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Whether critical installations or safety inspections, field teams perform a wide range of essential functions for many companies. By the nature of their work, however, field teams risk being isolated from not just the main office, but from the very processes which produce quality work. When field teams fall behind a quality curve, potential rework and unchecked safety hazards can threaten both bottom-lines and business reputations. And if they’re isolated, field teams may not adopt the culture of quality that safety managers strive so hard to cultivate.

However, there is no reason field teams should be removed from pursuing quality simply because they are remote. Field quality inspection software is a powerful force that unifies field teams across distances, bringing together their tasks, work, and data into a shared platform that helps grow a shared quality culture. In other words, it makes a big tent, leaving no field team behind.

In this post, we’ll consider how your field teams produce and collect data affect quality and look at how quality inspection software draws field teams into a culture of quality by overcoming the major challenges they regularly face. 

How quality data overcomes field operation challenges

Between SOPs, scheduled inspections, and issue reporting, every field operation will traffic in significant amounts of data. But exactly how a team goes about using and collecting this data will impact more than just its ability to complete quality work – it will have far-reaching consequences on worker engagement. 

A paper-and-pen operation, for example, produces lesser quality data, disengages your field teams from its reliable collection, and contributes to their isolation. Digital tools, on the other hand, keep everyone on point and engaged to improve the quality of not just the data that emerges but your field operations themselves. 

To illustrate, we’ll look at how these two different data collection methods address recurring major field team challenges. 

Distance 

Field teams are mobile and their distance from the office presents an ongoing challenge, especially when forced to execute tasks with paper SOPs and fill out paper inspection forms. Not only is it physically burdensome to lug around and manage required documents, but paper is also notoriously prone to input errors and being lost. 

More than that, paper is slow. Slow to track down all the paperwork before field teams head out, slow to respond to unfolding events when on-site, slow to transcribe and collate data in a convenient format when they get back. 

Digital tools have no distance or speed limits. Field quality inspection software houses all your SOPs and inspections information in one location, eliminating the need for paper and the burdens that come with it. Cloud-connected, any directives can be updated in real-time, keeping field teams engaged and on track for quality work.

With clear directions and no paper to carry around or lose, field teams free themselves from time-wasting errors and administrative duties that lead to lesser quality work and alienate them from their jobs.

Transit times

Transit time is another recurring headache for teams and supervisors alike. Work grinds to a halt when a team spends hours on the road, only to find out that their paper SOPs are missing crucial information or don’t match up to the situation on site. This is frustrating for supervisors, who deem it an inefficiency, and for field team members, who don’t want to double up on their driving – they just want to finish up the job and move on to the next one. 

With digital checklists, field teams will get the job done right the first time, every time. All they need to perform quality work is in their mobile device, clearly laid out in easy-to-follow checklists and dropdown menus. 

When you're connected to a network, you can instantly sync up records and ask supervisors for help. When you're out of network range, you can still do your work, secure in the knowledge that the information will sync the moment you are reconnected.

Automated workflows and virtual supervision make field work responsive and collaborative so that everyone leaves feeling part of a team that did great quality work together, and on the first go around.

Communication 

Seamless communication is imperative for field teams, but SOP and inspection information moving through a paper system consistently encounter roadblocks that make it slower and harder to communicate. 

Think of the journey one paper SOP takes as it changes hands and locations: from initial drafting to being dispatched, picked up by a field team and added to a pile, driven out to a site where hopefully it matches up to the situation at hand, being triple-checked to make sure data is input correctly, driven back to the office hours later, to have the data input and maybe seen by supervisors.

Barriers like this make communication less efficient and less frequent, which leads to delayed or lesser quality work. Field teams may be hesitant to work if information is missing, opting to wait until they’re back at HQ for clarification or even leaving it for another day – not a recipe for efficient, quality work. 

With digital inspection platforms, communication is automatic and real-time, with no waiting time, phone calls, or driving back to the office just to push the ball forward. With this improved agility, field teams can immediately focus on exactly what needs to be done and be ready to respond to emerging issues. 

With better communication comes better data. Synchronized communication tools help execute standardized SOPs and report incidents to collect more timely, reliable data, which can be later surfaced into issue and performance metrics for supervisors to make better-informed decisions. 

Bringing the whole team together

If you’re looking to keep your quality game on point even when your teams are miles away, the intelligent automation and process rigor of digital field inspection platforms can maximize engagement, performance, and agility.

By collapsing distance and accelerating speed, digital tools collect better data for real-time visibility into task execution and performance that allows field teams to detect potential problems as early as possible and engage them in an ongoing conversation with each other and with supervisors, improving field operations and nurturing a culture that prioritizes quality. 

Why wait?

‍Join the over 2,500 Fulcrum customers who have improved field inspection processes. Sign up for a free trial to see for yourself how your teams can consistently do better-quality work with digital SOPs, field quality inspection and data collection processes.‍

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About the author

Fulcrum is a field inspection management platform built to streamline safety and quality processes, field operations, and asset inspections, especially for mobile teams.

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