In this section of the site we describe some of the challenges around various situations, and provide examples of how they can be managed. The examples given are based on our own experiences with real life applications.
All workplaces contain hazards of one sort or another. This could be a dangerous chemical, or even a tripping hazard presented by an extension cord. So most workplaces have rules designed to ensure the safety of employees and visitors. But there may be some employees who are not familiar with the rules, or who choose to ignore them. So the rules are not enough, enforcement is required, and this will begin with an inspection - to identify issues of non-compliance.
There are several potential challenges with workplace inspections. They must be conducted on schedule. They must include all locations and equipments due for inspection. Specific inspections must be carried out. And we have to maintain a record of results. That record must include who did the inspection, when it was done, what was inspected, and what specific checks were made. The records must be accurate, must be available in a timely fashion, must be protected from loss. And the integrity of the whole process must be protected - the records must be safe from subsequent modification or "correction".
We all use desktop computers at our desks, both to access and store information. It is sensible that those conducting inspections should have access to the same tools. A handheld computer can provide information to guide an inspector (where to go, what to inspect, specifically what to look for). It can also collect information, where the inspector went, what items were inspected, who did the inspection, and what time the inspection was done. If the handheld computer has a barcode or RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) reader, then it can also automatically confirm the item inspected (and provide protection against "spoofing" the system.)
A handheld computer will typically be set up with multiple inspection routes. The inspector selects a route from the list provided and moves to the location shown. The location is confirmed by scanning a barcode or reading an RFID tag. The handheld computer then identifies any specific items to be inspected at that location, and once the item has been confirmed (again, with a barcode or RFID tag) the system prompts with any specific instructions relevant to the inspection at that point. The process is repeated for other items and other locations. The system advises the inspector if any locations or items are missed.
There are several methods. The preferred option is through a wireless connection - either local (wifi) or wide area. If this is not feasible, the handheld computer is placed in a docking station and the information is transferred using the existing network and internet access. How is information on inspections performed and results found made available? The results of the inspection can be viewed using a web interface. Where this is not possible, results a can be presented on screen, in printed form, or in PDF format.
Preparing an inspection route is a bit like preparing a stir fried meal. For the stir fry, you first prepare all the ingredients, and the cooking time is quite short. To prepare an inspection route, you prepare all the components, and then quickly put them together. You identify any equipment to be inspected, and define specific checks for that equipment. You identify physical locations. You identify specific routes to be completed. With this prep work done, inspection routes can be prepared quickly by linking inspections to items, items to locations, and locations to routes.
Identify the item type, and checks to be conducted on that item. Note that items can be included in several checks, so there could be daily, monthly and annual checks applied to a given item.
Describe the location, and any checks to be applied to that specific location - windows closed, equipment to be left on (or switched off), temperatures to be checked.
Identify all locations on that route, and the frequency for the route - daily, weekly, monthly, annual.
There are three levels of reporting, canned, ad hoc, and raw data. The canned report is a one button selection process, with most popular reports printed immediately, including an executive summary report - a high-level one page report with all key information. The Ad Hoc reports enable the user to generate specific reports, by location, time frame, equipment inspected, or inspection results. The Raw Data report provides all data collected, unprocessed, in a format that can readily be imported into a spreadsheet or other third party application for further processing.
The benefits are many. The system prompts inspectors to complete specific inspection routes, and helps ensure that all locations are checked, that all items are checked, and that all checks are made in each location and for each item. Information is transmitted automatically, with no need for additional data entry (and consequently no delays and no transcription errors). Information is readily available to authorised users. The inspection data is processed, so that it can easily be interpreted. It can show that all required inspections have been completed, but it can also quickly identify missed items and remedial action required. Any failures are reported clearly, enabling corrective action to be taken. And data is stored securely for as long as you wish, ensuring that proof of compliance is available should it ever be required.
Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.> Likewise with
inspections. The proposed system helps ensure not only that inspections are done, and that
they are done properly and on time, it also helps ensure that they can be seen to have been
done. There is some initial overhead in setting up the inspection routes, but this is not
overly demanding, and once completed gives the inspectors an effective tool for completing
inspections, and capturing the data collected. The reporting system provides an overview of
the results, and a variety of detailed information which can help identify hazards and
enable corrective action to be taken in a timely and effective fashion. The above brief
description is intended to provide an introductory overview for those not already familiar
with these systems. We are of course happy to answer any questions you may have about a
specific application that you may be considering.
If you found this useful, you might also want to review:
- a brief video about our inspection solution
- an introduction to barcode technology
- an introduction to RFID
- mobile data collectors
- consulting services: barcodes and their applications