When you think of the commissioning process in the construction industry, the first thing that comes into mind is probably not a disruptive technology. The commissioning process, which began back in the late 1970s and 1980s and has traditionally been paper-intensive, has evolved due to the complexity of industry expansion and nuanced project scope. Commissioning is now a vital component of quality assurance, project management, and cost savings.

Done well, commissioning can reduce costs by increasing efficiencies in operational equipment and building maintenance, limiting overall construction costs, and creating a system that can be monitored and managed for continuous commissioning. Commissioning is now a crucial element of the overall equation that results in an owner’s return on their investment, and XForms’ innovative software solution integrates technology in such a way as to achieve all of these goals more effectively than ever before.

Commissioning Project Phases

To highlight the benefits of the XForms software in the construction commission process, it is necessary to review the process’s high-level project phases, which are typically threefold.

The design phase

…determines the owner’s project requirements (OPR), defines the facility’s usage and function, design documents, equipment selections, captures specifications, identifies key performance indicators (KPIs), and outlines project milestones. A good OPR includes a commissioning plan with specifications, incorporates the commission process throughout the construction lifecycle duration, and serves as a reference guide and project management tool.

The construction phase

…includes the general contractor and subcontractor’s roles and responsibilities. The construction phase of the plan begins at demo or groundbreaking and ends with the completion of construction. 

The commissioning phase

…should occur concurrently with the other phases, but it extends beyond construction completion. The phase is robust and includes testing required by the project owner, equipment manufacturers, identified specifications, or commissioning authority. In this phase, percent of the project completed can be tracked and monitored daily. Training can be tracked, systems information stored, warranties reviewed, inspections performed, procedures documented, checklists, and punch lists completed, manuals updated, and KPIs reported up through and beyond turnover to the owner. Additionally, any issues that arise during the commissioning process can be documented, reported, tracked, and communicated with the appropriate parties. All of these steps provide quality assurance in achieving efficiency, sustainability, expense management, project oversight, and, ultimately, a return on investment (ROI).

A paper-intensive process…

Do you know the saying about not being able to see the forest through the trees? Interestingly, paper comes from trees, making you wonder if that saying didn’t originate from the commissioning process. Sometimes contractors work in the construction industry so long that the status quo is accepted as normal and not given much thought. The commission process is a paper-intensive one, which provides ample opportunity for automation and efficiency gains. Here are some examples of traditional paper processes in the construction industry.

  • Inspections
  • Test Scripts and Results
  • Punchlists
  • Equipment Specifications
  • Installation
  • Maintenance Manuals
  • Reporting

Moreover, an individual system may require start-up checklists, manuals, testing scripts and results, proof of training, maintenance, and issue logs. That same system, along with the overall commissioning project, may also include requirements from varying commissioning authorities and regulatory agencies.

Issues and problems with a paper-based system for commissioning

  • First, paperwork is completed by hand and stored in various locations, or they may be scanned and stored electronically. In either case, the documentation may not be immediately accessible, and reporting may be difficult.
  • Second, handwriting varies from person to person, and not everyone writes legibly. Even if it is legible, scribbles, notes, and corrections can be challenging to discern out of context by their reader.
  • If the documents are scanned and stored electronically, it is usually in the form of a .pdf or image, limiting the ability to analyze trends, monitor, and report unless the data is manually entered into an excel spreadsheet or a software program.
  • Importing or manually entering data into another system or software tool also carries risk from transcription errors, manual calculation and equation mistakes, and cell manipulation in MS Excel.
  • Finally, questions can arise about the recency of the data and whether it is up-to-date. For large-scale projects, this issue is compounded.

What commissioning software does

Commissioning software allows for mobile data collection, automates the manual documentation processes, stores the data securely in the cloud, and delivers that data in real-time to track, monitor, share, and report. For complex workflows, this is especially helpful. Commissioning software maximizes facility operations, improves the quality of assets, realizes efficiency gains, streamlines processes, reduces errors, improves quality, and provides a greater ROI.

How Commissioning Software Works

You may be familiar with Cx software or even use legacy software to an extent, but XForms modernizes and streamlines the process.

Typically, a user defines the project hierarchy, which can be done in a couple of ways. You can break the project down into systems (electrical, fire, etc.), floors of a building, or another method. You then work your way down to device types, subdevices, and assigned forms. The hierarchies are dynamic, so they can easily be adjusted if need be.

Once the hierarchy and forms are created and assigned, you can assign users and create permissions. In the field, people can capture data on mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and other devices, whether they are online or offline. The software has a responsive design, so it is intuitive enough to know what type of device displays it and adjusts for adequate viewing, scrolling, and data entry. Field teams can view metrics, such as percentage complete and other calculations that are performed automatically. In contrast, contractors and others can access a dashboard that captures the entire project or drill down to see specific data within a system.

You can share and report this information with your clients if you choose and complete the turnover process with a few clicks at the end. The software sorts all the forms and pieces them into a final document at the end of the project. Read how Bluewater Energy leveraged the XForms software solution for their project.  

Access to Real-Time Data and Metrics

No paper-based systems and virtually no legacy Cx system can track partial percentage complete calculations in real-time. With XForms, you can measure, track, and report this data in real-time. You can also grant permissions to those you want to share the information, such as your client. You also have a single point of data entry, and that data is actionable for reporting, communicating to others, etc. You can even incorporate push notifications to notify stakeholders, project owners, subcontractors, or others of information and important issues. 

Complete Datasets with Greater Accuracy

XForms is programmable software, which allows you freedom for some customization. For instance, you can label certain fields as required so that data must be entered.

In the field, incomplete paperwork can be a common occurrence, illegible handwriting, incorrect data entry, or missing or inaccurate information. There are typically multiple data entry points without a Cx system:

  • first from the field tech,
  • then from an administrative person or someone else whose job it is to scan the forms and transfer their data.

XForms removes these pitfalls. The result is a more robust system with more complete data sets and more data integrity. 

Improved Turnover Efficiency

Whether your legacy system involves paper, a mixture of paper and software, or a legacy Cx system with less functionality than XForms, the process can be time-consuming. Often, someone must review every system and every device, gather all the required documentation, put everything together, and submit it to the client. This process can take days. With XForms, this process can happen with just a few clicks! The turnover process can eliminate redundancy and wasted time, and it combines records into one package that can easily be distributed to the client in a readable package. 

Generate Real-Time Reports

Many of our clients used Excel to capture and report data, including the use of charts. Excel is designed with these things in mind, so it effectively captures and displays this data. The problem is that there is often a question as to the accuracy and recency of the data. It is always possible that the most recent information hasn’t been input into the chart.

Another risk is that data is entered incorrectly, or formulas contain mistakes. Someone is often assigned to maintain this to avoid these issues, but why pay someone an hourly wage to maintain the data when the issue can be resolved with a single point of data entry and real-time reporting? You have probably also experienced making a call to your data analyst asking for an updated report, which takes time and leaves you wanting to get your numbers to report to your client or sub-contractors. All of these issues are remediated and resolved with XForms. 

Eliminate Lost Forms

Papers get lost. Whether this involves completed forms or blank forms left on the desk at the office, it is frustrating not to have the forms or the data you need when you need it. There is never a need to jot down notes on a notepad until they can be input into a form or recreate something from memory. The Cx software is accessible to anyone with permissions no matter where they are located as long as they have some sort of mobile device, laptop, or tablet. It doesn’t even matter if they’re offline

Escalate Issues Real-Time

Issues are bound to arise, especially in large-scale, multi-million, or billion-dollar projects. When this occurs, timely communication and response are essential. General contractors and project stakeholders can now be kept apprised of issues in a formal system where they are logged, tracked, remediated, and resolved. Detailed tracking of issues outside of a formal system is nearly impossible, let alone their effective escalation and resolution, causing downstream challenges. Challenges can be easily logged, communicated, resolved, and reported using XForms.

Include Images as Supplemental Documentation

No matter the creative workarounds you’ve implemented to try to streamline your commissions process, you probably have not identified an effective way to incorporate photos and videos, but XForms allows you to do just that. Media visually demonstrates what is sometimes problematic to capture in writing. What’s beautiful about this is that anyone using their device to input data into XForms can also use that device to take an image or video so long as it has a camera.

Secure Data (and Metadata) Retention

Sometimes spreadsheets get deleted, people walk off the job, and unforeseen events arise. XForms collects all data entered at its single data entry point, including the metadata (geolocation, date/time, etc.), and stores it securely in the cloud. The data is secure with the use of XForms RESTful API and SSL while in transit. Now you can have full confidence that the information you need is there when you need it. 

Bottom Line

A paper-based commissioning process is no longer viable for large-scale construction projects. XForms is a recent software innovation that delivers the commissioning software tool you need to take your construction project to the next level. XForms is simple and intuitive with its browser-based user interface, and it requires very little set-up time (typically days), which much better than most legacy Cx software systems. Reusable templates help you achieve greater efficiency after set-up.

All of the efficiency gains result in your delivering on your project ahead of time and within (or under budget) while generating a greater return on investment for the owner. Your data is always secure with our RESTful API, SSL encryption, and cloud storage management, and the cost is reasonable. If you’re ready to learn more, click/tap on the button below.

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