Software promotes efficiency in surface drilling operations

Alexander Hjelle established his Norwegian construction business, Inge Hjelle Entreprenør Forretning, in the late 1970s.

The company now operates from Hagavik, south of Bergen, Norway, focusing on surface drilling and blasting solutions in the region. This tight focus on both location and speciality are part of Hjelle’s strategy to ensure his company remains at the head of its field.

Although the company has more than 25 years of experience in drilling and blasting, mainly in lots, industrial sites and construction fields, its ancillary work includes cuttings for roads and portal excavations for the new Ulriken rail tunnel project.

The latter is being constructed by a joint venture of Skanska/Strabag for the Norwegian national rail authority, Jernbaneverket.

To service his customers’ needs, Hjelle’s surface drilling is delivered by three Sandvik DX780 rigs. These are equipped with the TIM3D navigation system, which uses GPS to control position and alignment of holes, achieving improved efficiency and quality.

Due to his longstanding relationship with Sandvik, Hjelle has had, at times, up to eight rigs in his fleet, either owned or rented depending on specific project requirements. With increasing volumes of data to manage on jobs, and a growing trend for secondary checks for project management and cost control, Hjelle has placed an emphasis on improving the company’s business process systems.

As a successful business owner and entrepreneur, Hjelle believes in using the latest tools to deliver a more efficient, effective service. As such, he is keen to learn of new developments that can help the performance of his business.

Through his close working relationship with Sandvik, Hjelle became aware of and quickly adopted the new data management system for surface drilling, Driller’s Office, which is now used in tandem with Sandvik’s proven SanRemo service.

Helping drilling operations

Originally, Hjelle discussed with Sandvik the possibility of introducing more sophisticated data management in surface drilling, similar to that enjoyed in tunnelling.

Sandvik advised him “something is on the way”, and these early discussions led to what would evolve, through collaboration, into Driller’s Office. While initially focused on drill plans, the capabilities of Driller’s Office grew. Hjelle felt his feedback and dialogue with Sandvik helped expand this offering.

Sandvik’s aim in developing Driller’s Office for surface drilling was to boost drill plan design, data management and reporting.


The package features simple visualisation tools for the drilling pattern and terrain models. The program has a “drill plan editor” function that enables individual adjustments to hole positions, floor level, inclination, direction and other factors. It also allows data from a site’s actual bench shapes and forms to be included.

Data from the site comes back to the user’s office in real time via the SanRemo service, which is within Driller’s Office. This improves accuracy, quality and the end result, and bring efficiencies in terms of time and money. Through the program’s reporting tools, the user has all the necessary information and data to provide others in the supply chain – the main contractor and project developer, for example – with details of hole co-ordinates and the drill plan against the confirmed outcomes. The latter is made possible due to the navigation control technology TIM3D.

The introduction of TIM3D has been an important development. This gave Inge Hjelle Entreprenør Forretning an added degree of control and accuracy that Hjelle said “formed the basis for going forward in data management”.

With TIM3D delivering control at the rig, Sandvik’s SanRemo service feeding back data and Driller’s Office quickly and easily managing information during a job, Hjelle could see the Sandvik solutions let him go further than before.

“Without Driller’s Office we can’t do the activities how we want to,” he said.

Improving performance

Offering fast, accurate management of office-to-field communications, Driller’s Office has quickly become integral to the operational performance and service delivery of Inge Hjelle Entreprenør Forretning.

The program is helping Hjelle transform his operations and ensure his customers benefit from more efficient and productive drill and blast operations.

“We totally need it,” Hjelle said. “We couldn’t do what we do so well without it.”

Driller’s Office has enabled Hjelle and his team to readily access important data before and during field operations. This lets them adapt to changing circumstances practically and quickly. As such, Driller’s Office helps the company achieve greater speed and productivity on any job, while ensuring drilling accuracy is readily confirmed.

Hjelle has been impressed by the benefits to the company’s current projects, and believe they will be even greater on larger jobs in the pipeline.


He said Driller’s Office was a lynchpin in his evolving business process system. Before any rigs are on-site, members of the surface drilling team input design data into the program.

The approach is to then plan around those design points, working with survey data to establish a practical drilling plan.

“We do this week’s planning before the rigs start drilling on-site, which is different and a great business advantage,” said Kjetil Jørstad, the company’s surveyor.

By developing a unique, practical drilling plan, the company focuses on build-ability that will easily, and in a pre-planned way, ensure delivery of the correct design alignment.

It does so in Driller’s Office by setting, alongside the design alignment, a fairly uniform “constructability margin” – the outer edge of which is a fixed offset from the design co-ordinates. The offset data is then fed to the rigs, where TIM3D guarantees the delivery of the drill co-ordinates, and also helps to ensure productivity from the plant on-site.

When becoming familiar with Driller’s Office, and in joining the program testing, Jørstad immediately saw the potential for productivity on-site and improving business processes.

“The drilling is more correct, meaning the holes are more correct and, consequently, fewer holes are needed to achieve lines wanted for the constructability margins,” he said.

“The difference can be seen easiest in very big blast patterns. On each part of the project there are benefits in terms of business process continuity. The productivity benefits will become more pronounced on the bigger jobs coming very soon.”

The future

For Inge Hjelle Entreprenør Forretning’s business processes there is a last step – billing – that still needs systems familiar to the regional construction sector.

Hjelle and Jørstad see scope for change once customers become more familiar with how the new system confirms what has been done on-site. They will then increasingly accept what real time data tells them is being achieved in delivery to design alignments. Then, Hjelle believes, there is the potential to have reliable build data without requiring external surveyors.

Moving from old to new business process systems will happen in steps, realigning the chain of various programs used, but with Driller’s Office at the core.

“It is a key part of the business process system – a key step,” Hjelle said.

By running his old and new business process systems in parallel for a time, Hjelle and his team will enable their main contractors and clients to compare them and their results. To Hjelle, it’s all part of continuously improving his business by cutting out unnecessary time-consuming or costly steps. The benefits are achieved – and shared in the supply chain – one project at a time. Then, gradually, the success can lead to a shift in practices in the market.

The key is to help lead changes in the way surface drilling operates and reports. Hjelle will continue to work closely with Sandvik Construction to fine tune the benefits of Driller’s Office. He will keep discussing “extras” that the program might further deliver, helping to expand its role in his company’s evolving business process system, and further cut down the last step to billing. “That means competitive advantage,” he said.

Source: Sandvik Construction

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