The paperless office is still far from a reality for many — if not most — industries. But there's a big difference between having a stack of snail mail correspondence taking up desk real estate and juggling multiple technical drawings, when primitive document management practices can have financial, safety or legal implications
Developer Applicate has set its sights on bringing a paperless future one step closer for Australia's mining industry, with its Cloud-based application for managing technical drawings of minesites and other heavily industrialised areas.
In January Applicate, which is part of the QRG group of companies, launched RedEye, which is designed to streamline the revision and access of technical drawings. At minesites if a physical change has been made to layout or a piece of equipment, the drawing of the site will have to be revised, often by a contract draughtsperson.
"They're called red pen markups because they literally print out the piece of paper with the drawing on it and mark up any changes to it with a red pen," explains Applicate managing director Mike Boyd.
"They leave the drawings in a pile for the draftee and he comes along and picks up a bunch of drawings, takes them away — usually off-site — and finds all the AutoCAD files for them somewhere and then updates all of the changes and brings them back to the site."
RedEye is designed to be platform to simplify this and reduce the chances of human error; loss of a revised diagram, for example. RedEye as it stands now acts as a Cloud-based document management system, with red pen markups scanned and sent directly to a database. A draughtsperson, possibly at another location, can pull down the revised drawing in PDF format and its associated AutoCAD file, which can then be edited and reuploaded. A single AutoCAD document can only be checked out by one person at a time, preventing clashing revisions.
The software, which is delivered over the Web as software-as-a-service (SaaS), also allows the viewing and download of rendered AutoCAD files in a browser.
"[You can view drawings] from any computer in the world without having AutoCAD installed and without booting up a big clunky piece of software," Boyd said. "[We've also] built some really nice comparison tools that make it really easy for the engineer on-site to compare the changes that they requested and the changes that they got back."
This can save on licences for AutoCAD. "You can open a drawing and print it, download a PDF, download the CAD file all without having a piece of software that costs $7000."
In the future Applicate intends to take a further step forward in eliminating paper at minesites. "Step two for us is to completely go paperless but first we had to build an application to help them transition away from paper.
"So at the moment they still have their markups on paper which is scanned into the Cloud and into our system where it matches it with the AutoCAD files
"Version two, if you like, will all be done on iPads where you can literally mark up the screen with a virtual red pen and just hit save and that will go to the draught in-queue."
There is also potential for the app developing in the direction of augmented reality, with RedEye already looking at integrating barcode and QR code support so that physical objects on a site can be tagged identify.
"You'll walk up with your iPad, it will GPS locate you, you can take a photo of the QR code and [RedEye] will being up that device. It will also reference the database and pull up all of the engineering drawings related to that device, any manuals or certificates, the work order history, who last maintained it, when was it last maintained, when was the last check.
"[It will really bring] the whole information dashboard to the fingertips of the people on-site and the key to that is starting with drawings, because drawings have the most information on them."
Through work with a research centre based at the University of Queensland, Applicate is getting access to multinational mining companies. "We're gaining access to the largest mining companies in the world and there's a big opportunity to get RedEye as well as some of our other products into the South American and African markets as well."
Rohan Pearce is the editor of Techworld Australia. Contact him at rohan_pearce at idg.com.au.
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