Why Electronic Inspections?

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6 Reasons To Go From Paper To Electronic Checklists


In this electronic age, it’s rather surprising at the number of organizations that still perform inspections and checklists using paper forms.  Why should organizations switch to the electronic logging of inspections from the traditional “clipboard” paper inspections?  There are a number of arguments for making this change, yet many organizations continue to conduct this business function in the same manual way that they have for decades.  Often citing increased costs and insufficient ROI, they rationalize continuing as they always have in carrying out inspections.

The arguments for moving to electronic inspections can be compelling however:

  1. Data Loss and Integrity – When employees are out in the field or on premises with paper and clipboards there is a high probability that these documents might never make it back to the office. They may be left in the vehicle, lost in-transit, damaged by the elements, or maybe the dog ate it!  In addition, jotting notes freehand in the field may result in illegible or unintelligible information being captured.  By digitizing this process, the information is captured within the device and notes are clear and concise.  The inspection can be uploaded immediately to the back end system if network coverage is available, or stored on the device until coverage is available and then uploaded.  Either way, the data is guaranteed to make it back to the office and available for anyone to view.
  1. Duplicate Data Entry – In many cases data captured manually in the field must be re-entered into an automated system. This is an unnecessary duplication of effort.  In addition, entering the manual data into a system introduces the very real possibility of incorrect data entry because of unclear data or errors and omissions.  By capturing the data electronically in the field and feeding it back to the back end system, the data is entered only once and stored immediately.
  1. Data Analytics – As management, the ability to make decisions based on real data is an invaluable tool. With paper based inspections, there is no data stored for analytics purposes.  By capturing data electronically, the information can be presented in any type of format in order to view trends, problem areas, and the “overall picture”.  For instance, a supervisor can detect trends where certain sites or certain physical assets seem to be experiencing more issues than others, and allow for corrective actions to be undertaken proactively.
  1. Regulatory or Legislative Compliance – In many industries, there are regulatory or legislative standards around data storage and retrieval. This is especially true in cases where legal or punitive actions have been undertaken due to safety or other issues which have occurred in the field.  With paper documents, there is the issue of identifying where the relevant inspection documents have been stored (if they indeed have been stored), and then retrieving them for the purposes of judicial or administrative review.  Capturing this information in electronic format allows for quicker retrieval and more transparency in the process.
  1. Image Capture – To quote an old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words”. With paper based inspections, it is difficult to take a picture of a potential issue or failed inspection to capture the actual problem.  With electronic inspections done from a smart phone or tablet, a photo can be taken of the problem and attached to the inspection to provide pictorial evidence of the issue.
  1. Issue Resolution – When non-compliance or issues are encountered during an inspection, an issue must be raised to address the problem. With electronic inspections, issues can be initiated and they will remain open until they are resolved.  This is ensured by reports which will show supervisors or managers any outstanding issues, and will allow them to stay on top of them until they are resolved.  With paper based inspections, these issues will often go out into the ether and be forgotten.

When considering these factors, the question that organizations should be asking themselves is not,“Why should we move to electronic capture of inspections?” but rather “Why haven’t we done so already?”