Ten Ways to Make Daily Field Log Data Entry Faster, Easier and Better
Greg Norris - B2W Software
The field log is a staple of heavy construction project management. Foremen and managers responsible for recording labor, productivity, materials and equipment utilization in the field know that their companies rely heavily on the accuracy and timeliness of the data. Most, however, would rather focus more time on managing production and less time on data entry.
Moving from paper and spreadsheets to electronic daily logs is an obvious first step towards making life easier for field managers and freeing up time for them to focus on core responsibilities. All electronic field tracking software, however is not created equal. Here are ten features and capabilities to look for to make capturing accurate data in the field easier and faster.
Starting from a standard template or from scratch, contractors can make data capture faster and more accurate by determining the specific sections to be included in their electronic field logs and the layout of those sections based on their unique requirements. The option of adding sections or fields for unique user-defined information or “custom properties” – such as the weather – is also a plus.
The best electronic field logs provide users with a “grid view” format, so hours, quantities and overhead costs can be entered all at once from a single, customizable screen. Employees and equipment, for example, are seen along the vertical axis of the screen, while jobs and cost code information is visible across the top.
Clear icons, permanent on each screen, are a great feature. They allow users to “jump” instantly to any section of the field log. Ideally, icons will include summary numbers to show at a glance how many people, accounts, pieces of equipment, etc. are associated with that log.
Simple drop-down menus complement jump links. Again, the goal is to make it easy to filter by job, account or account type in order to navigate to a particular section.
Key in the first letters of the name of an employee or a piece of equipment, for example, and the system should do the rest and complete the field. This saves a few seconds of typing in full names or scrolling through long alphabetical lists – time that adds up fast, considering how often foremen or superintendents do this every day.
Taking advantage of this modern technology, foremen or superintendents can bypass keying in some information altogether and instead dictate their comments or notes into the log. This is especially helpful for logging data on the fly and for users who work with tablets in the field.
Like a spell-check feature in a text document, built-in checks within a good field log software solution can identify common errors or missing information and provide users with a warning before they submit the log.
Field logs provide a wealth of information required for accounting, payroll and detailed project evaluation. They should also make it easy to produce concise summary reports in an easy-to-understand format. This gives foremen and field crews a high-level picture of progress versus plan on a daily basis.
Time-and-materials work on the same log
“T&M” or “cost plus” work not covered within the original estimate is common. A single electronic field logs should allow contractors to differentiate between this work and the fixed-price work often being performed in parallel and with the same crews. This eliminates the added work and the opportunity for errors associated with creating and maintaining two separate logs.
When field tracking software is unified with the software systems a contractor uses for equipment maintenance and resource scheduling/dispatching, users in the field can create repair request and resource requests right in the field software. Those requests are then communicated instantly and automatically to the other two systems.
Contractors across heavy civil specialties are turning to construction software and mobile capabilities to gain operational efficiency and access to data. They are also relying on the intuitiveness and ease-of-use features of that software to get buy-in from their employees in the field. These features and capabilities of a modern electronic field tracking solution support all of these requirements.