Conducting field inspections becomes easy with mobile field service apps.
Mobile inspection forms make it easy for inspectors to fill up forms accurately. It collects field service data from the smartphone and populates the required form-fields. These forms process data faster, with high accuracy. Technicians, spared of non-productive report-creation tasks, serve more clients.
But mobile inspection forms serve the purpose only when designed to collect the right information, in the right way. Here are the best practices on how to collect an assortment of field data using mobile inspection forms.
1. Understand the Requirements
There is no one-size-fits-all mobile inspection form. The best form depends on the business and the nature of the inspection. An inspection form for an HVAC unit will differ from, say, an inspection for a pest control business.
Regardless, some common inclusions in any mobile field inspection forms are:
- Name and address of the premises, with contact details of the authorized person
- Name and ID of the technician conducting the inspection
- Inspection date, job number, and any other identifiable tag for the inspection
- Details of the inspection, with data, tables, photos, videos, and audios, as relevant
- Status of the inspection, such as pending, completed, and so on
- Geo-tagging location
- Uneditable text fields providing instructions and critical information
Customize the inspection form to the specific requirements.
2. Add Visual Context
The text dominates manual inspection forms. Taking photographs and videos manually and filing it with manual forms is a productivity killer.
Mobile inspection forms add visual context to the data easily. These forms co-opt inspection images, sketches, maps, and more. The content appears side-by-side with data and remains integrated into the inspection reports. For example, an image of the hazards at a job site highlights the risks in a much better way than describing the hazards in words.
Sketch fields allow adding diagrams and annotations to images. This helps when visuals alone are inconclusive or do not offer the complete picture. For instance, in the image of job hazards at the workplace, annotations pin-point the danger spots in the image.
3. GPS and Location Data
Mobility based inspection forms allow the use of native features standard on most smartphones and tablets. Prominent among such native features is the device’s GPS capabilities.
Collecting GPS and location data makes tracking project progress quick and simple. It boosts visibility and allows setting up geofence-based controls. A property maintenance company geofenced its properties to record staff attendance. The cloud-hosted system automated the entire workflow, delivering massive efficiency gains.
Many mobile field inspection apps allow maps. Maps offer deeper insights. It offers insights such as plotting an inspector’s path, exact location and surroundings of the location, and more.
The inability to add physical signatures delayed the widespread adoption of mobility-based forms. Signatures are often a legal necessity in forms. It acknowledges work progress and approval of changes. Today, mobile forms capture signatures through the touchscreen interface.
Capturing signatures on electronic forms, with timestamps unlocks many possibilities and deeper insights. It
- ensures the integrity of the form.
- fix responsibility, such as who approved a questionable timesheet.
- prevents retroactive edition. Consider a construction team, tasked with ensuring compliance to US OSHA. The signature box within the mobile form ensures on-site personnel has confirmed compliance.
- offers captured signatures to relevant users in real-time, ensuring timely response or progress to the next step.
- It is easy to retrieve. Digital Signatures do not drown in the cabinets of manual filing. Electronic forms allow recalling and referencing digital signatures whenever needed.
5. Auto-population of fields
A mobile field inspection app automates data collection. The smartphone doubles up as a smart data collection tool.
QR codes and barcodes scan and track assets, track attendance, tag activities to locations, and capture completed tasks. Timestamps lend credence to the data collection.
Smart apps allow Inspectors to set up rules and workflows to track, handle, or escalate exceptions in real-time. The apps enforce business-specific conditional logic on the data gleaned from the field. The form-creator may
- set up data ranges, make a field as compulsory or optional, and perform other validations.
- set up customized time and location dependencies for inspections
- trigger alerts tailored to operational needs,
- automate exception handling. The back-end logic routes exceptions or rule violations to field managers or back-office teams.
For instance, a mobile field inspection form on a plant floor could send an instant alert if the boiler temperature in the plant rises to 50 degrees.
When auto-population is not possible, database fields pull information from data sources and make data entry easy. For example, a selection from a drop-down menu of customers populates email, phone, address, and other fields.
6. Easy Integrations
A mobile field inspection form integrates with enterprise systems such as CRM, payroll software, HRIS and more. The seamless linkages automate clerical tasks, improves accuracy, and speeds up processes. Mobile-based inspection forms have reduced data entry by up to 74%, delivering massive ROI gains.
Automated workflows transfer completed forms to other team members, supervisors, and other stakeholders. For instance, the app auto-populates a compliance report and dispatches it to the authority within the specified time.
The best forms are flexible, allowing the inspector to tweak it as per situational demands. But it still ensures the collection of all mandatory and essential information. For instance, instead of filling each field in order, the form may allow recording the information as per the situational consideration, and rearrange it in the back-end.
Mobile phones enable the inspector to access the right forms. They may search and retrieve forms stored in the cloud at any time, from any location. Likewise, cloud-based storage of the data allows retrieving the completed anytime, anywhere.
Mobile-based field inspection forms introduce efficiencies and opportunities not realizable before. Traditionally inspectors spend around half of their total time filling out forms. Mobile-based forms reduce such time to a few minutes, increasing the quality of time spent on site. Enterprises also speed up the workflow. For instance, invoicing time reduces from 1.5 weeks to under a minute after the customer signs the acknowledgment.
Tony believes in building technology around processes, rather than building processes around technology. He specializes in service software development that helps service business evolve with the changing market environments. He works with clients on a daily basis to understand and analyze their operational structure, discover key improvement areas and come up with technology solutions that cater to effective field service management.