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Given that a large number of my customers are supporting quality and safety engineers in the field with mobile audit software, I tend to pay close attention to the field service management industry. Although once a traditional field service engineer is onsite, the work performed is decidedly different than that of an auditor or quality inspector, I often find insights that the quality community could find useful.
I like to stay on top of research on mobility tools that companies with field service professionals are using. What often stands out are findings on the involvement and reaction of field engineers when mobile tools are deployed. It got me thinking about how many organizations are making big changes involving the devices used to complete audits and inspections.
It is not surprising that many traditional pen and paper methods of data collection for audits and inspections are being phased out and that those who still use manual processes are at least considering moving to a digital platform.
What Mobile Devices Do Your Auditors Use Today?
Quality organizations we interact with regularly have indicated that smart phones are the most common device being carried by auditors and inspectors.
Many insist that the size or form-factor of even the largest smart phone is not adequate for the data collection activities that are necessary for an audit. Though It may be true that utilizing a smartphone to type up a full audit findings and recommendations report is less than ideal, its usefulness in collecting information during the physical walk-through or inspection should be considered.
Your smartphone likely supports Voice-to-Text
During an audit or inspection one thing holds true in almost every case. The surveyor has a need to take notes quickly that will be critical to his/her report. This is where individual style and preference takes over. Some carry a clipboard and jot down notes on paper. Others carry a laptop and type everything they can remember when they get a chance to sit down. Your smart phone gives you the ability to dictate the notes you want to reference for your report in to any text field. This is ideal if you are using an audit data collection app, but you can just as easily load a report template in to Google docs and edit it through your browser on your phone.
The Apple iPhone products may hold a slight advantage over the others when it comes to conducting a field inspection or survey. This is not to say that Android and Windows phones don’t support voice-to-text, but you may need to do a little research to figure out how it works.
Your smartphone is a camera
You may already be using this feature of your smartphone during an audit. There are countless occasions where a picture is worth a thousand words. If a picture isn’t enough there are apps like skitch and evernote that allow you to annotate your photos with words, shapes and drawings.
Your smartphone is connected
One of the most important aspects of any audit is the ability to share and collaborate on the findings. Even when conducting an inspection in a facility in a remote location with no wi-fi connection, it is likely that a cellular data connection is available.
Your smartphone is exactly that — yours
It’s already in your pocket and you are probably already on a plan that supports voice and data. Modern mobile audit software should offer native apps that can be easily installed for free from the app store, windows store, or google play store. BYOD (bring your own device) is the new normal for many industries with increasingly more workers conducting business and personal activity on the same device.
The Importance of Involving your Workforce in the Process
Often those organizations that implement BYOD find it to be highly successful due to inherent familiarity. Remember, your auditors will be using any mobile audit and inspection tools you introduce on a daily basis and getting them on board and empowered in the decision making process will only help the speed of user adoption and success.