Almost since we first started to use mobile phones on construction sites, we have sought to use them to manage defects and conduct inspections (I was at BIW, later Conject, when it launched its Windows app in 2006). As a result, over the past 10 years, and particularly since the 2007 advent of the iPhone and other smartphones, I have seen and written about numerous construction-oriented quality control, defects management, site reporting and ‘punchlisting’ and ‘Field’ applications. Some are tightly integrated with Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration platforms that deliver wider functionality; others are more “point solutions” designed to support particular key processes.
Falling into the second category is TIM: The Inspection Manager. Director Paul Miller tells me that the Southport, UK-based company has been developing mobile data gathering apps since about 2008. Its first TIM product (The Inventory Manager), targeted the residential property inspection market, while The Inspection Manager was launched just over two years ago, and its report templates or survey schedules can be customised – by TIM’s technical support team – to suit any sector (I was shown examples from civil engineering and facilities management, for example).
These customised surveys (delivered on iOS, Android or Windows devices) can include mandatory or optional questions, with built-in guidance notes attached to each question. If needed, survey results can be scored in the background, and actions or recommendations specified. Paul summed up the on-site benefits of TIM:
- All text content is entered in to the pre-designed report template sections, using the mobile device keypad, mandatory questions can be included to ensure the forms are filled in correctly.
- All images captured on the device camera are embedded into the final report with geo-tagged location co-ordinates, along with date and time stamps.
- The digital report can be downloaded in a choice of formats (PDF, CSV or XML file) for printing or sharing with clients and project teams within minutes of being completed.
- The templates are designed to comply with all the necessary regulations/legislation, and health/safety.
- Your documents are backed up to fully encrypted and secure cloud based servers.
- Base data (job type, WI number, Surveyors name, etc) can be imported from excel or CRM systems, that automatically synchronise with the devices.
- Guidance Notes can be added to any question which can show information on how to answer.
The application is available on a monthly subscription tariff (for up to 10, the cost is £50 per month per registered device, with three customised templates included in the deal; for a single user, to register just 1 device to use 3 templates on an unlimited basis is £100 per month). TIM also offers the option to purchase a 5-year licence, with the hosting software installed onto clients’ own system/s.
TIM is competing in a busy market. Disregarding (for now) the SaaS providers delivering inspection as part of a wider offering (Viewpoint, Aconex, Conject, Asite, etc), TIM is also up against some mature UK point solution competitors including SnagR, Dome’s iSnag, Kykloud and GoReport (both the latter offering RICS approved survey reports – post), plus near continent offerings from Finalcad (post), among others.
The core TIM functionality appears little different to its competitors; like Kykloud it claims a 50% time reduction in building survey times, but Kykloud also offers customers the option of designing their own surveys to more exactly meet customer needs rather than templates being created by the vendor, while GoReport also offers some integration with other devices. However, while TIM and Finalcad are available across three operating systems, both GoReport and Kykloud are iOS only.
Kykloud and (particularly) Finalcad are also working hard to support BIM-related processes and long-term asset management, and even – in the case of Finalcad – embracing ‘Big Data’ and leveraging business intelligence reports to set industry benchmarks (post). In this respect, Finalcad appears the most forward-looking of the point solution data capture applications.
Update (8 July 2016) – A note from Paul Miller: “we have licensed the Inspection Manager software to ‘the Warehouse Auditor’ which targets the warehousing/logistics sector. This Wednesday at the Dorchester Hotel we won the ‘Technical Innovation’ of the year award.”