By Peter Graham – Building Surveyor
Due to increasing pressure to improve efficiency, mobile database technology has slowly emerged as an industry favourite in an attempt to cut costs and increase productivity.
The typical construction project is often complex and involves many physically dispersed parties who all rely on multiple layers of information in order to successfully complete a project. Mobile database technology has enabled centralising and seamless sharing of this information which has brought about huge benefits to the industry. Although tablets of one form or another have been around for many years it wasn’t until the iPad came along that things really started to change. Suddenly there was a device that could be used by a computer novice but sophisticated enough to give instant access to multiple forms of data in any location. In New Zealand the uptake of mobile technology has been slow but many of the larger construction companies now rely on the efficiencies that mobile technology can bring. Decision making is slowly being taken out of the office as professionals on site now have instant access to live information regarding the progress, quality control, assurance and conformity of what is being built on projects (BIM).
Given the sophistication of software there are now no limits to the extent of process automation. With the ability to handle and manipulate photographs, dictations and drawings the world of surveying lends itself perfectly to the mobile database approach. Data collection and reporting is made so much quicker and easier without the need for any compromise on quality of reporting and service delivery. At Prendos we use the iPad to carry out and report on long term maintenance planning and have used the same approach very successfully with condition surveys. Both these processes make use of the in house developed building element dictionary which has been automated on the iPad to great effect. The ability to utilise such a powerful vault of information has seen drastic reductions in the time to carry out these types of surveys. A recent project required Prendos to produce over 100 long term maintenance plans and condition surveys which were carried out successfully over a 4 week period by a team of 4 surveyors using the iPad. The streamlined process allowed us to turn this project around very quickly and respond to reporting requests almost immediately. The surveyor was freed up to spend more time utilising his/her core surveying skills whilst still achieving a high quality cost effective end product.
Having used conventional methods and mobile database technology to produce these types of reports, the efficiencies gained using the latter are enormous. From my experience industry estimates of up to a 40% reduction in surveying time are a fairly accurate assessment. Adopting a cloud based system can offer even greater benefits for those clients or surveying companies who have a need for real time data. This cloud based approach effectively creates a live information portal accessible at anytime from anywhere. The ability to share and access live information in this fashion will continue to transform the industry as the efficiencies are now so great they cannot be ignored. The days of producing reams of paper and expensive delays in communication are soon to be well and truly over.
Personally, I never imagined coming from an information background with skills in database development could be so valuable in the world of surveying. I remember 10 years ago being asked by a consultant in the NHS back in the UK if I could create a touch screen database to manage one of his clinics. The response from colleagues was along the lines of “tell him he’s dreaming”. But little did I know 10 years on I would be designing exactly this sort of application as a surveyor, in New Zealand. The future for mobile technology within the industry is exciting and growing at a fast pace. The possible future applications are endless and it is only a matter of time before the tablet is a piece of kit the surveyor does not leave the office without.