The Digitalization of Data Collection Methods
This page contains the information we have gathered and created on various digitalization methods regarding data collection and, more specifically, the digitalization of information gathered from worksites, the further processing of information, and the digitalization of information distribution. At the bottom of the page you will find the most recent updates to our blog, which can be freely shared. As application developers with experience of the construction and shipbuilding industries, we deliberately examine data collection from a certain point of view. We therefore welcome debate and challenges to our arguments.
A Brief Definition of the Digitalization of Data Collected During Worksite Visits
Digitalization generally refers to the conversion of information collected using traditional methods into an electronic format, i.e. one readable on a computer. Such information includes written information, photographs, sound, documents etc. During worksite and inspection visits information is most often collected using pen and paper, as this is an easy, quick and cheap option. Digitalization refers to the process by which this analogue material is converted into digital data.
Digitalization is the only method by which collected data can be quickly distributed to organisations in an objectively readable form that also allows for further processing.
On Data Collection Methods
Every company has its specific data collection methods, working practices and checklists. In the era of digitalization, many construction and manufacturing industry actors have already undertaken the digitalization of monotonous and recurring operations. While the objects of measurement, document templates and data collection methods vary from one company to the next, they all still make use of pen and paper.
Why do these traditional tools continue to play such a prominent role on worksites in the 21st century, when digitalization brings several benefits including improved quality, minimized errors and smoother communication?
There are a number of reasons for this:
1. Lack of availability of premade applications with specific necessary features
While applications or SaaS services for data storage and project management are myriad, there is a lack of applications suitable for digitalizing data collection, and those already on the market serve only certain industries or organizations (e.g. new build).
As younger company managers are finding it very difficult to establish new practices among executing middle management personnel, resorting to pen and paper is simply an easier option. Even the most resilient of management teams is unlikely to tolerate for long the resistance to change that permeates all levels of the organization and rears its head especially in springtime.
Challenges to Traditional Data Collection Methods
As mentioned above, many companies continue to rely on pen and paper as data collection tools. Despite its speed and convenience, however, this approach presents a number of significant challenges:
- Objectivity and coherence of collected data
- Likelihood of errors during transcription
- Work-intensive nature of transcription
- Difficulty of distributing information to other members of the organization
- Data storage
- Personification of working practices
- Correction and tracing of erroneous information
Subcontractors and stakeholders continue to communicate primarily by telephone, supported by computer-aided design (CAD). Even when the sender and recipient of the information share a common first language, the risk of misunderstanding is high.
When depending on information gathered using pen and paper and communication methods based on such information, errors are usually not detected in time – i.e. only during installation at the worksite. And when errors are detected in a timely manner, they can no longer be corrected at all stakeholder levels. Tracing and identifying errors in information gathered and stored using analogue methods is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Error minimization is best achieved through data collection methods that are digital and uniform, as well as through uniform data distribution methods.
Making sure information is accurate and updateable is especially important in renovation work carried out on a project basis and module installations located far away from the country of manufacture or design.
Mobile data collection methods, challenges and wishes
Digital data collection methods have several advantages.
- Reduction of human errors
- Communicating with project organizations and company management
- Improving quality
- Shorter lead time, less explanation required
- Customer satisfaction
- Lower costs due to higher efficiency and fewer errors
- Managing claims
- Minimizing errors
According to surveys conducted on the subject, including by us, data collection carried out with the aid of mobile devices generally faces four challenges / needs:
- Telecommunications connections must function as intended when necessary
- Data collected at the worksite using a mobile device must be easily processable on a desktop computer
- Entering data into a mobile device must be quick and easy, including for those with large hands
- The chosen solution must be easy to implement and teach to others
In our own work as an application developer, we have sought to concentrate on a user-friendly mobile data collection app, which can be quickly and easy adopted by an organization.
As we embarked on the project of developing our own solution, we consulted and conducted a number of surveys and studies into users’ expectations and wishes regarding data collection applications designed for use in the field on mobile devices.
The magic words: ”Mikko prefers to use pen and paper”.
The above comment was uttered by a respondent when asked about obstacles to the adoption and benefits of digital data collection applications.
These words became a cornerstone of our development process, whose result had to be an application comparable to pen and paper in convenience and simplicity.
Our Solutions to the Challenges:
Challenge 1: Telecommunications connections must function as intended when necessary
Solution: The Dotag data collection application works in offline mode when collecting and storing data.
Challenge 2: Data collected at the worksite using a mobile device must be easily processable on a desktop computer
Solution: The data is collected on a mobile device. Collected data can be sent by email in PDF format or in a format suitable for further processing to Dotag Manager, our SaaS service that works on desktop computers.
Challenge 3: Entering data into a mobile device must be quick and easy, including for those with large hands
Solution: We incorporated large buttons and divided functions into clear phases – collection and transmission.
Challenge 4: The chosen solution must be easy to implement and teach to others
Solution: Dotag is an extremely simple application, which adapts to the user’s needs without overwhelming them with unnecessary functions. While the application is simple enough to use with no prior training, given the possible difficulties caused by those resistant to change, we suggest that a few innovative and enthusiastic people help with the first stages of adoption.
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Pen and paper simply no longer cut it. Digitalization brings solutions to many problems and makes life on worksites easier.
Digitalization does not have to be frustrating or require investments worth hundreds of thousands. With the right help, it can be effortless – or even fun!