Save Thousands of Dollars This Year:
The Definitive Guide to Eliminating Construction Paper Forms
The Problem with Construction Paper Forms and the Simple Solution
Some may not know it, but you’re always preparing for the future. You’re looking for the latest tools and industry trends. For many construction firms though, one thing hasn’t changed: the way they collect information. Time cards, inspections, proposals and change orders are all still done with pen and paper in the field.
Whether in the field or in the office, paper forms require a lot of work. Handwriting reports on site takes up valuable time. Back in the office, your administrator has to decipher messy handwriting, and re-enter the information into a computer to keep it with other records.
Instead of taking fifteen minutes for one inspection, paper creates a long process of filling out the paper form, returning it to the office and entering it into the database. It can take hours or up to a week for data to finally reach your database.
This inefficiency makes it difficult to quickly respond to your customers’ needs. One New England construction equipment company, for instance, found their response time was slow. Why? Paper forms made it difficult for departments to share information. The problem wasn’t reaching the appropriate department, so they didn’t know there was an issue!
Storing paper also silently drains your bottom line. Just one four drawer filing cabinet can cost a company $1,500 a year. How many do you own, two? Three? Each cabinet is taking thousands of dollars from your bottom line.
Going mobile removes these inefficiencies. With mobile apps, every inspection, time card or checklist is sent straight to the cloud. From there, your home office can export the information into a variety systems from Salesforce to Quickbooks.
With mobile apps, you no longer have to spend time entering information a second time into your system. Your employees on site enter it once, and it’s all done. In many cases, reports that once took days, now require only 30 minutes.
Lack of Standardization and Accountability
With paper forms, your employees pretty much have free reign to collect information as they please. Required fields can be skipped, miscalculations can be made and accuracy can be questionable, especially if an employee fills out the form eight hours later.
For instance a foreman could be on site, getting a project up and running for the day. He can miss the one employee who arrives late. When payday comes and this employee’s check isn’t right, your office has to go back and try to fix the problem.
One Chicago construction firm found that without standardization their payroll manager was spending hours looking for forms. It was an expensive price to pay for finding and organizing information.
But this story isn’t unusual: Businesses of all kinds struggle with documentation: 11% of files will either be misfiled or lost entirely. Companies are wasting time and money when they create paper documents and when they try to retrieve them later. Cracks in your system cost you in efficiency in the long run.
Mobile apps create a standardized process for collecting important information. With mobile apps, you can make certain fields required. So if someone forgets a section of their building inspection, they can’t submit the inspection until that section is complete. Whether on Android, iOS or Blackberry, mobile apps create an easy user experience, encouraging your workers to enter the information now, not later.
Can Paper Do That?
Have you ever thought about how paper limits the type of information you can collect? It requires you to fill out aspects of your report, such as descriptions, on one page and print photos separately. You can collect photographs, and other information, but you have to go back later and compile all the data. This can lead to issues such as mismatched descriptions and photos, weakening the information you collected.
With mobile apps, employees are able to collect more information than ever before. With the power of smartphones and tablets, they can:
- Take photos
- Capture a location with GPS
- Scan barcodes
- Do calculations
If your form or process requires any of these features, they can be automatically included in the final report, which can be emailed out and/or stored in the cloud. Now, you can be certain that:
- Inspections happen at the right time and place
- Equipment is up to code with visuals
- Calculations are accurate for better invoicing or purchasing orders
Not only will you gather more information, you’ll be more efficient and have less errors taking up time during your day.
Delayed Information Sharing
Construction sites are dependent on communications between field and office workers, particularly in the realm of tracking time, payroll costs and work reports. But paper reports need to be transported all the way from the field back to the office. This often means they aren’t submitted until the end of the week, which can create a backlog in your office. This backlog delays payroll and project decisions.
With 11% of documents becoming lost or misfiled, these delays can become even longer. Carbon copies can get stuck between the seats of the truck or become ruined by one cup of coffee. Even if you misplaced forms, they can be impossible to decipher afterwards. Trying to recognize any of this information takes additional time, if you can understand any of it.
Paper also holds back companies from innovation. If you decide to update your processes with paper forms, you have to create new forms, print them and send them to various sites. Creating a new form may take a few minutes but actual implementation can take days or weeks. With a mobile app, you can create edits in minutes, and send out the change to all your users in real time. Whether in Cincinnati or Calcutta, the next time your employees open the mobile app, the updated form will be there. All they have to do is fill it out.
Paper forms may be familiar but delays from paper processes end up hurting you, the decision maker. An information lag can delay your understanding of the costs of a project, as well as if it’s running on schedule. Any delay limits your ability to make decisions to change the course of a project. Paper processes are holding you back from greater success.
Are you struggling with any of these issues? Mobile apps can solve your issues, save money and help your firm focus on your primary mission: creating strong, great projects for your clients.
“Canvas allowed us to design, test, and then modify all of our air conditioning maintenance forms as we went along.”
– Ron Walker, Cool Frog Cooling
Table of Contents
Chapter 4 | How to Build an Inspection App in One Hour