Construction is a labour and material-intensive industry. Building structures requires a commitment to quality and safety at every stage of the project.

According to Mark Biscoe, implementation consultant with software firm Viewpoint, failure to properly manage jobsite quality and safety can result in reputational loss, expensive litigation, rework, schedule delays, and more.

It’s an important consideration for everyone in the construction industry,” Biscoe said. “Ultimately failure to do so is liable to cost you money.”

One of the most powerful tools for construction firms is field data, which can now be managed daily on site with a tablet computer and software. Field data systems can manage a variety of information “from basic things such as site diaries, to records of what’s happening on site today, all the way up to full-blown quality inspections, risk registers, and the ability to capture health-safety data information about incidents on site,” Biscoe said.

Just collecting data is not sufficient, though. Unless you know how to act on it to improve outcomes, the benefits will be minimal, if they exist at all.

These days, using a single mobile solution, firms can:

  • analyze data to measure subcontractor quality and timeliness
  • analyze defect data to identify poorly performing suppliers
  • archive and distribute safety data reporting to project stakeholders
  • use incident forms to document accidents or injuries in the field when they occur.

Using a field data system, firms can gauge subcontractor quality and timeliness.

“Throughout the life cycle of your project, you’re going to be capturing data on how your subcontractors perform,” Biscoe said. “How quickly do they respond to tasks you sent to them? How well do they actually complete the work that you send them?”

Additional data fields can highlight other metrics. For instance, contractors can look at the productivity and quality of work provided by subcontractors to determine whether or not to use them in the future.

Contractors can also analyze defect data to identify poorly performing suppliers, run reports, and share data.

This metric can seem onerous to subcontractors, Biscoe noted.

When we explain this to subcontractors, sometimes they see the stick and not the carrot,” he said. “And ultimately it provides benefits to both main contractor and supply chain as well.”

Subcontractors that choose to make use of the data available can take steps to improve their work, which could provide a competitive edge over those that don’t.

“At the end of the day, everybody wants to win the work, they want to get the contract,” Biscoe said. “To have that kind of data at your fingertips instead of playing around in the dark and trying to make improvements without knowledge, you can start to make improvements in your own company in a targeted, focused way.”

Construction companies, like other complicated entities, now need more robust and searchable data management systems for archiving and distributing safety data reporting to project stakeholders.

The data capture combines with search and retrieval to enable the company to maintain extensive and accessible records. When something goes awry on a jobsite, for example, the data management system makes finding the necessary documents easy.

“It’s not stored, it’s not archived. If you need that data, it’s your data and it’s available on an ongoing basis,” Biscoe said.

Field data systems, Biscoe noted, enable firms to instantly use incident forms to document accidents or injuries in the field when they occur. For example, he said, if there’s an accident in which someone falls from a scaffold. Using old methods tend to be time-consuming and potentially dangerous.

In a traditional pen and paper system, you’ve got to leave them lying on the floor there while you run back to the office to get form F231 that you need to fill in when someone falls off a scaffold. By the time you get back there most of the witnesses have wandered off, and you still have the guy lying on the floor,” Biscoe said.

The field data system, in contrast, contains all tools and forms needed to document the event.

“It takes all those paper forms, it takes the image capture, it takes the direct reporting, and makes it immediate for you,” Biscoe said. “So you can take those accurate witness statements, you can record health and safety info accurately, and you can report them quickly to the people who need to know.”

The image capture, in particular is a powerful feature, allowing contractors to take action quickly and mimimise risk and exposure in hazard zones. Done properly, photos provide more information much quicker than typing.

“We don’t want you sitting there typing War and Peace. There’s really no need for it,” Biscoe added. “Tablet functionality allows you to take multiple photos of the same thing. The photos can even be annotated. If you want to highlight something quickly, you can just quickly tap on the photograph, draw a little circle around it, point an arrow to it, and save it and it becomes a very powerful visual tool to help you identify what’s going on.”

In addition, a variety of users can participate in the system, such as site engineers and project managers. In addition, subcontractors can be given access to pertinent information and can begin collaborating quickly and easily. Collaborators who are not on-site can also access the program, including architects and clients.