From the founder – Declan Vanderhor
I want to begin this blog entry by stating that this isn’t a sales pitch for TabLogs. Instead, think of this as more of a jumping off point to use in your own consultancy to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of your current workflows, and whether they need updating/modernising to meet the needs of today’s digital workplaces and fierce competition.
Having spent more than five years working as a Geotechnical Engineer, there’s one lesson that I learned that I am sure many of us in the industry are all too aware.
Engineering is ruled by tradition – and while these safeguards and practices are critical to ensure we adhere to governing standards and practices – it’s little wonder why improvements to work processes can often be an uphill battle when trying to convince upper management.
As a Geotech I am all too aware how hard people in our industry work. With so much on their plate, it’s no surprise that streamlining workflows is not at the forefront of every Geotech’s mind, but this can unfortunately be to their own detriment.
In my discussions with software developers and other stakeholders while creating TabLogs, one thing has become apparent. Outside of engineering, many are surprised when I tell them that geotechnical testing and sampling, such as borehole logging in the field, is still dominated by paper-based recording and reporting. While to us Geotech’s this may be a common practice, the drawbacks to these methods are apparent to anyone who gives it a moment’s thought.
Poor site supervision:
As with snail mail, there is a significant time-delay between on-site work and results getting back to the office. Engineers who will be writing the reports and signing off on works will often not know the quality of the onsite investigation until days later when they get the logs. Engineers who must interpret results and put their name on the line to provide formal recommendations are often left wishing a borehole was drilled a little deeper, or a certain soil type was sampled.
Data entry errors:
Other issues with paper-based logging include forgotten parameters, incorrect calculations, delays in submitting paperwork, paper-digital data entry errors and occasionally lost documents. Paper logs open themselves up to multiple opportunities for human error throughout the process.
Data entry wages:
When building out our first few case studies for TabLogs, we picked two consultancies with fantastic time sheet records then sifted through two years of time allocations to break down the average time spent on borehole log production. What we found is probably not to surprising to most of you, but the average cost to develop one log was $9.80. This quickly translates to thousands of dollars per month in wages, for something that can be done automatically.
The opportunity cost:
Data entry cost are one thing, but it’s compounded by the fact consultancies have fully qualified engineers doing data entry, when they could have them earning billable hours reporting or onsite.
As with most innovations, the switch from paper to a more digital approach (such as TabLogs) will usually be triggered when clear inefficiencies in the current processes are made apparent.
Site representatives may become frustrated when spending numerous additional hours offsite with paperwork, and savvy managers will recognise these frustrations as an opportunity to change and improve their work processes
Immediate benefits from implementing digital engineering processes
Using TabLogs as a sort of case study, I want to share some examples of how digital processes can enhance the geotechnical investigation process and challenge the current status quo.
• From watching various consultancies use TabLogs, I have seen first-hand how businesses have been able to significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for Geotechs to do their on-site investigations and submit their final reports to clients. You can imagine the reputational benefit our users have experienced when they have been able to provide reports to the client’s weeks before their competitors.
• I have also seen how TabLogs allows engineers in the office to conduct real-time supervision of multiple onsite investigations. When on-site engineers and technicians enter data onto cloud-based devices, this has allowed off-site project managers to open project files, view the results as tests were completed, and provide immediate feedback that included appropriate adjustments.
• Something interesting that I saw TabLogs prevent was miscommunication. On one project there was a project manager and onsite engineerwho were discussing the same results, but who would say different colours to distinguish the same borehole material findings. By using TabLogs to record the colour at the start of the investigation, this minimised confusion further along in the analysis stage.
• Tablogs’ dynamic logging workflow leverages the governing standards of the country in which the user is conducting their investigations. This makes logging quick, but also stops data entry errors. For example, when users forget to include a parameter that is crucial to log, Tablogs has prevented the user from submitting the final log until the error was rectified.
I think it’s important that all engineering consultants, no matter what field you’re in, are continuously looking at ways to improve the way they conduct their business. While I would obviously be thrilled if you took the time to learn how TabLogs can help enhance your business processes, there are a myriad of other software solutions out there that could also help decrease inefficient work practices and increase collaboration for your team members. I think in this digital age having a single repository for your consulate’s projects will be a fantastic resource for your consultancy to use well into the future.
At the very least, I hope this blog entry provides you with the motivation to have a discussion with your management team about ways to improve your consultancy’s engineering processes.
Thanks for reading!