Here’s why you need to ditch Word and Excel for your Field reports and Punch Lists
Don’t get me wrong; I think both Word and Excel are fantastic tools.
They are straightforward to use, inexpensive, and can be helpful for many many tasks.
The online versions of Google Docs and Sheets have transformed the way we work collectively and store documents.
Even as I write—I do so on a Google doc. This article is not meant to degrade these tools.
This being said, there is a big difference between writing an article or organizing your monthly finances, and managing field reports or punch lists on a building project, where very specific elements come to play, such as:
- Documenting different items while walking around on site.
- The need to include photos or images (often with annotations and sketches) into the report.
- Adding quick access to contacts’ information.
- Prominently and clearly displaying project information, such as the building address, clients, report date, report number, and observation numbers.
- Keeping track of numerous documents for multiple projects.
- Editing plans or reports, making amendments or annotations on the drawings and floor plans
- Organizing observations with pictures and other related information into a well-structured, easy-to-understand report
- Sharing the reports with assignees and other contacts
Today’s technologies—like cloud-based software and apps, make it easy to streamline and automate the report creation process.
For this particular process, Word and Excel are old-school and out-dated. Let me explain why.
The old-school (a.k.a. painful) way
I’ve seen how architects and contractors make field reports, so I know how time-consuming and frustrating the old-school process is.
But what do I mean when I say “old-school”?
The old-school process for generating field reports and punch lists:
You are doing a site visit, and you notice something that needs to get fixed. For example, some of the tiles in the bathroom have not been laid correctly.
You snap a photo with your phone or tablet, and you write some notes with pen and paper, before continuing the walkthrough.
The photo is saved on your camera roll, perhaps with hundreds of other photos you took this week.
You repeat this for the other issues that you spot during the site visit.
Then you leave the construction site, and move on to your next meeting or site visit.
Later that day, you get back to the office and sit down to write the report.
First, you need to find the cable to transfer the pictures from your phone to your computer, but while you are searching for it, a colleague pops his head in your office, with a small question for you about another project.
After he leaves, your partner comes in and reminds you that you urgently need to draft a proposal for a potential project from a few days ago, so you end up creating this first.
This ends up taking a lot longer then you originally anticipated, and suddenly it’s 5 PM. Quitting time! But wait.
Only then do you realize that you still have create and send the field report.
You send a text to your husband, you are going to be late for dinner, because it is crucial the issue be communicated before the contractors start work in the morning.
You grab the photo-transfer cable, and settle down in front of your computer.
You open your Word doc.
Hopefully, you do not start each report from scratch and have some sort of standard report template.
But if you don’t, have a template then you are going to have to create and format the preamble. For example, the property address, the necessary contacts, your firm’s logo, and so on.
You grab your notebook and flip it open to today’s walkthrough.
You wrote in short-hand, and as a result, not all of the notes make complete sense.
For example, you’ve written “bathroom = fix tiles”
But what exactly was the issue with the tiles? Was one chipped? Were they the wrong colour? Was there a problem with they way they were laid?
You have to reach back in your memory and try your best to remember what all the exact issues were.
You might even have to go back through your photos to try and make sure you’ve remembered everything. But before you do that, you have to connect your phone to your computer to transfer the pictures.
Then comes the task of sorting the images out. Deleting the duplicates and unfocused photos, search for the exact site vitis, and making sure they are clear and the issue easy to identify. You make a pile of the photos you wand to include, and drop them on your desktop.
Then you start marking the photos up. You need you open an image markup tool and add annotations, then download the editing photos on to your desktop and delete the originals to make sure things don’t get confusing.
You do the same for adding location-specific info on the floor plans by using the adobe annotation functionality:
Then you need to write out the notes into the document, and add the photos and images.
Finally, you are nearly done. You’ve got your document formatted exactly right: titles are properly bolded and the proper headings have been used, tables have been added and the cell block sizes are correct, your bulleted list sits in a perfect line, the logo is beautifully situated in the top left corner, and you are almost ready to export it as a PDF and send it to the construction team and clients.
Then, at the last minute, you add in just one more photo. For some reason, this causes the document’s formatting to scrabble left and right. There is no rhyme or reason, but you are going to have to spend another 5 minutes readjusting and resizing.
You save your report to your computer and write an email, select the contacts from your address list, and press send.
Number of steps: TOO MANY.
If you’re like most architects or contractors, this is a process causes a huge loss of valuable time.
It might even cause you to procrastinate or backburner drafting and distributing your field reports and punch lists.
But delaying this communication comes with risks.
Not only do your field reports get outdated if you don’t send them within a few days, but it undercuts your credibility, and you might leave yourself in a vulnerable position if ever there is ever a legal dispute. In a courtroom the only thing that matters is the written communication.
There is a better way: innovative reporting
Just imagine that immediately after your site visit, your report would already be 90% ready to send.
Before leaving the site, the report has:
- the report date/number, project information and project status
- your observations numbered and written in the report, together with photos and images with annotations, location pointers, and issue descriptions.
- your logo, header, footer and standard layout set
All you need to do is give it a review, make any necessary edits, and press send.
And that’s it.
No more struggling with layouts.
No more transferring and sorting photos.
No more re-typing out notes.
No more excuses to procrastinating getting it done.
The innovative process for generating field reports and punch lists with Archisnapper:
With the Archisnapper app, you can add the photos that you take with your smartphone or tablet directly to the report, with markups, location pointers, assignees, text and more …as you are doing your walkthrough.
Ready with documenting items on site? ArchiSnapper automatically generates a professional PDF field report with your company’s logo and layout settings, that you can review and email to anyone with one click from the App or from your desktop.
At ArchiSnapper, we’ve been working for 6 years now on automating the process of drafting field reports and punch lists, specifically for architects, engineers and contractors.
It’s our core business and our only focus to help you save time on this arduous process.
Since we’re constantly checking in with our clients, and finding different ways to improve the tool based on their needs, we’ve been able to create a tool that really delivers.
Today ArchiSnapper is the no.1 tool worldwide for field reports, with more than 10K happy clients.
Here is what one of our clients says about ArchiSnapper:
“Our firm provides green building certification for single and multifamily housing throughout the eastern US. We use Archisnapper for all our field reporting.
The tablet-based app simplifies the process of creating field reports, often allowing us to send out reports before we leave the jobsite. We save an hour or more from the old method of taking notes, typing them into word, scaling photos, and saving to PDF before sending them out.
Our clients love the detail we provide, including marked-up photos that clearly show any required corrections. Many contractors use our reports for their punch lists, sending them to subcontractors to show them what they need done.”
—Carl Seville, SK Collaborative
Want to hear more from our clients? Here are some more reviews.
It’s time to make the switch.
Architects and contractors that still make field reports in Word and Excel can save themselves a lot of time by switching over to Archisnapper.
Stop losing hours on drafting field reports and punch lists, when there is another, faster and easier options, downloading Archisnapper makes sense.
If you value your time, it’s really time to change over.
But you might have a few hangups and reservations—we want to take the time to look at some of the issues in detail, and hopefully sort them out.
1. Adopting a new software takes time
Onboard a new tool can sometimes take a few days before you iron out the bumps.
Moreover, it can be daunting to think about having to learn how to use it.
Sometimes it can seem easier to hobble along with something that works fairly well than risk trying something new, which could take a few hours to learn how it works.
But this isn’t, unfortunately, good logic.
Let’s say it takes you a total of 5 hours to learn all the ins and outs of a new tool.
This seems like a substantial time investment.
But then, this same tool will end up saving you one hour each week.
Within a few weeks, you will have made up the time it took to learn it, and then will continue to save time indefinitely.
If you save 1 hour of work every week, after a year, you will have saved 52 hrs worth of work. If you’re charging $75/hr that’s nearly $4K.
2. Why pay for something when you can get it for free?
A Small ArchiSnapper package comes at $24/month, or $288 per year.
If you’re taking more licences the price per user goes down to $14/user/month.
Saving $3900 worth of time every year at a cost of $288 is a no-brainer.
You might be thinking: $288 is still a lot more expensive than…free. Its hard to compete with mega-cheap or free—but we think the adage “You pay for what you get” rings true in this situation.
Start thinking about Archisnapper as a tool for your process. Like most high-quality tools, they are worth the investment. You will be able to do the job more accurately and faster.
Imagine it like this: Using Word or Excel is like using an empty bottle of wine as a rolling pin.
Sure, it might be a good fix in a pinch, but could you imagine going into a professional kitchen and seeing the chef rolling out her dough with one?
It might be free, but that doesn’t make it the right tool for the job. Just because functionally it does a similar thing, doesn’t automatically make it efficient or professional.
Being able to offer a professional report for a few minutes of work is efficient.
Spending a few hundred dollars a year for a tool that is built specifically for your needs and that will save you hours every month is a good deal.
3. I don’t want to seem anti-social being on my device on the worksite
Today using your phone or tablet has been accepted as a professional practice in the construction industry.
This being said, it’s not always easy to take the time and write out all the notes in extensive detail on your phone or tablet, especially while 5 people are waiting for you to move on during a punch list walkthrough.
Here are some strategies to overcome this:
- Only write out a couple of keywords while you’re on site, add the pictures and maybe a location pointer and then move on to the next item. Later, when you’re back at the office or in your car, your report will be available and all you need to do is write out the notes in full text.
- Use voice to text, it works great. More and more of our users do this.
- Use a stylus with a handwriting recognition app (like Nebo). You can write with the stylus (just like you would on paper), the text will automatically be transformed into digital format.
4 . I am not sure what the reports look like, are they professional?
Check out this sample report created with ArchiSnapper.
Mega-clear and easy to understand, but imagine if you were trying to format the photos into the table on Word—it would take ages.
The design takes the simple column formatting from Excel, adding the ability to add images and add clear commenting flawlessly. It is simple to understand, well-designed, and took minutes to create.
Disadvantages of using Word or Excel for field reports and punch lists
To summarize, here are some of the major issues with using Word and Excel to generate reports:
- It is not automated. This means that you have to add project info, layout settings, images, observations, contacts information, item numbering, for every single report. This is a huge time suck.
- The layout formatting in Word or Excel is a nightmare. Difficult, and time-consuming.
- If you are using the older forms of the tools (ie. not Google Docs or Sheets) sharing can be confusing. Are you working with the latest version of the report? Is your team? What if someone makes essential changes, but fails to notify the team? Being able to share and collaborate in real-time is important.
- It has no central database: all data (observations, pictures, drawings) of you and your colleagues are spread over different folders, word docs, excel files … There is no central database that would allow you to query for example the pending observations that subcontractor X has to do on all your projects.
Advantages of using ArchiSnapper for field reports and punch lists
ArchiSnapper seamlessly automates the process of drafting professional field reports and punch lists:
- Documenting items on site is super simple: add text and snap a photo to record observations or issues on site. Annotate your photos or drawings. Locate your observations on PDF plans, and assign them to the contacts (ie. contractors or team members) responsible for sorting the issue out.
- You can use voice to text to make notes quickly and easily—as you walk the site.
- Creating the report is automated: your project and contact information is automatically inserted into your report. Your observations are numbered and available in the report, together with pictures, location pointers and descriptions. (Imagine never needing to struggle with Word when inserting photos again!)
- The layout – with your logo, header, font type and size, picture size and more is set automatically. After you initially set up the layout, it will be applied to all your reports.
- Switching between mobile (for when you are in the field) and desktop (for when you are back at the office) is easy—just sync and open up the report on the device you are using.
- You can automate more of the process by pre-setting an email template that you can use to send the reports. Want to edit it before sending? No problem, this is easy to do.
- You’re working on a central database:
- All your contacts are stored in a central list, so you can reuse them with one click in your next projects
- Access all the tasks from one place: review a cross-project list of all items assigned to different contractors.
- Schedule a weekly email to all contractors, and remind them of their with their pending items, with one click.
- The team leader is unavailable or sick? Seamlessly step in without missing a beat by reviewing her latest field report.
- Collaborate easily: be in sync with everyone involved. You can workin on access the same report at the same time with your colleagues, clients, and contractors.
If you are using Word and Excel to generate punch lists, daily report, safety reports, and field reports you are losing time every week.
ArchiSnapper helps you create beautiful, clear PDF reports in minutes, while you are doing a site visit.
Add photos and comments, and the app will automatically create the report which you can instantly send it to your team and clients.
Interested in a free trial?
Try ArchiSnapper for your next field report! →