Drilling Supervisor Neil Snowball increases efficiency by 350%

We caught up with Neil this week to find out how he managed to increase the efficiency of a predrilling process by 350%!

Drilling Supervisor Neil Snowball increases efficiency by 350%

Neil Snowball is SafeLane’s Drilling Supervisor and has been with the company for 13 years.  He has worked on many of SafeLane’s major projects – supporting works at Rochester Airport for example, staying onsite to support a client drill pile locations through complex ground conditions, and collaborating with SafeLane’s German colleagues to clear UXO in Munich.

With 24 years of experience working in a range of challenging conditions, Neil prides himself on being efficient and he is always willing to help out however is needed.  

We caught up with Neil this week to find out how he managed to increase the efficiency of a predrilling process by 350%!

What was the project and how are SafeLane supporting its delivery?

It’s a big job – we need to complete 2,700 intrusive surveys.  We’re supporting a massive expansion to the sewage treatment works in Beckton.

Although we have the experience and qualifications to complete pre-drilling, sometimes we work with third parties on this stage of work because what we do is so specialist and niche, and we tend to focus our assets on the UXO surveys and clearance rather than the basic drilling.

In this case, due to the scale of the work, we were working with a third party who was on site to complete the predrilling for us.  The aim of this two-pronged approach is to increase efficiency and speed up the job.  The guys will predrill the holes for us and then we can survey, it means that progress is continual.

However, on this occasion the predrill team was only averaging about 20 probes per day.  I’ve done predrills, and my personal best was 285 in a day…so I wanted to understand what was slowing down their pace.

What was the predrilling issue?

The need to drill to a depth of 6 meters had been causing efficiency issues.  Basically, the ground had built up.  This means that there was a hard layer that had developed on the top of the soft soil where any bombs could be. 

Although deep, they could be dug up during expansion, but it makes surveying more challenging.

How did we help?

Well, basically we figured out that the slower pace was down to the equipment.  To protect their assets when dealing with these kinds of conditions, the company doing the drilling needed to take extra care.

I understand that now more than ever people need to take care of their business assets.  However, given the scale of work we need to complete and the timeline we needed to do it in, I knew we had to find a way to increase their pace.

What was the solution?

To ensure we are completing effective surveys, we have equipment and drilling rigs that are able to deal with very challenging ground levels and conditions.  Sometimes we may need to assess ground that has been redeveloped, so we may need to drill through concrete or steel for example.

Knowing the capabilities of our equipment, we worked with the third party, letting them utilise our equipment.

When they were using our specialist drill bits, their productivity increased by a rate of between 75 – 95%.  They went from completing 20 pre-drills a day to 35 – 39. 

75% – 95% of an increase is great, but where did the 350% increase come from?

Ha ha, well we had a little competition going – in good humour to help keep morale strong.

I was confident that even with the amazing increase in their productivity, I’d be able to be quicker.  The guys there wanted me to prove it, so I did!  I safely completed 90 predrills, in just 5 and a half hours.

It was just on-site banter, in good humour and all it shows is the difference experience can make.

Now we’re averaging at 65 a day because that is what is needed now. This is an increase of 225% from where they were at when they started mind!

Achieving the client’s end goal

The UK Land team at SafeLane understands that there are many moving cogs in the construction machine.  Sometimes, we need to share experiences and assets, and work together to ensure we are achieving the end goal for the client. 

We’re proud of the collaboration, teamwork and the commercial skill set of all our drillers. 

Well done Neil for this huge increase in productivity!

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