Improving Workflow by Digitizing Asset Inspection and Survey Processes
For asset-intensive businesses that rely heavily on the performance of their equipment and infrastructure to generate revenue, having a consistent asset inspection and survey process is essential. With regular inspections and surveys, organizations can ensure the safety of buildings and employees. As well as achieve asset compliance and plan for asset maintenance in the most efficient way possible.
In today’s market, it’s never been easier for businesses of all sizes to enhance their surveying and inspection processes. Particularly with the advancement in technology and the availability of IoT devices, condition-based trackers, and cloud-based Asset Management Software.
Why Asset Inspections and Surveys Are Important
For assets to reach optimal performance levels during their useful life, they need to be maintained to such a level that any risk of failure and subsequent downtime is limited. This can be achieved by taking a proactive approach to asset management through regular asset inspection and survey processes.
The process is simple; a surveyor will take a general overview of an asset, report their findings, and store the data into a structured register. An inspector will then take a closer look and carefully scrutinize an asset’s performance and condition. Eventually giving a verdict on repairs, maintenance, costs, compliance, and safety.
Without deploying an effective system for the surveying and inspection of mission-critical assets, businesses face a number of challenges such as:
- High turnover rates of expensive equipment and machinery
- Failing to comply with regulatory standards and requirements
- Risking the safety of workers and building occupants
- Experiencing unplanned downtime of revenue-generating assets
But, when a business does opt for a more data-driven approach, there are a number of benefits to reap. Two key areas that can be improved with thorough asset inspections are building safety and asset maintenance.
Keeping Assets Compliant and Workers Safe
Compliance surveys are regularly carried out to safeguard a working environment and to make sure businesses are compliant with an industry’s safety standards and regulations. Compliance surveys are typically deployed across workplace facilities and come in the form of M&E (mechanical and electrical) inspections. These surveys can also be applied in industries such as building and property management, equipment maintenance, fire safety services, and HVAC contractors.
Ensuring compliance through asset inspections and surveys is not only essential for workplace safety, but also for avoiding lawsuits and fines. For instance, between 2014-2018, gas and electricity utility providers were forced to pay out close to £29 million for failing to meet guaranteed service standards.
Deploying Proactive Maintenance
An advantage of businesses performing regular asset inspections is to monitor the real-time condition of equipment and infrastructure. Through scheduled surveys, maintenance teams and stakeholders can gauge the wear and tear that is plaguing assets.
This allows for repairs to be scheduled before an asset is run to the point of failure, which can result in costly unplanned downtime. With reactive maintenance strategies costing businesses 40% more in unexpected costs, a proactive approach seems the more logical option.
Why Surveys and Inspections Need Careful Planning
A key factor in unlocking the full potential of a business’s asset inspections and surveys is strategic planning. By carefully creating a comprehensive structure from the top-down, businesses can provide their inspectors and surveyors with an effective and repeatable process.
Asset inspections are renowned for their complex and time-consuming workflows. But with a detailed plan in place for field workers to meticulously follow, inspectors can eventually speed up their processes. This not only improves efficiency and productivity in the workplace but also reduces the wait time of asset availability.
Having a blueprint to follow also allows businesses to analyse data and react quicker when making informed decisions. This is helped by giving field workers access to checklists, asset registers, and workflow tasks – whether manual or automated.
Although inspection and survey processes can be greatly accelerated with effective planning, they can still be time-consuming tasks. Particularly if businesses have a manual workflow in place. For instance, a typical approach that a field worker will take to perform an inspection includes:
- Travelling to a site
- Taking notes and photographs
- Returning to the office
- Writing up notes
- Transferring photographs
- Publishing a report
- Adding data to a spreadsheet
- Compiling financial analysis
This process is then repeated for each asset inspection and survey. But, that’s where the introduction of cloud-based tools and software can help.
Using the Right Tools to Accelerate Asset Inspections
A market that is familiar with the process of inspections and surveys is facilities management, which can range from workplace environments to property management. Although dependant on the number of components, the average building survey will take anywhere between 4 to 8 hours to complete.
And, that’s not to mention the proposed 3 to 7 working days it takes to publish a finished report.
Although factors may differ when compared to building surveys, asset inspections can also be a time-consuming and sluggish process. Particularly if a business still uses manual methods such as pen and paper or spreadsheets.
But, with the right asset management tools and cloud-based system, businesses are able to streamline their asset inspection workflows at each stage.
A typical workflow includes driving to a site, locating an asset, knowing the asset’s history, logging inspection data, and finalising a report. Standout features that help to automate these tasks include:
An asset register is a centralized database listing all assets that are associated with a business. Alongside each asset is data such as location, condition, users, maintenance history, and associated costs. As well as increasing asset viability, an accurate asset register can also increase business revenue by 5-18%.
In terms of carrying out inspections and surveys, asset registers can help speed up the time taken to gather all information regarding an asset. By knowing all relevant data, inspectors don’t have to rely on asset managers or maintenance teams to provide information.
Typically, asset registers are cloud-based, which means data can be updated from anywhere at any time. This enables field workers to update asset data straight after performing an inspection, instead of waiting to get back to the office.
A key feature that helps to eliminate the delays associated with asset inspections is real-time asset tracking. When an inspector arrives on-site, they can spend a lot of time tracking down the right asset or finding an asset manager. But, with access to asset data and a real-time location system (RTLS), they can pinpoint an asset’s exact location.
Real-time asset tracking is possible through the use of various asset tagging tools such as RFID, Barcode, QR Code, Bluetooth, and NFC.
Another benefit of real-time tracking is allowing office-based workers and customers to know when a field worker is on-site. Using fleet telematics and GPS trackers, stakeholders can be notified if an inspector will be late for a job.
Work Order Management
Being able to provide a real-time overview of workflow tasks is beneficial for all stakeholders when it comes to inspections and surveys being carried out on mission-critical assets. For instance, production managers need to know when an asset will next be available to complete a job.
Work order management tools also allow inspectors to understand who issued the job, why the job is being carried out, and when the inspection needs to be completed. While allowing other stakeholders to see at what stage the inspection is at.
Mobile Access and Offline Inspections
One of the most important features for any field worker wanting to improve the efficiency of their inspections and surveys is having access to data at all times. This is achieved through cloud-based tools, which allow users to access information at any time and anywhere.
Mobile capabilities can drastically reduce the time it takes for inspectors and surveyors to input data and compile reports. With offline forms and checklist also accessible on a mobile device, there’s no need for users to wait until they’re back at the office to write up their notes or transfer photos.
Trends Inspectors and Surveyors Should Look Out For
Asset management and inspection systems are constantly evolving, which brings about advancements in technology and new tools to help improve a business’s inspection and survey processes. Recent trends include:
Using Drones for Asset Inspections
The use of UAV’s has been a welcomed addition in the process of inspecting and surveying assets. Drones have been used to reach areas that are otherwise difficult to access, such as building roofs and bridges.
Using drones to assist with asset inspections allows inspectors to gather the structural data they need from a safe distance. For instance, drones are now commonly used on off-shore oil rigs to examine the infrastructure of oil and gas operations. With the use of camera-mounted drones, a live picture can also be streamed back for closer inspection.