Companies in tight markets often live or die according to the quality of their customer service. Just ask Telstra.
For MineSight Applications, one of the oldest mining software developers in the world, this certainly rings true.
The company believes its longevity is due in no small part to the importance it places on customer service.
While the development of the software is undoubtedly important, its client relationships have helped the company prosper for more than 40 years.
MineSight regional business development manager Mark Gabbitus believes, the customer support it offers helps differentiate the company from its competitors.
“Rather than demand new features in the software, many of our clients actually appreciate having strong services and support on offer,” he told Australian Mining.
“We offer a range of services, from technical support and implementation assistance through to site visits and seminars.
“We try to get out to all of our clients for a day or two at least once a year at our own cost to help them implement any new versions or provide onsite training to anyone who needs it.
“This level of service does not go unnoticed by the customers and we get a lot of repeat sales from our users.”
The MineSight suite of products is a range of full three-dimensional software packages, catering to a variety of applications in the mining industry.
From start to finish
According to Gabbitus, the software can work from the initial planning activities right through to full-scale production.
“Miners can really start using the suite at the exploration stage, with the new drill hole management and database system, MineSight Torque,” he said.
“As the project progresses, they can use the resource models and pit optimisation tools as well as the short-term, medium-term and long-term scheduling programs.
“We have been doing a lot of development with the medium- to short-term scheduling offering and we now have a product on the market called MineSight Schedule Optimiser (MSSO).”
“The MSSO utility uses linear programming and optimisation engine take data from the field and convert in into an ‘optimal mineable sequence.’
“So it is not just a rigid schedule, it provides a more realistic plan for extracting the material.”
The software also has facilities to manage haulage, drilling and blasting, production data and reconciliation.
“Some of biggest open-pit mines is the world rely on our grade control applications to manage the pit,” Gabbitus said.
“We are actually currently rolling out the latest version of the grade control a lot of big sites in Australia.”
Of course, the company’s customers are demanding more from the software, particularly more processing power and speed.
“Everyone is doing things bigger, faster and harder nowadays,” Gabbitus said.
“The operations are getting bigger; especially some of the iron ore projects, so customers want to integrate more data.
“Some of the feedback we have been getting has suggested we adopt multi-threading capabilities and develop a 64-bit version, so these will be incorporated in the next version of the package.
“There is certainly demand from customers to improve the software to match the capabilities of the currently available hardware and we are also looking at as we speak.”
Over the horizon
With the technology changing at such a rapid pace, Gabbitus said it was hard to make any firm long-term predictions on the next trends in development.
“It is very hard to predict what the market will want even a year ahead of time, let alone in ten years,” he said.
“But what we try to do is ensure we are well-placed to quickly react to big changes.”
Nevertheless, he believes there will always be some demand to improve the usability of any mining software’s interface.
“This is really a key area where people always want to see improvements,” he said.
“People want an interface that is clear and understandable; they want to simply be able to click a button and obtain an instant result.”
In terms of usability, mining software products are not going up against each other, the customers will also judge them against everyday computer programs.
“It is a fact of modern computing,” Gabbitus said.
“We have a couple of different interfaces, but we are trying to standardise their look and feel as we develop new versions of the software.”