There are a number of software packages available in the market today to assist with blast design, so how do you choose the best one for your needs?
Blast design software has come a long way in the last 10-20 years and there is now much more competition in this space. This means that as a user there are many options out there that might be suitable but also more choices that need to be made because of that.
Blast design has now moved from being done manually, e.g. with a scale ruler and pencil, all the way to full 3 dimensional software design packages that incorporate every aspect and parameter available within a windows based framework providing the best interaction with the user.
Blast design software is now becoming more advanced with respect to capability, but suppliers are more sophisticated with their sales techniques which don’t necessarily assist you, the purchaser. Unnecessary “add ons”, deals involving other suppliers, and advertised benefits not backed up by facts, are all areas you may need to be wary of.
To ensure you and your site get the most cost effective and efficient outcome when it comes to blast design software it’s important to consider the following:
• Budget: Is there are an initial cost only or are there ongoing costs? What is the real cost over the proposed time period to own and use the software? What are the training costs and how much training will you need? Does your purchase give you the full package or will you need to pay extra amounts for additional capability or training sessions?
• Compatibility: What existing software packages do you run onsite – e.g. for the geological and survey teams and any other users? Does the chosen software interface effectively with these packages? Have you tested it? What does your explosives supplier recommend? Do they have their own packages and are they worth consideration? Is it worth choosing software from your existing supplier because it is an add-on to your current package? Or is it worth looking at a completely new software package for the entire site based on its ability to perform for all users?
• Technical requirements: Can the chosen software package perform the tasks you want to achieve? Think about this in some depth, going through your drill and blast design process carefully. Are the designs basic or complex? Is the package going to be able to cope with multiple products, multiple blast decks, multiple initiation points, presence of water, hot and reactive ground, drill information from another software package, different initiation techniques and product brands? What factors and features are the most important to you?
• Usability: Is it easy to learn and use the software? Does it deal with the amount of data required to be stored by your site? Can you query the data easily for use in future blast designs (e.g. to reduce or eliminate fume, vibration, airblast and dust, all of which control your licence to operate)? Will it cope with your future drill and blast needs (e.g. changes such as digital (paperless) bench, third party devices such as tablets on the bench or UG)? Can the software “learn” and hence help users to predict blast outcomes? Is it possible to link the software with AI packages to interrogate data to make decisions about blasting? Does the software need to be able to cope with things like automation (particularly in the D&B space, but also possibly within existing haulage networks)?
• Research: Thoroughly review all the software packages available on the market. Look at reviews, talk to existing users, read papers on what others have found. Carefully analyse the best available packages using a scale of importance/ranking for each item that relates to your site, to come up with a score for each package. Making the correct decision is important, because it is not just about the cost of the software. If you get it wrong, there are a number of flow on effects such as wasted time or re-work, incorrect designs being implemented in the field, delays in blasting, and constant issues for others at site that will compound any mistakes made at the point of purchase.
It’s not an easy decision to choose a software package so do your research, find out the advantages and disadvantages of any package with respect to your operation and your needs before making your purchase. If you have done this work you can be satisfied in the knowledge that it will be the right decision. Remember it might not be the cheapest or most expensive package that suits your needs. The correct blasting software should be viewed as an enabler to the running of the site. Therefore, it can create value by doing a number of things, like assisting with continuous improvement. Value should be attributed to functionality only if it will be used, so a fair comparison is reached versus packages that are transactional only!
Moncourt Group is a global business specialising in commercial explosives. We provide deep knowledge and insights to our customers to assist them with the purchase and use of explosives to deliver the best outcomes for their operations.