-based processes. In particular, all requests for new capital expenditure had to be sent by handwritten fax from mines to executives in Perth. After different stages of approval, the request had to be logged by accountants before the purchasing department could execute an order.

“Faxes would get lost along the way,” explains Deliu. “New equipment approvals are a daily requirement for the majority of mine sites because of the environment they work in; however, ours was a slow and unreliable process.”

The cumbersome process for distributing operating information, and the protracted process for replacing damaged equipment, carried major business risks for Barminco.

In 2005, Barminco implemented Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to improve its communication. However, concurrent staff problems meant the application’s potential remained unexploited.

In mid-2006, DSC-IT introduced Barminco to SharePoint Server 2007, re-invigorating management interest in a document control solution.

The objective was to establish a single reference point for whatever mine site employees might need to find. In 2007, Barminco deployed SharePoint Server 2007 and a supporting Microsoft SQL Server 2005 at the Perth head office.

The new portal consisted of a home page containing company news and announcements. The centralised document repository included single versions of all safety and instructional documents and manuals, together with information on quality control.

The next step was to use the system’s document routing functionality to help Barminco automate its document processing.

Barminco took the manual forms that were being faxed and created electronic versions. These were published within the new portal. For the capital expenditure request forms, a multistage approval and notification workflow was designed that would follow each form through the system.

This workflow accommodates the essential business processes involved in approving capital expenditure. Depending on the cost of the new item, the document is automatically routed to the CEO or the CFO for sign-off.

As a final step, each mining site was given its own web-based portal where all site-specific content was collated. The portal system has improved communication between Barminco’s head office in Perth and its staff who work at remote mine sites. Employees are notified of changes to critical operational information and instructions, and the updated manuals are easily and instantly accessible.

For Barminco, the biggest benefit has been the introduction of automated capital expenditure approvals. “We now know where the capital expenditure form is,” says Deliu. “We can track who is holding it up, and we know that faxes are not getting lost. Site managers know exactly what stage their request is at in the approvals process.

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