Over the last three decades, the world has seen an explosion of technology that has changed some of the most fundamental ways in which we live and work. Engineers, inspectors, scientists and technicians have all benefited from advanced testing and measurement equipment, design and drafting tools, and the ability to easily share digital files. KCI is leading a revolution in field services, by creating a mobile tablet-based system that allows staff to collect data and file reports on the fly.
Back in 2012, Geospatial Solutions Regional Practice Leader and Vice President Douglas V. Goldsmith assembled a team of analysts and programmers to work with KCI’s utilities and construction staff in developing an application that would change the way KCI does business as well as elevate the levels of service that the firm offers to our clients.
“In many places, the industry right now is paper-based, and is not necessarily thinking of the data aspects and how we can tie it all together,” said project manager Bradley W. Spittel. “You can see momentum changing as the mobile workforce continues to grow.”
KCI’s goal was to develop an effective and efficient business solution that standardizes and improves the daily report collection process. It was critical that the single system support multiple service lines by finding common ground among their specific needs.
After defining technical work flows, developers created the Mobile Field Services application, or MFS, the first and only Windows 8 tablet inspection system currently in the marketplace. The MFS incorporates numerous inherent capabilities to tie data together and ensure that when a field user finishes a work day, all required actions are complete. In other words, there is no need to download and import photos, scan drawings, or submit a document via e-mail, ftp or snail-mail. All that is done via the mobile app, which will sync to the cloud database as soon as connectivity becomes available.
KCI’s Utility Services Practice projects that it may be able to cut a typical two- or three-day operation down to one by reducing map production time. Vice President D. Scott Riddle also sees the system as a major step towards his long-term vision of offering point-of-sale operations. “For now, we’re streamlining processes and project performance, but we plan to advance the MFS in future phases to give field technicians the ability to sell our services directly, as well as create, execute and collect on contracts, all on site.”
KCI expects the system to have major impacts on both quality and cost. The MFS’s ability to reduce the number of people involved in rewriting, interpreting, translating and drafting collected information significantly minimizes the potential for errors. Recording information first hand also reduces time and effort, creating efficiencies that can be passed on to our clients through cost savings.
Field teams are embracing the new system, and many are excited to learn a new way of doing business. Clients are also on board. KCI’s Construction Management Discipline has partnered with Howard County for a soft launch of the application, targeting a new key project in Maryland. Both KCI and the county are excited to share lessons learned through utilization of the app throughout the construction life cycle. KCI also proposed and plans to utilize the new system on the city of Tampa’s water protection contract.