5 ways custom database-driven apps enhance engineering field operations

Mar 16, 2021, by Sean King

engineering field operations

Stressing over documentation is a familiar feeling for engineers and project managers. Vital data gets scattered across forms and spreadsheets on numerous devices. So, what's the solution?

Advances in no-code platforms empower you to digitize and centralize all of your mission-critical site inspection data with custom applications you can configure yourself and modify for every project quickly without needing any complex programming.

Create custom data collection apps with automated digital workflows, integrate your SQL records with core systems, and build interactive reporting dashboards to track KPI's and project progress in real-time. Then share access with clients and stakeholders to provide transparency and improve your service levels.

This powerful combination allows firms to replace disparate spreadsheets or printed paper forms with two-way digital records that are accurate and accessible on any device on-site or in-office.

If you want to drive digital transformation and gain an edge for your engineering or environmental services firm digitizing field data collection is hugely important, but it's only the first step.

Here are 5 ways database-driven apps can enhance productivity and future-proof your operations:

1. Collect and share more accurate data.

Collecting the right data accurately and efficiently is a fundamental responsibility for engineers. Whether you're filling out a change order, conducting a safety inspection, or designing a new control process, compliance with professional and regulatory standards is paramount.

While engineering firms need to efficiently and accurately capture, manage, and store their data, data collection hasn't always been easy! So, for years, engineers did the tools and processes they had at their disposal.

More recently, digitization has made inroads into the industry, and many firms have already transitioned to simple mobile forms.

To take the next step, you should customize no-code apps that store project records in a central SQL database that empowers engineers to combine data collection with powerful workflow and automation features.

Capture data including photos, audio, high-precision GPS coordinates, and signatures on your mobile device and embed this directly into your forms. No more pens, spreadsheets, or uploading images from digital cameras!

Enhance your data capture app with instant data validation, skip-logic, and mandatory fields to reduce errors and omissions, saving time and reducing gaps in your data.

Then, leverage custom workflow capabilities to streamline how you manage the process of sharing, analyzing, and actioning your data. Time-saving workflow features include generating automated email notifications and PDF or Word reports.

2. Keep everyone on the same page with standardized processes.

With no-code apps, you can make sure data collected in the field is consistent with your standards across all teams. When your client needs shift, safety regulations change, or guidelines evolve, you can make instant updates to your apps across all platforms and ensure best practice at all times.

Create approval hierarchies to help the flow of vital information from on-site to the office, reducing latency by notifying managers instantly when approvals or reviews are required. By centralizing records in a relational database, you ensure anyone with internet-connectivity can access up-to-date information from anywhere!

That means no more waiting for paper-forms or calling around to find out the results of an inspection, status of a team member, or location of a field asset.

Streamline processes further by providing external stakeholders with on-demand access tokens to allow your customers or contractors to submit data directly into your workflows on an ad hoc basis to help complete a specific project or workflow. This helps ensure that important data doesn't go missing or fall through the cracks due to administrative challenges or workflow frustrations.

3. Fully utilize staff time.

Your staff is highly educated and highly paid. That's why it's vital to give your engineers the tools they need to stay productive in the field. This ensures that every dollar put towards labor costs is effective, and you don't waste their talents doing routine administrative tasks.

Leveraging a central database ensuring field staff can quickly retrieve data records for comparison, view instruction manuals and handbooks on their mobile devices, and grant access to resources when task-related questions come up. This enables your teams to complete their fieldwork on mobile devices conveniently and efficiently.

No-code platforms that offer software robots complement data collection with workflow automation to perform routine data entry tasks and SLA escalations help managers direct their workforce resources efficiently and flag outstanding inspections and site visits. Satisfy compliance and safety guidelines by baking the correct procedures into the task assignment process.

4. Improved communication with project stakeholders.

Keep all your key project stakeholders in the loop with photos from the field and automatic email notifications complete with PDF reports.

Providing regular automated updates can help reduce the time burden of reporting and maintain active two-way conversations with your clients. Automated reporting can be easily added to your workflows using software robots. To improve things further, use on-demand tokens to provide clients with access to a real-time dashboard. This can help clients better understand the status of a project, and dashboards can also allow clients self-service options, such as accessing previous reports and requesting new services.

Also, consider leveraging these same principles to provide internal stakeholders, such as senior management, with detailed summaries of project status and instant updates from the field. Streamlining the flow of data from the field to decision-makers can help prevent latency and miscommunication.

5. Better manage your valuable assets.

For many engineers dealing with physical assets, such as non-destructive testing (NDT) equipment or utility infrastructure, it's beneficial to tie data collection and workflow functionality together with real-time dashboards to create custom asset management systems.

Monitor asset locations, schedule maintenance or inspections quickly, and monitor real-time performance from an asset management hub. For some engineering firms, edge controllers or IoT sensors can connect physical assets to digital workflows, further improving real-time asset monitoring.

Unifying your data collection and reporting functionality together with asset management can help prevent losses or the misallocation of resources and make it easier to maximize the lifetime of valuable assets.

About Flowfinity

To discover how no-code app development can boost your engineering business, contact one of our experts for a complimentary consultation.

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