Want to know more about all things OnPlan? Today we launch the Discover OnPlan Podcast Series in which Marketing Coordinator Monique Thornton speaks with OnPlan team members about the platform, unique projects, and industry trends.

The first episode features, Andrew Bubnic (CTO) speaking about digital transformation, managing remote teams, and you will get a special look ‘under the hood’ look at OnPlan technologies.

Take a listen to the full conversation.

Episode 1 Transcript

Monique: “My name is Monique, for those listening, Monique Thornton. I am the Marketing Coordinator for AssetOn Group and also for OnPlan Technologies. I am joined today with Andrew Bubnic, who is the Chief Technology Officer for OnPlan Technologies and for AssetOn as a company.

Andrew, question for you jumping straight of the bat, can you tell me what you position involves and give me a bit of a description of the team that you manage?”

Andrew: “Yep. So, as you mentioned, I am the CTO of AssetOn and I manage basically the technology strategy, the security, development on OnPlan, our new KrackOn app that goes with it, all of our general operations to do with IT and all of that sort of stuff.

Monique: “Fantastic. So how long have you, yourself, been working on the range of OnPlan technologies? You mentioned we’ve got the desktop application, we’ve got the field app on iPad, Android and Windows I believe, and we also have the KrackOn app. How long have you been working across all of these technologies?”

Andrew: “So OnPlan first started back in 2016 under a different name and it was used in-house for several years and that’s where we got the experience building it out, finding all of the little problems and quirks to do with mining maintenance and getting feedback from clients and all of the sort of stuff, which is why it is a pretty solid product today. About two years ago, in 2018, I joined the team and we rebadged the product into what is called OnPlan today. OnPlan has the mobile capability that you mentioned, the app, so basically at the moment the mining industry will take out a bunch of paper, go on site and then do their mining maintenance. Whereas now with OnPlan, we have the option to provide that exact same paper-based system, except all the documentation is done in OnPlan, it is all reusable, has components and hazards that you can apply to multiple different work instructions. But we also have the tablet app that will allow us to take a digital version of this, we can have hazards popping up on screen going like, ‘Warning – this could be a height hazard here’, all of that sort of stuff.

Monique: “This is quite important too because everyone, across all sectors of the mining industry, understand that safety is our biggest priority. The pop-up feature, that is quite a handy feature for taking it out into the field, but one of the incredible things that OnPlan caters for is the fact that it will help you with that digital transition so you can drag and drop instructions like never before – very quick, very efficient – but if you are not actually in that spot where you are prepared to put iPads in the field, you can still print them out to the same word format specific to your site, is that right? Can you tell me a bit more about that feature?”

Andrew: “Yeah so, we identified that some clients are just not ready to make to switch to full digital. It’s just they have several other sites, and everyone is just happy having their paper-based copy of their work instruction. So basically, OnPlan will handle both. We can bulk output a bunch of .docx files that they’ll then print and take on site. Or they can also use the OnPlan App and take that version and simply just tick that, ‘Yep, I’ve done this step,’ ‘I’ve done that step,’ ‘I acknowledge that hazard,’ and basically get through the whole thing.”

Monique: “Yeah that live feedback is fantastic too because that feeds back to a version of the desktop app where the management team can oversee what is happening, as it happens. Is that right?”

Andrew: “Yep, so that is absolutely correct. OnPlan has a tracking dashboard so you can basically see who is on site, what percentage they have completed of that work instruction roughly, whether they have 50% left, or who is assigned to the job, when it was last updated, so have they been working on it today for example, and a few other helpful tool and things of that nature. And that can go on a TV in an office and it just auto-updates itself.”

Monique: “That’s incredible. Ok so next question for you, you mentioned that we deal with quite a few mining clients across Australia and we have some connections internationally as well in the mix right now – how do you think the mining industry is doing with digital transformation generally from what you’ve seen? From our clients to other people in the industry?”

Andrew: “Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I am not traditionally from the mining industry; I have been maybe eight different industries and I have noticed the mining industry is trying to progress forward. We are definitely seeing this transition over to digital, and I think most clients seem to be happy with this mid-range approach where they don’t get too out of their existing processes just yet and they have that time to use OnPlan but actually then print out to .docx format, but then slowly they’ve got that option that they know exists where they can move their staff onto the app over time and they can just take their time and do it at their pace. I’m finding that has been quite effective, people have been liking that concept. But yeah, there is that push from the mining industry to digitise.”

Monique: “Well yes that’s another major feature I know our team has been able to present to clients is being able to transition mass legacy documentation into the platform and give them a digitised version of what they already have too because a lot of competitor apps, for this type of work, they don’t provide any sort of support to incorporate what you have already built. You know, a lot of these businesses have thousands of these types of documents. Could you tell me about an example of digitising legacy documents? I know that was quite a challenging project to get off the ground, but now you guys have mastered how to do it.”

Andrew: “So what we noticed was on the market there were several solutions that will take word documents and put them in a digital format, but the end format is more like a PDF where you can’t really then take that particular hazard or that job step and say use it in another work instruction. Whereas we can do all of that stuff in OnPlan, but the important thing is that we do take existing word doc files as is and then we will take every little piece out of that and digitise it individually, so now you can say, if you’ve got an operation or ‘Remove Engine’ for example, and within it are many steps ‘Remove that bolt’ or ‘Change the oil’, we take that individually and slot that into OnPlan so that is a far harder task than just taking a word document and converting into a form builder sort-of PDF format. So, we have done that; we’re well underway in converting 4,000 documents at the moment, I won’t mention who the client is, but we have done this stuff plenty before.”

Monique: “Yeah, that seems to be, from what I’ve seen in the mining industry, there is a lot of people with an appetite for digital change, but quite a couple of companies cutting corners. And I think that something that OnPlan and AssetOn as a broader company has really prioritised is incorporating extensive industry knowledge into the technology. Our team of developers, before COVID, would work side-by-side with a team of master data, subject matter experts, people who have spent decades in the mining industry and across other resource-intensive industries. How have you found that, as a process of collaborating with industry experts, to build the technology from your side of things?”

Andrew: “It’s been invaluable. Because we’ve got the guys right there, these industry experts who are building work instructions and used to be on the tools. They basically just told us exactly what has annoyed them, what they like, what has been quite useful, what has made their job a lot easier. And we’ve taken all of that feedback and we have put it into OnPlan. Basically, it has ultimately become a very easy tool, they can get a lot of stuff done, it’s that simple. It has just become a really good final cloud platform for companies that need to build work instructions.”

Monique: “So companies that build work instructions, that’s not exclusive to the mining industry. We work with oil and gas, energy, infrastructure, manufacturing. What’s the key to making it work across industries – what makes OnPlan work?”

Andrew: “So we’ve got a very powerful backend and advanced settings. And also, the terminology differs from industry to industry. But even from mining company to mining company, so for example some mining companies might call their sites a branch. So, we’ve got the ability to make everything use the word ‘branch’ going forward. That might not seem like a big deal, but it does really get a lot of buy-in from staff that use OnPlan, because the terminology matches what they’ve been doing for years. So that bit has definitely been important, but also the design of it – how you can just drag and drop operations and steps and hazards – the ability for people to just walk it, look at it and go ‘Oh yeah, I sort-of understand it’ and deal with it and in half an hour they’ve got it and they’re on their way. That has also been important to keep it open to multiple industries.

So under-the-hood we try to itemise most pieces of data to its own self. We don’t call say ‘change engine’ for example, or ‘remove engine’ example like I mentioned earlier – we don’t just say here’s this bit of data and ‘remove engine’ and this is all of the stuff in it, the end. You want to change it; you have to change it all. A step in there may be ‘remove these bolts’ – that’ll be a step in there, and we can reuse that step elsewhere. You can use that ‘remove engine’ in another work instruction entirely. If you edit it there, it will change it on the source work instruction. That’s up to you if you even want that. Or you can make them completely separate, isolated entities. We’ve got that level of capability.

Most of our clients use the cloud version of OnPlan. There have been some that have wanted to run it on their own servers; over time we have noticed that they have gone, ‘Yeah, actually let’s put this back on the cloud, it’s actually just easier.”

Monique: “The OnPlan App – I’d love to ask you a couple more questions about that because that carries a range of great features, but even from the cloud-perspective, they can be out of range of wi-fi, am I correct? And they can still work on it and it will live update once they’re back in range?”

Andrew: “Yep, that’s it. The app itself, you don’t actually have to have reception – you don’t have to be on the internet the whole time, your connection can be poor – the OnPlan App will allow you to keep working, go through your work instruction and yeah, it will push it all back up to the cloud when it is back in range.”

Monique: “The crack inspection add-on feature, that’s an industry first. Can you explain a bit more about the historical data and the features that you have built into the KrackOn app?”

Andrew: “Yeah, so we identified basically an area that needed improvement in general, which was managing cracks on equipment. So, over time, stuff just wears out, cracks appear – you need to know where they are starting, how they are propagating along – simply because it gives you a timeline of how long you can keep going, what sort of maintenance you can do, how many hours you can expect of life. Traditionally, this has been done using a piece of paper where someone gets a pencil and literally draws a very vague little thing on a two-dimensional diagram. Over time, paper gets lost, it gets smudged, you know someone might have put the wrong serial number, you’ve just got all of these unknowns. But with the KrackOn extension of the OnPlan App, you can track all of it down to a tee. You can track when it was done, where it was done, time of day, who did it, and it is all digital so you can just check it or come back later, report on it. It has actually been quite powerful and well received.”

Monique: “Just to wrap up with you – is there any sort of features or teasers of what the team is working on? I know a lot of it is under wraps but is there anything you’re excited about that you could tease for me?”

Andrew: “Yeah. While OnPlan is absolutely available and any company can just start using it, what we have discovered is the concept of ‘red-penning’. We have started to release a new feature you can easily log into OnPlan, ‘red-pen’ a few different things, for example you believe ‘removing the bolts’ needs to go after ‘removing oil cap’. We’ll be putting that in soon and it will create a very nice back-and-forth between technical writers and reviewers, so yeah that’s coming soon.

Monique: “Well thank you so much for joining me for this conversation today Andrew. We have got a lot of great information and I look forward to seeing what the team comes up with next.”

Andrew: “My pleasure Monique.”