Scrap paper - literally!

Old habits die hard in the construction industry - but you can wave goodbye to them and simplify your site management and compliance requirements with Paperless Construction

One of the biggest unsung benefits of paperless construction will be the demise of the vehicle front shelf filing system. It had its limitations, among them the integration of the contents of the takeaway coffee mug with the handwritten spreadsheet of the day's activities as you went round a sharp corner, and the supplier's wrinkled invoice that got discarded with the sandwich wrappers, but it was a convenient and quick storage facility for both the detritus and the vital documents of a hectic construction site.

It needs to go, but it also needs to be replaced by an alternative system that requires scant extra effort in its performance. By happy chance, doing so eliminates the time-consuming but worthless activities involved in rewriting missing time sheets, chasing delivery note duplicates, correcting wrong entries or even just trying to decipher your own handwriting - you get the point!

We can now solve a lot of these issues online by using mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets, and it is only natural that they be used to handle the myriad of forms, rules and regulations that you come up against on a building site. Linked to a central repository of forms and data, entries can be entered in real-time just once, and checked, validated and shared as they occur.

An intuitive mobile application that provides just such an environment is Paperless Construction, a name that aptly describes its ability to replace the whole panoply of paper documents that you traditionally have to deal with on a building site - timesheets, material requisitions, environmental and management inspections - along with quality and safety checks. It can go much further though, and provide induction and daily briefings, dig out permits, link safety alerts to specific tasks and produce method statements or work package plans.

With safety in mind, users can download COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health) briefings, or 'toolbox talks' - short presentations on a single aspect of health and safety which can be provided in PowerPoint as a PDF.

As a mobile platform it allows construction teams to work more effectively on remote building sites and eliminates frequent trips to the Head Office to hand in paperwork, pick up instructions, and update admin on progress and resources required.

Using the application's Site Management tools, users simply load documents onto their smart devices and follow the instructions onscreen to enter data, which is subsequently uploaded to be shared with the relevant back-office applications and other interested employees.

Supervisors can add users to these online site meetings by scanning in their QR codes supplemented by photo verification. This feature allows anyone with the Paperless app to confirm briefing attendance from their own device. They can join online training sessions or meetings and confirm attendance through their own app, with no photo verification required for this feature.

Sloppy paperwork habits are often a symptom of equally careless man management and Health and Safety habits, both of which can safely be relegated to the past using Paperless Construction. The time has long since passed when you could hire employees on an ad hoc basis, hoping to sort out the details during the next tea break. With Paperless Construction new workers can be set up in minutes after checking their online working records and qualifications by scanning the employee's QR code, and their subsequent attendance recorded. You can even apply fatigue management tools for both workers and visitors, and if they are needed to work on a number of projects then the information and travel time can be coordinated within their timesheets as well. All personal information shared online is covered by the usual GDPR requirements.

Fatigue management may be unfamiliar to you but the UK Government has its own take on it, and cites it as a major cause of accidents and inefficiency on building sites. This can now be audited and controlled with the Paperless Construction app: from stating how long a road drill operator can safely work in one session, to providing advice on working patterns on the construction site.

Paperless Construction provides a full health and safety audit trail which includes verification from the site manager that any procedures and instructions that the task requires have been complied with. That even extends to a unique feature - an SOS function that allows individual project members to raise an alarm in the event of an emergency and conduct a subsequent online 'roll call'. Safety briefings are necessary for each project and include inductions and any safety training that may be required.

Back to the basics. We still need to fill in forms, but now they can be downloaded as checklists and other types of documents whenever required, completed with information immediately to hand and uploaded straight away to update the project database. Downloaded forms from Paperless Construction cover all construction site requirements and are easy to fill in, and can be signed instantaneously with electronic signatures. They can also be supplemented by annotations, photos, comments. voice notes and more.

Data from each form becomes immediately available to support management decisions, and can be acted upon to speed up material requisitions, update schedules, initiate faster payments, hire equipment and improve the efficiency of working processes - which in turn will increase the profitability of each project.

A number of different methods of signing in and out and keeping attendance records are available to suit typical working conditions on large and small sites. Wall mounted kiosks might well suit the largest operations with frequent usage compared to smaller ones, where direct contact with supervisors allows them to record comings and goings on mobile devices. There is even a facility for remote sites not yet connected to the internet.

The system can also accurately monitor travel time and rest periods, as well as working hours. RAG (Red, Amber, Green) ratings for a project can, similarly, point to working time excesses which can be dealt with accordingly in real time.

Paperless Construction gives site managers and other supervisors the ability to manage the flow of information and compliance with standards and working processes in a simple and efficient environment. It also provides proactive and instant updates for project managers working in the Head Office. This means that compliance can be monitored from any location using the Paperless Web app - with business or project level dashboards providing feedback from any application. Data can also be exported for custom setup Business Intelligence dashboarding with its KPI data visualisation tools to assess a project's performance.

Using the app, managers have access to information about contractors, users, all documents, briefings and checklists, and can monitor compliance or proactively issue tasks to users, check audit trails, or instigate any site or project related activity.

You can book a free two week trial of Paperless Construction for up to 20 people, which includes a free briefing, full access to all of its features and the assistance of a Paperless Construction rep. If that's not enough, you can go further and pay for a three month pilot for up to 50 users for £750.This includes project reporting, and if you find it works for you then you can move to one of three monthly per user contracts. These are Starter, invoiced on a per contract basis; Annual, which includes unlimited projects with cross-project reporting, and Enterprise, available for companies with specific needs supported by a dedicated Success Manager.