Crosstown Transit Constructors is a joint venture of four Canadian and American construction firms working to complete the western contract for the Eglinton Crosstown Extension LRT in Toronto, as part of the city's subway system expansion.
The project is ongoing and as of March, 2017, the crews are performing geotechnical works at Kennedy Station. This includes the drilling of boreholes in the roadway and boulevards to determine the existing condition of asphalt, soil and rocks.
This extensive construction project is one with considerable health and safety requirements, including the undertaking of regular construction audits and adherence to stringent regulations. Employing close to 300 employees (including subcontractors), Crosstown Transit Constructors has over a dozen types of critical safety forms that field workers must fill out during their shifts.
According to Christina Lindstrom, Crosstown Transit Constructors' Health and Safety Manager, the communication of information is a key challenge.
"We began the old fashioned way, with paper forms in the field, for everything from safety site checklists to surface engineering reports. But we knew there had to be a more efficient and effective way of communicating this data."
After evaluating several alternatives, the safety team at Crosstown decided on using a SaaS-based mobile form solution to speed up business processes and increase productivity (learn more in Technology Adoption in the Workplace: Top 3 Myths Debunked).
Mobile form solutions on smartphones and tablets allow rich data to be collected on the job site – no matter where it may be. Users fill out safety inspection forms on mobile devices, capturing text, signatures, photos (with the ability to sketch on an image), bar/QR codes, GPS and time stamps, and more (find out more about the benefit of these features in Using Rich Media to Enhance EHS Reporting).
Crucially, the data can flow in both directions. Users in the field can access key back-office data within forms, e.g. parts or client information can be preloaded into dispatched forms or made available in dropdown menus. Once a form is complete, automated workflows can send the data to one or multiple destinations, including back-office systems such as Oracle or SAP, cloud services such as SharePoint, Dropbox and Google Sheets, as well as analytics systems.
"It was easy to right away see the value in mobilizing our forms in the field," said Christina Lindstrom. "We began the rollout with approximately 15 users on iPhones and iPads, and the team continues to discover potential new use cases every week."
Several aspects of the mobile solution have proven to be invaluable to the Crosstown data collection process, including offline functionality and photo capture. Also, leveraging programs from Apple, such as the Device Enrollment Program, allows the IT department an easy and efficient way to secure, manage and deploy iPads and iPhones into the field.
"The ability to function without network connectivity is huge for us. Our field staff use iPads to capture safety inspection data on site, including photos and sketches, and they can tap "submit" in the app while they're still underground. Once connectivity is re-established at the surface, the forms are automatically sent from the app's outbox."
The automated data entry is where Crosstown is really noticing a big difference.
"Previously, all paper forms would eventually make their way back to me. I had to review them for errors and perform time-consuming data entry or scanning. Before, the process could take up to five days. Now, forms are dispatched to all of management and the whole process takes an hour.""In an industry where safeguarding employees and the job site is paramount, our mobile solution has greatly helped us streamline and speed up our health and safety data collection and reporting process."