Ignore the marketing hype about SnagR being “the first its kind innovative Web and PDA-based site inspection and defect management system” (both BIW and BuildOnline – now part of Sword CTSpace – had PDA-based defects management systems in 2006), but SnagR is a user-friendly digitised system designed to speed up the process of capturing, reporting and rectifying on-site construction defects, mainly using mobile devices.
The application is focused on managing inspection-related activities across a site, providing tools that relate reporting processes to the location of the issue(s) being discussed – with access through PDA-type devices and ‘ultra-mobile’ ruggedised tablets (the website says SnagR is available for Windows 7, Android 2.2, iPhone and iPad). Plans and elevations, in PDF format, are first loaded into the SnagR system, and the project’s reporting structures, categories and processes are configured to suit the companies involved. As the user undertakes an inspection tour, he or she can enter details of identified problems by clicking on the relevant location, selecting details from drop-down menus and adding a photograph. Once the user returns to the site office or otherwise has connectivity, the defect notifications can by synchronised with the core system and notifications including the location plotting are sent to the relevant recipient(s). Once rectified, issues disappear from the displayed plans but records are retained in an audit trail.
SnagR Software Ltd was incorporated in October 2008 and its registered office is near Stafford, UK. Run by Graham, Liz and Mark Henderson, it seems to have superseded another UK Midlands-based company called Tailormade Software whose website lists variants of SnagR, including tools for inspection, surveying and property management. SnagR software is also available in the Middle East through a partnership with Pragmatech in Qatar, signed in September 2009. A video dubbed into Chinese (I think) suggests the company is also looking for partners in south-east Asia.
Like some other defect management tools on the market (eg: DefectInspector from QA Software), SnagR is locally managed and does not appear to be offered on a vendor-hosted Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis. Customers are instructed to load their drawings on to hardware of their choice that can be accessed via the internet. Once indexed and made accessible to SnagR’s navigation system, copies of all drawings can be downloaded to user’s mobile devices so that they can be viewed and interrogated on-site.
This may appeal to users who only need the toolset for inspection purposes within a small supply chain. But I think this means that drawings already loaded into any kind of online construction collaboration system used during project design and delivery will not immediately be reusable (unless some kind of integration between that platform and SnagR is created).
This suggests that SnagR immediately faces competition from existing SaaS collaboration systems (BIW, Sword CTSpace, Asite, etc) that offer defects management and other inspection process support on top of their core file management capabilities. However (see post), as some of the latter vendors may not be able to support as wide a range of mobile device operating systems as SnagR, there may be opportunities for them to augment their existing capabilities by, say, licensing the mobile tools technology from SnagR.
There might also be some potential synergies between SnagR and contract management systems (eg: MPS, Sypro, CMToolkit) where being able to immediately issue, say, early warning notices direct from site could be useful.
Looking to the future
Defects management is a good example of a process which lends itself to use of location plotting, and it can be made almost seamless if devices incorporate GPS capabilities. Instead of having to manually select a room, floor, zone, etc (and assuming some kind of 3G connectivity, of course), the user could simply rely on the device to record its coordinates (and maybe its elevation). One could also envisage an augmented reality version of such an application that allowed you to use a smartphone to view all nearby defects and, for example, navigate to the ones that you need to look at.
Update (28 March 2011): I talked to SnagR CEO Graham Henderson today.
- In his view, SnagR is available on a Software-as-a-Service basis insofar as his company will provide storage space on its own servers if customers require it (though he also explained some clients, particularly in the Middle East and Hong Kong, often preferred setting up their own on-site servers).
- Regarding existing SaaS construction collaboration vendors, he said most of the providers he’d talked to wanted to “do their own thing” (ie develop their own snagging tools); SnagR’s focus is on inspection tools not on developing a file collaboration service.
- I asked about the cost of the SnagR service, and Graham said fees were related to projects’ capital value and duration: a £10m school project might be supported on SnagR for £1,500, while a four-year £100m project would be supported for around £8,000 (in both cases, one-off fees not recurring subscriptions).
- At the end of projects, all information could be downloaded to a read-only database, complete with viewing tools, so that companies retained an audit trail of all inspection-related communications.