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Data Management App for iOS

Stack: ASP.NET MVC on Azure, EF Core on SQL Server Server, Xamarin iOS

Launched: 2016

After we built a data management app for TEG Risk, the company reported a productivity boost of 15% which in turn helped them win larger, more lucrative contracts.

TEG Risk and Sustainability Services (TEG Risk) engaged Dabble Apps in 2016 to develop an iOS app that would replace their existing method of assessing and reporting on the safety of client sites. One year on, TEG Risk still invests in the ongoing development of the app, which has already paid for itself. In this case study, we review the process and results with TEG Risk Director, Hamish Baker.

Project Background

Established in 2011, TEG provides engineering-based risk management advice relating to occupational safety (specialising in machinery safety) for large factories and plants across New Zealand.

Prior to the development of their app, the TEG Risk assessment team would carry out on site inspections and evaluations by entering notes into an Excel Spreadsheet, and taking photos using a digital camera. After completing the on site assessment, the photos would be manually matched to the corresponding machine notes, and the data entered into the spreadsheet. This spreadsheet would then be exported as a PDF which would form part of the final report submitted to the client.

This process had worked well for several years, however an expanding client base with physically larger sites, required a review of the TEG Risk data entry process to ensure efficiency, accuracy, and cost effectiveness.

About the Solution

The resulting app for iPad provides assessors with a single portal to enter text and images (via the inbuilt camera) for multiple machines at a clients’ site.

To improve efficiency when on site, asset lists can be entered into the project in advance; and more can be added once on site. Machines that occur frequently throughout assessment projects can be saved as ‘templates’, and shared across all iPad users, to save time, and standardise output.

Due to the lack of reliable internet access at client sites (which are primarily active factory floors), Dabble decided to architect the app to function entirely offline, only connecting to a central cloud-based server upon user request. The sheer volume of data entered by the team; plus the amount of information and images that are combined into each report; required the development of a custom algorithm to manage the cloud-synchronization process which has resulted in lightning-fast search across thousands of data entries.

The TEG team can now produce a professional PDF report in seconds with the apps’ inbuilt Report Generator. As a result of  Dabble’s experience with third-party reporting components, back-office staff can also customise the look of this report (for example, the logo; colour scheme; and even the order and structure of the information presented) via an online Form Builder application.

TEG Risk Director, Hamish Baker, says the automated report generation available in the app, along with the ability to edit the layout of the report via the Form Builder, has resulted in “marked improvements to the overall layout and presentation of our client reports”.

About the development process

Beginning with only an example assessment document as an Excel Spreadsheet, we proposed a set of solutions in the form of interactive wireframes. From there, we worked closely with the TEG Risk team to finalize the structure and workflow process for the app, leveraging the strengths of the mobile platform, whilst maintaining a familiar process.

The development of the initial iOS app took around 12 weeks, with a further 6 weeks of testing and debugging before active use in the field.

Since the initial go-live, the app has undergone four App Store releases, and two major infrastructural revisions, with each release including significant functionality enhancements. To ensure smooth transitions when upgrading the app, we work closely with TEG to develop a mutually agreeable deployment strategy and timeline; and ensure comprehensive testing is carried out within staging and production environments.

Ongoing development continues to boost productivity

Due to the business-related benefits afforded by the app, TEG continues to invest in its development. For example, as staff became increasingly comfortable with the iPads, the app became the primary data-entry tool, even when at the office – rather than their desktop computers. TEG therefore requested enhancements to the keyboard operation to improve usability, ergonomics and productivity.

With each client-initiated upgrade to the app, we also work with TEG to identify additional new features and functionalities that could help streamline their workflow.

For example, as TEG won increasingly large contracts, we identified areas in the application where the apps’ usability may decline due to the larger data sets required for these customers. We worked with TEG to design and implement a new search function within the app which reduced navigation times from 1 minute to a few seconds – ultimately saving staff time and frustration.

The Results

Now, a year after the initial implementation of the app, it has been used on over 20 projects – which totals well over 1000 machine risk assessments; more than 3500 evaluated hazards; and over 8,000 images. Baker says that to date, there has been an increase in productivity of 15% on average. He adds that while the overall skill level of staff using iOS devices was ‘average’, all have easily transitioned to using the app.

Additionally, the app has significantly reduced the chance of human error whilst improving productivity consistency across engineers, resulting in more accurate and refined fee proposals.

How the app paid for itself in less than a year

Baker explains that the app has allowed the team to save time on jobs, which reduces the cost to clients – and that has in turn helped secure larger contracts. “We were invited to quote on a significant machine-safety risk assessment project for a large New Zealand meat processing company, but cost was a consideration for them”, Baker explains. “However, due to the efficiencies afforded by our new app, we were able to submit a project fee proposal that was 20% less than we would have submitted when we were using our previous Excel spreadsheet method. Because of this project fee reduction we were able to win a job we would have otherwise not have been awarded.”

Winning that particular assessment project also meant that the app paid for itself in under a year.

About Me

I've been designing and building software for over 30 years. In that time I've worked across the world with numerous organisations in a wide range of verticals, utilising a wide range of technologies - including speech recognition; mobile device platforms; and medical hardware integration.