The quality controllers who ensure that the construction sites of Thomas & Piron are kept up to standard are currently testing process management through electronic forms. Going paperless has boosted the efficiency of the group’s quality system.
With its customer satisfaction levels on the rise, Thomas & Piron can be justifiably proud of the quality system set up between 2007 and 2010. The house quality monitoring SQL application ‘wEVAL’ manages the quality checks and inspections performed by architects and quality controllers on structural work and finishing work as well as that of subcontractors. The paper evaluation sheets are filled out on-site, entered into Excel and then transmitted to the office, where they are imported into wEVAL, with requests for intervention transmitted to the relevant departments through mailing lists. “It involves at least 3 people and 5 to 10 days for processing, that’s a lot if you want to ensure optimal responsiveness. For the past 4 years and in collaboration with the STC, we have been looking for a solution to gradually eliminate the steps between information-gathering in the field and the issuing of final reports,” explains Michel Dombret, Manager Organization & Quality at Thomas & Piron.
Looking for the perfect support
The choice of mobile tools (tablets and smartphones, among others) that offer the best compromise between the different user profiles (100 of them, in the medium term) is key to guaranteeing acceptance of project. “We are coming from a paper culture in which the A4 format is the norm. For electronic support, anything goes. Some people think that electronics will do away with all restrictions. In fact, the respect for sequences of data entry and for photos that are processed requires good organization and some time to adjust. Also, the resistance to shock and moisture for this type of equipment must be taken to account.
Entering info in a single step
The solution Belgacom Field Force Automation (powered by Belgacom partner Praxedo) was chosen following a demo given by the operator. “It was the only stable interactive tool that offered something concrete: a one-year test, in real life, on site. With flexible forms which we were able to edit internally and quickly adapt to our needs. Currently, the assessment group is testing 6 forms, personalized by Praxedo, with the content adapted to the customer’s needs: drop-down lists, options to select, blank fields for comments and photos, etc. A tablet is associated with a specific user. The user can access various forms, which he can select or which will appear based on his schedule. After having entered the required data (date, client, etc.) and choosing the type of intervention (check by architect, ordering a crane, etc), the user draws up the report and validates it. A PDF version is automatically created which is transmittable via GPRS, Edge, 3G or wifi to an employee who can enter it into wEVAL.
Towards the integrated processing of information
Once the choice of supports has been completed and validated, the second phase of the project can be planned, together with the Thomas & Piron information developers. The data gathered on the Belgacom Field Force Automation platform will be immediately and automatically inserted into the wEVAL application. “In order to deal with an urgent need for intervention detected during a quality inspection, for example, when an element is not positioned right, we use our mobile phone. Tomorrow, it will simply be a matter of taking a box to request resolution virtually in real time.” A site supervisor who observes that work is progressing well, can immediately send a request for a crane to the planner in charge via Belgacom Field Force Automation and, thus, save up to a week in the worksite schedule. The integration of photos from a tablet also facilitates the compilation of the Dossier DIU ‘Dossier d’Interventions Ultérieures’ (or File for Further Interventions) provided at the time of the preliminary acceptance and required, should the building be resold. “Downloading from the camera, conversion into PDF, printing … it’s a huge amount of work that will be saved for the staff!”
With 500 ‘turnkey’ houses and 300 apartments each year, Thomas & Piron is a leader in housing construction in Wallonia and in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The group is also active in France, Morocco and Rwanda, and carries out professional projects and renovation work as well.
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