The Missouri-based company has been getting better form data with less effort and using it to improve safety and other key areas.
By: Greg Norris
A thorough incident reporting process is a safety necessity in heavy construction and when events occur, Twehous Excavating now relies on an e-forms and reporting tool.
Switching from paper forms – something the company based in Jefferson City, Missouri has done for dozens of use cases over the past three years – simplifies the process and improves the quality, consistency and immediacy of the information collected. Rather than leaving the data to languish on paper, Twehous also uses it to generate reports and dashboards for trend analysis and to deliver alerts immediately and automatically to specified recipients when a form is filled out a certain way.
“There were several drawbacks and limitations when our forms were on paper,” reports Cole Twehous, a project manager for the third-generation family business founded in 1959. “Filling out forms was a pain and a huge time killer in the field; sometimes they rode around in trucks for weeks, or we would never see them at all,” he adds. “We also never knew what the status of a form was at any given time, and there was a lot of inefficient double handling of the forms.”
Twehous’s grandfather founded Twehous Excavating with a single dozer, specializing in building ponds for farmers in the area. Today, the company has 100 employees and provides a wide range of heavy construction services, including demolition and blasting.
Twehous was using estimating and field tracking applications from B2W Software when B2W Inform was added to phase out paper forms. The new system was initially used for equipment inspections. With every piece of equipment checked weekly, that remains the most used form. The company quickly branched into electronic forms and reporting for safety and inspections. Form templates for about 30 use cases have been built to date. More than forty regular reports are generated from the form data, and four go out automatically to specific recipients on a weekly basis.
Incident Investigation Reporting
Incident investigations provide a good example of the benefits of a digital process for forms and reporting. All contractors make every effort to avoid incidents, typically defined as an unexpected event resulting in injury or damage to property. This can be especially challenging in sitework and demolition.
“When something happens that shouldn’t have happened, we need to know why and how we can prevent it from happening again,” Cole Twehous summarizes. To answer those questions, the company designed a thorough and structured incident investigation form. Immediacy is the first goal.
“An electronic form helps us capture the who, what, when and why as soon as we can, while the information is fresh in everyone’s mind,” Twehous explains. “Definitive feedback is also critical. We want to take out all the ambiguity or assumptions about what happened. When one structured form is completed online, instead of multiple pieces of paper in different places, we know all of the details.” E-signatured further improve accountability, confirming who has seen the information and when.
Twehous has set up several reports and dashboards that aggregate data from its forms, including those used for incident investigations. This helps the company track and identify trends. “Because the data is structured and electronic, it’s very easy to create these reports or to customize them by filtering the data differently with a few clicks,” according to Twehous.
In the case of incident reports, for example, the company tracks details on when, where and why nine different types of events occur to better understand how they can be avoided or prevented.
The alerts and notifications capability of B2W Inform also gives the company the option of keeping members of the management team informed without over informing them, according to Twehous. On the incident investigation form, for example, a safety director has the discretion of checking a box to indicate that an email notification about the form should be sent to all company managers. When the box is checked, the system automatically sends the alert as soon as the form is submitted.
When an incident is minor, such as minimal damage to a vehicle, and additional investigation is not required, Twehous says there is no need to bother the management team with an alert. “When the severity of the incident calls for it, though, we want to know immediately,” he explains. “This allows us to get our heads around what went wrong, why and what we need to do to fix it or prevent it from happening again.”
Building alert capabilities into electronic forms is easy. Most follow basic logic, such as whether or not a box is checked or if a quantity entered is over or under a specified number. When the condition is met, the system can automatically send the alert by email or text message to a list of specified recipients. The alerts can even go to recipients who are not licensed users of B2W Inform, such as vendors or subcontractors.
In addition to incident investigations and equipment inspections, Twehous is currently using electronic forms for confined space entry permits, state-required quarry inspections, trench slope calculations, utility damage reports and several other use cases. The electronic format provides an additional benefit: the opportunity to improve forms and reporting on an ongoing basis.
“You can often get a different perspective or a better response when you present a question a different way,” explains Twehous. “With the electronic format, our forms and our reports are never really done. We keep finding ways to improve the content and the design to make them more useful.”