Phinar Software – Making Data Beautiful
We look at how Phinar Software is making the data that mining companies need to operate successfully accessible and easy to understand.
One aspect of the mining industry that rarely gets much attention is the huge amounts and variety of data mining companies need to gather, understand and digest in order to make the best, informed decisions available. This is where Phinar Software comes in.
“We are essentially a mining and geology software company with a passion for data and mining, data visualisation and making it easy for people to analyse and interpret their data, particularly drill data and geological modelling data, and then optimise it” explains , the company’s CEO.
Their software’s main advantage of the competition is its ability to not just collate and categorise data but to display it in a way that makes it easy for mining professionals to see trends in that data.
“Our unique selling point is the way we visualise and analyse data. We have testimonials from users saying they used to spend two to three weeks analysing data that now takes them only two to three days,” de Bruin tells us. “We offer productivity improvements, and increased knowledge about the data, this means customers have to spend less time analysing it and have a better understanding of the data, so they can make better-informed decisions. This can make a significant improvement to the bottom line”
This is an achievement because in the mining industry data is coming in from every stage of the mining operations.
“In the mining industry data goes through quite a few steps from drilling, modelling, optimisation processing etc. We’re there at the early stages of the process from drilling data onwards, and we can see the relationships between the different stages,” de Bruin points out. “Using our tools people get on top of their data very quickly and see the relationships between the various mineral elements and domains. The ease with which you can do that means you can see spatial trends and the relationships between various data sets. You can immediately see in 3D if a statistical or graphical trend or anomaly relates to a spatial trend, for example, if the data is clustered or spread out. For a lot of people, the selling point would be the sheer reduction in time spent on the data and the productivity that emerges from that. It is reasonably priced where mining software, overall, is quite expensive. And so we saw a niche in that particular field.”
While there are a number of ways in which Phinar’s software is exactly what the industry has been looking for, mining is a sector that hasn’t always been the most open to new ideas, and so breaking into the market can be a challenge.
“I think our biggest challenge is probably market penetration, getting ourselves more widely known. We’ve been on the market for five years, but mining is a conservative market,” de Bruin admits. “It’s probably true of a lot of markets, especially at the data level. People are used to using Excel, or existing systems. There is a lot of sectors where it pays for people to move to a new system, but in mining, it’s just the way of the industry. But we understand and respect that and also is an advantage once you are accepted. They have to cover the whole workflow using two or three or four different products, and one product can do some of it but not enough without the others. So to get people to learn and trust a new product and to start using a new product is not easy. That’s a challenge for us.”
The effort is worth the reward, however, as Phinar have had excellent feedback from people who have started using the software. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to improve that.
“Once you know it and are comfortable with it, our software is easy to use and very productive but there’s scope for making it easier to get into to access those more powerful features,” de Bruin says. “People that are using the product love it. We do a lot of sales to existing customers, we have a subscription model and most of our users are renewing every year. So it’s just getting people on board in the first place that’s our main challenge. We’re increasing our marketing efforts, and also going to more conferences and mining conventions to get better visibility in the market.”
Accessibility is the latest frontier Phinar is developing to open up the benefits of their software to the wider mining industry.
“We’re making the product as easy to get into as possible, we’re working on a new version that will go a long way to addressing that issue,” de Bruin says.
As well as making the software itself as easy to use as possible, Phinar Software is also looking to attract customers by bringing talent on board to engage directly with the market.
“We’re looking for someone to join the company who will be focused to go to businesses and talk to existing clients and visit new clients and attend conferences to show people our products,” de Bruin tells us.
This recruitment, like most of Phinar’s recruitment, won’t happen through agencies and advertising, but through the network of contacts de Bruin and his company have built up over decades in the industry.
“We have never yet advertised for positions, I have a long history in mining and geology-related software, so have quite a wide network,” he says. “It’s just through contacts and networks at the moment. So we try to use social media, and word of mouth, to find people who are a good fit for the company.”
There are also other frontiers Phinar is looking to explore. For instance, as well as data visualisation, the software developer is also looking at how its tools might be used for mine optimisation.
“At the moment we are building another product which is more into mine optimisation. That’s going to be a more expensive product, but a very good product that’s still being developed and has huge potential,” de Bruin says.
Beyond that, de Bruin is very excited about a funding bid they are preparing to put through.
“There is an industry and government organisation looking to fund projects and companies that will improve the mining equipment and technology sector in Australia,” he says. “They’re looking for consortiums. We have lodged a bid with two other METS companies as part of the bid and a global mining industry sponsor. We’re building a service orientated platform for the mining sector as well as services around optimisation. If we get the funding it will give us a significant push in the right direction. The money will be used to develop industry-leading tools and to get someone in to help us penetrate the market.”