Following the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction professionals have proven their flexibility and pragmatism to keep going despite significant practical challenges. Lockdowns, travel bans and social distancing measures have made so many aspects of our working lives more difficult but there are few tasks (if any) more important than inspections.
A recent article in RIBAJ (Must we always be there to make a site inspection?) draws attention to the issue and clarifies exactly why the industry can ill afford to let inspection proficiency slide. As well as being essential to the management of safety and quality, effective and timely inspections are a crucial factor in meeting deadlines. The article cites research showing that ‘70% of extension of time claims involve access to site issues,’ which is 9% higher than any other factors.
Remote inspections have proven vital throughout these times of adversity but according to Tom Boland, Zutec’s Global Head of Digitisation, it is the digitisation of ‘formal quality inspections’ which ‘offers the largest scope for productivity improvements.’
While contractors can use a mix of platforms and software to conduct informal inspections (things like Zoom, YouTube or Teams, for example) it is through the application of specialist construction software and formal remote inspections that the biggest gains can be made.
The key difference between the formal and informal approaches lies in the compatibility and connectivity of the software elements being utilised. Via a specially designed construction inspection platform – such as Zutec’s Field Productivity – things like workflows, reports, approvals, BIM data, site diaries and site progress tracking all feed into the same cloud-based system. This means that in terms of information detail and visibility, findings and action points from a formal remote inspection can be fully relied upon. Accountability is traceable and compliance is demonstrable.
Tom says, ‘formal digital inspections follow quality assurance procedures while also absorbing and coexisting with video conferencing applications. Driven either by a contractual or compliance obligation (for example, carrying out safety checks on fire doors), they are the only way that the quality of a project can be managed remotely.’
Not only can formal remote inspections be every bit as thorough as physical inspections, they are also substantially more convenient. Even when the need for social distancing is long behind us, remote inspections will continue to offer a huge range of benefits. Highly valued experts like architects, Health and Safety specialists or Quality Control managers, will be able to offer their support without travelling from one place to another, making it easier for them to work across multiple projects or increasing their productivity (the time they spend applying their specialism) on complex individual projects.
The industry now knows that remote inspections are workable and we have seen first-hand the time-savings that they can deliver. The question is whether or not construction firms make the most of the current momentum and fully embrace digitalisation through a largescale conversion to formal remote inspections.