Just to cast you mind back to 2009, the iPhone had been released but not widely available and Android was not invented yet. In fact Apple had only allowed programmers to develop their own “Apps”.
The only people who used “PDA” (Personal Digital Assistance) in the general public were the likes of Fex Ex and UPS.
In saying that, we were not the first to launch a “paperless inspection” system in the UK. Speedy hire used PDA’s for recording inspections and posting online for a number of years at that time. The software was originally built by Lifting Gear Hire UK whom Speedy acquired in Nov 2006.
This technology gives Speedy a significant advantage over competitors as inspection costs were reduced and customers had online access to certificates.
We wanted to make this technology available to everyone in the lifting industry and hence why we developed Sitecert.
Sitecert was developed for Windows Mobile which was the standard platform for enterprise software for over 15 years.
As paperless inspections systems are very expensive and painful to develop, we decided to build Sitecert in the “Cloud” which was a new enough term at that stage.
This ensured we had only one version of Sitecert to develop and everyone would receive upgrades together. This is what the industry calls “SaaS” (Software as a Service) and it enables companies to have access to software that was only available to large multinationals previously.
Our customers pay a monthly subscription to use Sitecert and we guarantee that the will have access to all upgrades across all devices.
SaaS also keeps us on our toes, with customer satisfaction being of prime importance to us as customers are not tied to long contracts.
Initial sales & development history
We made a number of sales at LEEA’s Liftex in 2009 and luckily for us the Rossendale Group was one. Rossendale is a well-respected member of LEEA and a leader in the Lifting Industry in the UK.
We listened intently on their requirements and built future versions based on this. All developments and addition to the system were based on our customers’ requirements, with new sales adding to the “list”.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) was always embedded in to Sitecert but never utilised! The reason is that RFID is a means of automating the identification of an asset.
Therefore, if your software is very good at identifying assets very quickly, the need for RFID is negated. We still included RFID as a means of identifying assets as I’m a technology geek! it is also an impressive technology to onlookers at tradeshows!
Our competitors promote RFID heavily, but the main reason for this as it takes a lot of time to identify an asset on their systems. The reason for this is that they have one level of product categories with many assets contained within (eg Chainsling) – making it difficult to pick out one.
Sitecert has 3 levels of categories, eg “Chainsling” is top Category, “2 Leg” is second and “8mm” is the third. Selecting those categories only displays assets contained within reducing the number of assets to pick from significantly.
Of course you can search by text on all systems but this is inefficient compared to picking from a list.
Windows V Android and Apple
Our customers in 2012 started to ask if Sitecert was available on Apple Devices and Android.
We had to make a decision on whether to continue with development in Windows Mobile or start afresh and develop it for Apple and Android. Microsoft were hesitant about their continuing support for Windows mobile which was worrying for us.
We took the plunge and started development in Android and Apple as the latest devices being released for industry were Android based – so that is the future.
This time round we built an “Inspection Platform” that other 3rd party inspection companies can utilise so it’s not just limited to the lifting sector.
We learned a lot from our initial development and customers and kept the inspection platform very flexible so companies can build their own checklist and fields for adding equipment.
Having system available on Android & Apple enables us to give trials of the software so potential users can see first hand the savings Sitecert brings.
Other 3rd party inspection companies have seen the savings that Sitecert brings and wanted to get in on the action.
We have companies who use Sitecert for the inspection of water assets belonging to Thames Water in London to the inspection of safety lines on buildings.
Our solution is actually ideal for Non Destructive Testing (NDT) as the long form reports/videos can be embedded on the inspection report.
At Sitecert, we are all about making be process more efficient, whether that means using technology or not. Typing into a tablet or smart phone is a slow process – hence why we are such big fans of categories and dropdowns.
We advise NDT companies to capture the short snappy info on the tablet and result. The longform report with annotated pictures/video etc can be attached afterwards from your PC as a lot of text may need to be added which is inefficient on tablets.
We have some very exciting upgrades in the pipeline for 2015.
Our last update enables examiner profiles to be uploaded so your customers can rest assured that the inspections were carried out by competent persons. We will keep you posted on how this beds in with our users.
The Sitecert Team is looking forward to the next 5 years and the changes it may bring.
It also gave them the opportunity to offer a weblogin to LOLER reports for their customers, which only previously Speedy provided.
In essence, Sitecert levelled the playing field for companies to compete with multinationals who had invested heavily in this technology.
On display we had the Motorola MC75 PDA (Personal Digital Assistance) which at the time retailed for about €1600-€2000. This ran Windows mobile which Sitecert was initially built upon.
Much of our visitors were intrigued with the device and how it could “Sync” the information to the website without cables. We used the SIM card within the device to do this as WIFI was still in its infancy and not widely available.
Given that the hardware was a novel to those visiting, we found that we had to sell the hardware and its ease of use to our potential customers along with our software!
Many of the comments that we initially got from those visiting was along the line of “I can see the savings it makes in Admin, but our main examiner is old school and can barely use a mobile phone”
The funny thing was that those who we both feared would be slow adopters took to the system like ducks to water, as they saw the benefits it brought.
Much of this easy of adoption is down to keeping it simple and easy to use.
Thankfully, the users of Sitecert were only too happy to recommend it to their peers and settle any concerns new customers may have.
Motorola launched a new handheld which was priced reasonably called the ES400. This was a great help as it reduced the cost of adoption especially for those hesitant in making the transition from paperbased systems.
In the early days there was a lot of travelling by our sales team to customers to demonstrate how the PDA worked and the Sitecert Software.
For those further afield, in Australia, we used to send demo units so they too could rid themselves of the drudgery of paperwork!
Lack off attendees gave those that were attending more opportunity to go out and meet with other exhibitors. Some of the leading manufacturers of lifting equipment visited our stand and informed us that they too were developing inspection software over the past number of years.
They did admit that we were further along the road than they were and had more advanced technology. Their PDA’s were flash based, which meant that when the battery died, so did the information stored on it!
After some initial talks about adopting Sitecert for their distributors it was decided it would not work out as they were too focused on RFID & Integrating into to their manufacturing systems. RFID only identifies the equipment and the software does everything else.
For inspection software to be successful, it has to be tailored around the examiner and the end user who logs in to view reports. You have to be very dedicated, understanding the requirements of the users and the technology required to bring it about. A lifting chain manufacturer is not well placed to execute on this as it’s not their expertise.
The meetings were very beneficial to us as it demonstrated that this was a problem worldwide whom we were best positioned to solve.
Lifting industry & Paperless Inspections
As mentioned previously, we only knew of one company who had PDA based software and only a handful had weblogins for their clients.
Many of our sales were driven by end users requiring that their lifting reports being put online and hence why they came to us.
You would think that the saving in administration would be the bigger driver but we think that the lifting industry is full of good people who cannot imagine life without the “typing pool” and the banter between them!
What really happens when Sitecert is adopted is that the typing pool is moved onto other tasks as business picks up and new customers have to be looked after!
The people who really take to Sitecert are the engineers who used to type up the report themselves. Damian McManus from ITS Plant Tech said he used to see engineers back in the office 2 days a week inputting information and since the adoption of Sitecert, he hardly sees them once a month!
We have a number of business owners who do the inspections themselves and take great pleasure in the benefits Sitecert brings. They know first-hand the savings Sitecert brings and allows them to enjoy their hobbies more as often they left the “Paperwork” to do at home.
Tom Paul in Tasmania, Australia says that it allows him to “play more golf”! The pleasure he gets from walking off the site, knowing that the paperwork is complete is incalculable.
These are the heart-warming stories that our team loves to hear as it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Whatever the motivation for going paperless, all are welcome in the Sitecert family.
Paperless Inspections Today
The majority of Lifting Equipment Inspection Companies have a webportal at least for their customers to login.
It must be difficult for examiners having to record inspection results in the field and then have to enter the same results again into an inspection system. Especially, knowing that there is an “App” available for them to enter it only once.
Over the years we have come across many companies who struck out to develop their own system. We know first-hand the time, dedication and knowledge required to develop a comprehensive inspection system. Ultimately, many invest significant resources and fail to build a fully working system. It is difficult for them to halt the haemorrhaging of resources as they build it because they are “Pot Committed”.
Recently, we have gained some customers who have finally given in and have converted to Sitecert after trying to develop a system inhouse. This makes it easier for us to convince others who may be thinking the same as we have strong independent advocates who are willing to show them the battlescars and advise against it.
RFID’s still have not become common place in the lifting industry and my reason why I think this is the case will be discussed on our next blog post.