Managing distributed operations and assets from the cloud

Managing distributed operations and assets from the cloud

Why mining and tunneling contractor Procon has adopted a cloud-based ERP system.

ERP systems are at the heart of every mining company. With globally distributed operations and work crews, fleets of vehicles and heavy machinery, and razor thin profit margins, they are essential for survival—especially in a challenging market environment.

“The resource sector is in the doldrums,” says Al Harkness, IT manager at Procon, a mining and tunneling contractor based in British Columbia, Canada. “And that places a premium on efficiency.”

  • Procon’s legacy ERP system wasn’t up to snuff.
  • Built and customized over the course of two decades, only a part-time application developer truly understood its intricacies.
  • And it was primarily an offline system that required timesheets, materials requisitions, and other business needs to be submitted via fax or email, and then manually entered into the system.

“We have job sites around the world, in extremely remote locations,” explains Henry Wulkan, senior project manager at Procon. “Some of our teams had to travel to the nearest town to fax their work hours, and some of those hours were scribbled on napkins.”

Peace of mind
With mining operations in North America, Europe, and Asia, Procon sought a better way to manage its equipment and work crews. It found the answer with an SAP ERP system that is hosted in the Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) Cloud—a Cisco Powered service—and administered by Illumiti, which specializes in SAP integration and management.

“It’s a hands-off approach, and that gives us peace of mind,” says Harkness. “We never have to worry about servers, patching, application management, security, or monitoring. It’s all handled for us by Sungard AS and Illumiti.”

  • The cloud-based solution is far more robust and accessible than Procon’s former ERP system, even in remote locations.
  • Procon miners connect to the system via satellite link to enter their time and submit materials requests.
  • Even when the satellite connection is slow, the SAP application is always available and ready to retrieve data.

“All of our finances, payroll, purchasing, and project controls are in the system,” Wulkan says. “It’s a business driver for us, and it would be detrimental if it went down.”

The system also provides better, timelier information about Procon’s mining operations and business performance. What was historically spread among countless spreadsheets is now in a central, online location for quick access, analysis, and reporting.

“We can manage our projects much better and react much faster,” says Wulkan, noting the ability to track projected versus actual costs in real time for each mining site, spanning payroll, materials, and other expenses.

When the resource sector turns back around, Procon is ready for business—and its new ERP system will have no problem handling the load.

“Scalability, availability, and security are important as we grow and pursue additional international projects,” says Harkness. “We feel much more comfortable with our ERP system in an enterprise-class cloud.” 

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