The Definitive Guide to Eliminating Construction Paper Forms

In the construction industry, there are a lot of factors you can’t control, such as the cost of raw materials or the weather conditions at a site. But if you’re struggling with paper forms getting lost, damaged, or destroyed, then there’s a solution at your fingertips: mobile apps.

Chapter 1: The Problem with Construction Paper Forms and the Simple Solution

The paper system of time cards, safety inspections, and project reports could be slowing down your processes. How? It’s easy to make errors, miss fields, or lose information entirely on paper. Employees also spend extra time with redundant data entry. Tracking labor or equipment costs suddenly becomes difficult. Returning information from the field can take hours or days. You may not know what’s going on at job sites until days later. Worse, paper-based systems could be costing your firm thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours over the long run.

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, 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 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 a single 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 of systems from Salesforce to QuickBooks.

With mobile apps, you no longer have to spend time entering information into your system from a sheet of paper. 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 try to retrieve them later. Cracks in your system cost you 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 or iOS, 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 media, 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 version 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

Chapter 2: Thinking Strategically About Construction Mobile Apps

Whether you focus on commercial construction or on private homes, the details matter. But what are the best methods for collecting your information? Since every business has different needs, great construction companies ask themselves certain questions while setting up their processes. To have the best information collection for your construction business, ask yourself these strategic questions.

What Info Do You Need?

To begin, start with one process that you use on a daily basis. Every construction site, for instance, has a daily safety inspection. Make a list of what information you need to have to cover your bases.

A great way to form this list is as an outline. That way, you will have both the substance and rough shape of your future mobile app.

More than safety, it’s important to ask yourself another question. Do you need more information on your employees or subcontractors? Have you had to scramble for information on equipment in the past? Have you been worried about legal liability? Your answers will help you decide what new information you need to ask for.

Mobile apps make gathering this information easier. While you can bold fields on paper, you can’t require people to fill information out. With mobile apps, you can make certain fields required. That way, your users must fill out those fields to submit their form. You’ll get the information you need no matter what.

What Information Do You Want?

More than what you need, it’s important to decide what you want from the data. What data do you not have? Where are your blind spots? Are you thinking of change or growth in certain areas?

Create a list of areas where your current data is lacking or what you will need before making future strategic decisions. Making future strategic decisions.

Some areas where our clients have expanded their information include:

  • Photos of a construction site to validate safety inspections and provide visual confirmation of compliance
  • Automatic date and time stamps when perishable materials arrive to a work site
  • Pre-populated forms with helpful information such as labor and material descriptions and prices
  • Adding GPS location capture for worksite inspections

It will take time, but if you go with mobile apps, you’ll have all that information in real-time. Thus, you’ll be able to make strategic decisions quickly and effectively.

Without information, you lack the evidence to prove you need to change. Gathering much of the necessary information with paper takes longer and requires more work from you and your employees. Mobile apps make it easy to expand and analyze your information, so you can make the best decisions for your business.

“With GoCanvas we can quickly modify or create any app to meet the specific project requirements.”
– Rick Davis, Owner of Rick Davis Consulting

How Do You Want to Receive Your Info?

More than the information you need, how do you want to get it? Some fields could be simple text boxes. Others could be a drop down list of values for the inspector to choose from. Maybe you want photos to validate inspections of equipment or certain set-ups. Knowing how you want to gather the information will save you time when you’re creating your mobile form.

Finally, you also need to think about how you’ll want to access and share the information later on. With mobile apps, all of your information is accessible 24/7 in the cloud. Will you want to download all of your data as a CSV or XML file? Or maybe you need to send the data to a customer, colleague, or subcontractor as a PDF?

Perhaps you prefer a seamless integration with one of your existing systems via an API? API integration will allow you to get forms such as work orders and time cards in real-time in your databases. These are all great options depending on your needs.

With GoCanvas, all forms go immediately to the cloud. Not only will you get more data, but you skip the manual data entry necessary with paperwork and other systems. One customer of ours has saved over $40,000 in administrative costs.

You can’t control the weather or the price of concrete. However, you can take steps to eliminate inefficiencies in your business. Mobile apps provide a unique opportunity for construction firms to collect insightful business information. With smartphone technology, you can validate your information easily and quickly. All of this can be collected in half the time it took your employees before.

What could your business do with hundreds of more hours on-site and at the office? Every construction business has unique needs. To capture the best data for your business, you need to understand your needs. Asking yourself these questions will help you quickly and easily collect the information you need to succeed.

Chapter 3: The One Switch That Saved a Contractor Thousands of Dollars

Ace Contractors Group Pty Ltd, is an Australian-owned company offering a wide variety of services including Civil, Landscaping, Infrastructure, Environmental Management, Water Industry, Electrical, Plant, and Equipment. They work not only across Victoria but also in Perth, Western Australia, and NB Projects in Ceduna, South Australia and Wolumla in NSW. For over 40 years, they have delivered quality projects at the best value to their customers.

While Ace Contractors was growing across the region and beyond, their paper system wasn’t keeping up. Unless employees went and audited each site, it was difficult to ensure that their various locations were in compliance. This system required extensive work hours and was painfully slow.

In addition, each site supervisor was burdened with large amounts of paperwork. Any time a form was updated, someone had to send it to each of the various sites across the region. Paper forms were slowing down their work, and hindered communication between sites. Ace Contractors needed a solution that was faster but also thorough.


In November 2013, Ace Contractors switched to GoCanvas to replace cumbersome paper forms with highly-customizable mobile business forms that improved their data collection and productivity.

Ace Contractors started with a trial group of users to test going mobile. With an intuitive user experience, the group took to the mobile app quickly. Soon after, they expanded their use of GoCanvas to their site supervisors and finally onto the project managers.

Today, they have moved their most commonly used forms to mobile. Forms now collected on smartphones include Mobile Plant Entry Permits, Weekly Site Inspections, Handover Certificates, and Excavation Permits.

They aren’t stopping there: They’re looking at ways to transition other forms to GoCanvas too!


From the beginning, Ace Contractors saw productivity gains. Monitoring compliance is now easy and does not require that someone from headquarters visit each site. Employees on-site can fill out compliance quickly at their respective locations. All forms are sent immediately to the cloud, so the central office receives the report the day any form is finished.

Updating forms has become easier too. Once the form is edited with the GoCanvas App Builder, it is immediately available to users no matter where they are. Switching to mobile apps has removed the issue of lost paper forms and strengthened communication between the sites and senior management.

In real terms, Ace Contractors reported saving over $2,200 in just four months. Michael Spiteri of Ace Contractors believes that “we have most likely saved a lot more than that if you take into account form revision upgrades that do not require a person going to a site with a handful of paper, time and effort to re-print, and being able to instantly be informed if there is an issue on-site.”

With less time and effort, they receive more accurate information in real-time and can focus on finishing great projects.

“Being able to know what is happening on your site is priceless.”
— Michael Spiteri, Ace Contractors

Chapter 4: How to Create a Building Inspection App in One Hour

Whether you work in commercial or residential construction, inspections are crucial in your line of work. Inspections, however, take time away from the important renovation or construction work you do. For many businesses, you can’t even bill for time spent on this work.

Are you ready to go mobile? Today, you don’t need any coding or technological expertise to create a building inspection app. You can start create a mobile app today for free. Or, send us your form and we’ll convert your first form free!

Want to build your own inspection? Follow these steps:

Find a Form You Want to Convert

When going from paper to mobile, we suggest starting with only a few forms first, and working your way to a paperless office.

Log in or Sign up for GoCanvas

If you have an account, sign in. If not, you can create a free trial account here.

Ready to Rethink How You Work?

GoCanvas has helped a variety of businesses across multiple industries transform their safety processes and rethink their efficiency, ultimately saving them money. Why not do the same? Reach out to one of our experts today to kickstart your process revolution.

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