Agile mining software stands the test of time
It can be tough being a newcomer in an established industry but, after ten years in business, mining technology firm Deswik has proved their staying power.
Deswik’s story began in 2008 with three founders at one location in Brisbane, Australia. Despite a mining downturn and the global financial crisis at the time, during those first five years the number of Deswik employees doubled each year and the company expanded quickly. Today, Deswik has 207 employees and 12 offices across the globe, including South Africa, USA, Russia, UK, Canada, Peru, Chile, and Brazil.
Deswik software provides a fully integrated platform that lets mine planners complete plans and scenario analysis in one continuous workflow. It provides seamless and accurate information exchange between the various elements of a mine plan (for example, geology, design, and scheduling).
The company’s founders, Adam White, Ian Lawler, and Wayne Romer, attribute their success to agile and responsive software development and consultancy, and a passionate and enthusiastic workplace culture.
Staying true to their vision
According to Technical Director Wayne Romer, when Deswik appeared on the mining technology scene ten years ago, industry stalwarts had grown complacent and produced the same solutions for 20 years.
“Along comes Deswik and disrupts the space by being extremely agile, in comparison, with remarkable customer service and providing large amounts of automation and script-free solutions,” Romer said.
Their original vision, Technical Director Adam White explained, was to create a next-generation mine planning platform without the legacy and limitations of the old General Mine Planning (GMP) systems.
“We wanted to help mines to improve their mine planning processes while reducing the frustrations for users,” White said.
While this vision hasn’t changed over the past ten years, the breadth of the products and services Deswik offers and the number of customers they are helping, has exceeded the founders’ expectations.
“A customer told me that since we founded Deswik a competitor’s service has improved dramatically,” Romer added. “If Deswik’s only impact were to make all the incumbents lift their game, then I am satisfied.”
However, it is clear that Deswik’s impact is much broader and that mining firms have been very willing to give the new player a chance. White said mining firms chose Deswik because of their proven track record of delivering products and services that keep customers happy.
“It’s a combination of the awesome people that go on-site to implement the software or deliver a consulting project; the underlying technology being best at what it does; and, the passion to be constantly improving,” he explained.
Solving real problems
According to Managing Director for South Africa Ian Lawler, Deswik's focus is on being responsive to industry needs; solving their customer’s problems; and, continuing to improve the platform to ensure they provide an integrated software solution.
“We actually listen to what mining companies have to say and then react on that; we develop what is needed to solve real problems,” Lawler said.
Romer agreed, saying: “In starting Deswik, I wanted to build a software business which is agile and client-centric, working to solve as many problems as possible. We take a systems-thinking approach to our software, and we develop products that provide a complete solution, rather than worrying about the individual profit of each product.”
The founders attribute their significant growth over the past decade to Deswik’s innovation, responsiveness, and the people that work there.
“We always back ourselves and don’t rely heavily on third parties for funding or software innovation. Having control over our own destiny and our offerings has allowed us to respond more dynamically to our customers needs as well as make decisions that are more long-term focused,” White said.
Lawler added: “Deswik would not be where it is today without all the elements that we currently have, working in unison. I believe our biggest strength is our people and our culture.”
Choosing the right people
Along with creating agile software that was responsive to the needs of the mining industry, the founders wanted to create a business where they wanted to work, where everyone is respected, trusted and challenged.
“We wanted to create a work environment where we enjoyed going to work and where we are proud to be a part of the team. To become a team member should be difficult, as Deswik only hires the best,” Lawler said.
Romer agreed, saying: “We all still love working here and, by every measure, our people do too.”
It is clear Deswik’s founders recognise the importance of their employees in ensuring the company’s success. This means finding the right staff who are experts in their field and want to be challenged professionally while still enjoying their workplace.
“We have to keep true to our values as we grow and remain an employer of choice so that we can continue to find the right people to deliver exceptional services and products to our customers,” White said.
Deswik’s global reach allows them to service customers with sites across the world, a network of great people, and a solid base of technology that supports and simplifies mining processes. For every software developer on staff, Deswik hires 1.5 consultants with extensive on-the-ground experience of mining.
“We understand mining. Our consultants are highly-skilled mine planning engineers who can advise customers on how to improve their processes as well bring back ideas on how to make our software products better,” White explained.
“We have a big, active consulting arm, full of highly motivated expert users of our software solutions, and all have many years of experience, we use our software extensively.”
“Our consultants use Deswik software extensively and we are our biggest critics,” Romer added. “Mining companies are going through the biggest digitisation process in their history. Not everything will work the first time around. Employing an agile mindset to technology is the only way to make it work. Deswik lives and breathes agility.”
Delivering the future
Deswik’s founders all agree that keeping a passionate and enthusiastic company culture while expanding their range of products and services is essential for their future.
“In ten years, hopefully, Deswik won’t be very different from today in many respects,” White said. “We’ll still have the great company culture and the passion to build quality products for our customers and have fun doing it.”
“I see us having a bigger product set spanning more of the value chain where we see opportunities and value for our customers and we will continue to grow our consulting capability,” Romer continued.
Not only do Deswik’s founders expect to expand the products and services they offer, but they are also looking at other industries that face similar planning challenges as mining.
“Our software is very transportable and the architecture is designed so it can easily be repurposed for different markets,” Romer explained.
Lawler added: “In ten years we will be the leading mining software provider in the world. But I also believe that we will have to branch outside of mining to ensure that we can continue to grow.”