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U.K. Construction Company Collects Inspection Data Onsite With NFC

The McGee Group is using NFC RFID technology and apps from Mobilengine to ensure that its trucks are properly inspected, as well as track tool usage and inspection and worker training at demolition or construction sites.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 22, 2015

U.K. construction company McGee Group has traditionally used manual pen-and-paper-based processes for more than 100 different applications at its worksites—from ensuring that onsite personnel have the proper training to inspecting tools and trucks. The firm is now digitizing many of these processes thanks to apps from Mobilengine, which are built on an application platform of the same name, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

McGee Group, a midsize construction and engineering contractor, provides demolition, building and other services, typically at 20 to 25 sites at a time. Its garage houses more than three dozen 32-ton tipper (dump) trucks that travel to the job sites to pick up or deliver material.

To ensure that personnel have sufficient skills for a specific construction site, McGee managers can use a Nexus 7 tablet to read the NFC chip embedded in a worker's CSCS card and access that individual's training history. When performing a safety inspection of a tipper truck (shown in the background), a driver can document the process by using the Nexus 7 to read NFC RFID tags attached to various parts of the vehicle.
Michael Kelly, McGee Group's head of IT and communication, says he began working with Mobilengine several years ago to develop applications to digitize the collection of data on worksites, and to then access that information. Last year, McGee adopted an NFC-based solution that allows McGee truck operators to collect and upload data regarding inspections by tapping an NFC-enabled tablet against a tag. That information enables the company to verify that inspections were conducted, and to view the results of those inspections.

In the past, McGee relied on its drivers to conduct inspections before they took their trucks onto the road, having them walk around their vehicles and conduct a visual inspection in order to make sure there were no loose parts, bald tires, broken mirrors or turn signals. They recorded the results in small booklets. However, management lacked access to those booklets while the trucks were being operated. Furthermore, the company was unable to ensure that a driver actually exited his truck and conducted every inspection, rather than simply checking off information within the booklet. In addition, if a driver discovered a problem with his vehicle, he would have to report it to the office via a phone call, which typically led to a series of additional calls and e-mails before the appropriate maintenance worker could be sent onsite.

To use the Mobilengine app, drivers are provided with a Nexus 7 tablet with a built-in NFC 13.56 MHz reader. McGee uses branded NFC RFID stickers (Mobilengine provides a variety of off-the-shelf RFID tags to make those stickers, according to Adam Dalnoki, Mobilengine's CEO). The stickers are applied to sections of a truck in which inspections are required, such as under the engine hood or at the rear near the lights. If the driver notices a problem, such as a non-working brake light or a worn tire, he can read the tag first to pinpoint the location of the trouble, and then enter a description.

Once the inspection is complete, the worker provides an electronic signature and taps the tablet against a final NFC sticker on the windshield, and all inspection data is forwarded to Mobilengine software on its server within a matter of seconds, via a Wi-Fi connection. The Mobilengine software collects and interprets the data, then forwards it to McGee's own content-management software, which puts the data into a PDF format for record-management purposes. Managers can view the information in real time to know which vehicles have been taken out of the yard, based on when inspection reports were completed, as well as who inspected them and when this occurred. The Mobilengine software can also issue an alert, such as an e-mail, to authorized parties if there is a problem with a vehicle that needs to be addressed right away.

Additionally, the McGee Group can easily provide inspection records to regulatory bodies if requested. This has become especially important in recent months, Kelly says, due to efforts by the U.K. government and the road transportation industry to prevent bicycle fatalities caused by construction vehicles.

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