[White Paper] Why Inspect?

Executive Summary
This whitepaper will provide a high level overview of the main reasons why building inspections are completed including compliance, preventative maintenance and insurance coverage; the different methods for completing inspections manually or through the use of technology; the benefits that come from completing inspections; and insight into future technologies that will impact inspections. 

Key questions addressed:
  • What are the reasons for completing building inspections?
  • What are the different methods for completing inspections?
  • What benefits are gained from completing inspections?
  • What are the trends and future technologies that will impact building inspections? 

Who should read this?
  • Facility/Property Managers
  • Building Operations Managers
  • Security Managers
  • Health and Safety departments and committee members 

Why inspect?
Inspections are completed for a variety of reasons including:
  • Compliance
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Insurance Coverage
Inspections are performed because their completion is mandated under certain legislation, codes and bylaws. For example, the Ontario Fire Code ( mandates that equipment such as fire extinguishers must be inspected every 30 days. Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act states that inspections of electrical rooms, first aid kits, eyewash stations etc., must be conducted regularly to prevent the development of unsafe working conditions. Legislation also identifies the types of deficiencies and conditions to look for during these inspections as well as how quickly these deficiencies need to be resolved.
*We used Ontario as an example but each province in Canada has similar regulatory bodies that govern similar legislation. There are also federally regulated policies that need to be complied with. These standards are pretty consistent across North America.

So what if you’re not compliant, what’s the worst that can happen?
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Worker injury or death
  • Property damage
  • Tarnished reputation
All of these have a costly price tag associated with it. On top of this there’s also:
  • Non-compliance orders
  • Fines 

Non-compliance Orders
In 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Labour issued 131,197 non-compliance orders.[1] Over 230,000 non-compliance orders were issued to companies across Canada in 2014.
Non-compliance orders are costly because they essentially stop work – for example, if you are working on a project and a non-compliance order is received, work associated with the non-compliance must stop. This causes delays in the project which will disrupt the schedule; labour costs are incurred as resources must be allocated to fixing the non-compliance and fixing the issue itself also brings additional costs with labour, materials etc.

When an accident occurs and the outcome of the investigation determines that a company was not compliant with the mandated laws, they can be found liable and fined. Sadly, you hear tons of these stories in the news every day. Lack of machine guarding is a very common accident that companies are found liable for because it usually results in someone losing their limbs which is unfortunate since it's easily preventable.

Preventative maintenance
Preventative maintenance is a proactive work schedule program whereby equipment is regularly inspected for deficiencies as well as wear and tear to prevent equipment failure and injury.[2] Preventative maintenance programs include regular inspection and equipment servicing much like you would do with your vehicle i.e. oil changes, tire rotation, etc. It also involves keeping records of these inspections and servicing, as well as planned replacement of parts and identification of hazards. Preventative maintenance provides several benefits such as:
  • Reduces worker injury
  • Avoidance of work delays due to equipment failure
  • Avoidance of lost time due to equipment failure
  • Improves equipment performance, reliability, efficiency and optimization
  • Reduces costs associated with equipment rental or unplanned replacement of equipment

Insurance Coverage
Let’s say an incident occurs at your workplace, a flood for example, that resulted from a leaking fire hose cabinet and caused thousands of dollars worth of damage. Some of the questions the insurance company is going to ask you are: “Was this deficiency known?” “How often was this fire hose cabinet inspected?” “When was the last time this fire hose cabinet was inspected and by who?” “Where are your inspection records?”
If you are unable to answer these questions or prove that you performed all due diligence possible to avoid this situation, the insurance company may leave you with the bill or at least a portion of it. Therefore inspections are an important way to show your due diligence and ensure that you are covered by insurance in the event of an incident.
Now we know why people perform inspections, let’s talk about how they inspect. 
How to inspect
There are different ways of satisfying inspection requirements and they have evolved over time. Inspection methods include:
  • Pen and Paper
  • Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)
  • Near-Field Communication (NFC)

The most basic form of inspection uses pen and paper; it’s also the most widely used method at the moment. Personnel go to each location with their paper form or check list and mark down that they have inspected the equipment and note any deficiencies. A manager collects all records of the inspection to review and verify that all areas have been inspected and notify the appropriate personnel of any deficiencies found through email or a work order system. This method of inspection can leave room for human error and requires storage/indexing. It is also time consuming to review all paperwork and manually send out deficiencies to the appropriate parties. Over time, technology has evolved to help automate the inspection process.
In the 1990s, a cylinder-shaped tool that uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology became available and gained popularity. Personnel would insert the cylinder into a puck affixed at each location on the inspection route to document that they visited the location. At the end of the inspection, the location results would be downloaded and available for viewing. Deficiencies identified would still need to be documented, reviewed and sent out manually.

More recently, technology has advanced to where any modern mobile device can be used to share information with other devices equipped with NFC.[3] It’s similar to RFID technology but the big difference is the space/distance requirements. To use NFC, the mobile phone must be within inches of the device. NFC equipped tags can be affixed to pieces of equipment or locations that require inspections and inspectors can tour around and inspect the items at the required intervals and frequency. Since NFC only works if the device is within inches of the equipment, managers can be reassured that the equipment was actually visited. This is something that pen and paper cannot offer. This technology also provides extra features such as check lists, the ability to add a note or photo, ability to report locations as requiring attention or service, and to see remaining inspections. Automated inspection reports also reduce the likelihood of human error and can send out deficiencies to the appropriate personnel automatically.

What you get out of inspections
Sometimes it’s difficult getting buy-in to complete inspections. They are time consuming and one could argue that the majority of the time, nothing bad happens. But there’s actually a lot in it for you and your organization in terms of inspections. Inspections provide a lot of benefits including:
  • Documented due diligence
  • Compliance to legislation, codes, by-laws etc.
  • Avoidance of fines
  • Defense against liability in the event an incident/accident occurs
  • Management of reputational risk and avoidance of negative media coverage
  • A safer workplace – less injuries and fatalities
  • Less accidents = better insurance premiums
  • Reduced loss time or work delays due to injury
  • Reduced costs associated with loss time or work delays due to equipment malfunction/breakdown
  • Asset protection
  • Proactive fixes before they become a huge problem – and a burden on the pocket book
  • Improved equipment reliability and optimization
  • Increased equipment and system efficiency
  • Peace of mind that everything is functioning correctly
  • Improved employee morale because issues are being identified and addressed

The type of inspection method used also provides a unique set of benefits. For example, newer solutions that leverage technology provide additional benefits such as:
  • Accurate and organized inspection records – satisfying record retention policies
  • Property dashboards and overviews
  • Automatic workflow and notification of deficiencies
  • Environmentally friendly solutions – less paper consumption (bonus: also saves money and storage space)
  • On the spot guidance for inspectors through customized check lists
  • Analytics
  • Ability to see trends
  • Staffing, budget and schedule forecasting capabilities 

So get out your trusty pro and con list. What makes more sense – doing inspections or not doing inspections? I think we can all agree that doing inspections has a lot more pros than cons! So it’s settled; inspections are important but amidst all this technology, what does the future have in store for inspections?

The future of inspections
Inspections have changed over time and they continue to change with advances in technology. There are a lot of trends and buzzwords being used right now that have the potential to impact how inspections are performed in the future. We’ve all heard of these buzzwords but understanding what they mean at a basic level may be a bit challenging, so we’re going to walk you through the latest trends, discuss their strengths and make you aware of their pitfalls and things to consider. 
Trends include:
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Analytics and Big Data
  • Drones
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is a giant network of things/devices that are connected to the internet.[4] These devices collect and exchange data using sensors, making them into “live objects” where the data can provide an understanding of what’s going on with the device. The data collected can be shown on a dashboard to deepen this understanding and can be used for a variety of reasons. The number of connected devices is increasing at an exponential rate. Gartner, an IT research and advisory company, predicts that there'll be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020 – that’s a lot of data being collected![5] Businesses are looking to adopt IoT as ways to lower operating costs and increase productivity.

What does this mean for inspections? Newer solutions like NFC technology are the start of IoT in inspections. NFC allows equipment to come “alive” and its data can be displayed on useful dashboards to deepen the understanding of what’s going on with the asset – i.e. does it require service, what is the manufacturer information, when was it last inspected, what month is the device most likely to experience a deficiency etc. As technology advances, becomes cheaper and security risks are reduced, more and more companies will look for IoT solutions.

Analytics and Big Data

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” - Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker.

Studies show that companies that are data-driven perform better financially and operationally; they are also more productive and profitable than their competitors.[6] When you are able to measure, you are empowered to know more about your business and make more informed, rational decisions which leads to better performance.
There are two main types of analytics for inspections: portfolio and predictive.

Portfolio analytics track the pieces of equipment, their locations within a building as well as the value of these assets.
Predictive analytics help forecast the future needs of a building’s equipment, such as when inspections and maintenance are required and their associated costs.

What’s the difference between analytics and big data? Big data is similar to analytics but there’s much more of it. Big data comes from diverse sources, allowing you to retrieve unique patterns that you didn’t even know were connected.[6] Big data requires more storage, memory, processing and bandwidth etc. due to its large size but as technology advances these system requirements are becoming more cost effective. The biggest issue with big data is people don’t know what to do with that much data.
Inspection methods using technology like NFC have the capability to provide both portfolio and predictive analytics. They also have the capability to use big data but like most industries, inspections haven’t tapped into how to use the information collected from big data yet. Over the next 10 years, companies will become more comfortable collecting and analyzing inspection analytics and big data, allowing them to make more informed business decisions.


Drones are unmanned vehicles that can fly in the air. This past holiday season, drones were an extremely popular tech gadget for consumer use but slowly industry applications are being witnessed in the news – for example, Amazon has been testing drones for package delivery; Domino’s delivered their first pizza via drone and not-for-profit organizations are using drones to deliver survival supplies and medicine in war-torn areas. It is expected that industry use of drones will dramatically increase in the near future.

The use of drones to complete inspections is in the conceptual stage but is a very interesting and realistic solution especially for dangerous or confined spaces. Each drone would be programmed to know what and when to inspect. If the drone identified a problem, it would be able to document and notify the right staff members to ensure deficiencies are corrected.
We’ve been testing out drones ourselves. So far our experience with drones is that they are hard to maneuver, have a short flying time, require extensive programming and of course, come with security issues. Despite that, we think its industry application will soar in the next 10 years as these issues are worked out.   

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

There’s virtual reality and augmented reality – most people think they are the same thing but they're not.
Virtual reality creates a virtual world that users can interact with through the use of equipment such as goggles or helmets.[7] It’s an immersive world that cannot interact with the users’ surroundings. This type of technology is awesome for gaming but its application within the industry is limited at this time due to the lack of real-time environment interaction.
Augmented reality, or mixed reality, blends real life and virtual reality.[8] Users are able to interact with virtual components within the real world. Augmented reality is more applicable to the industry and inspections for this reason. For example, Microsoft is already working on a product called Hololens smart glasses that uses mixed reality to allow construction inspectors to identify structural issues in buildings and bridges from miles away.[9]

Augmented or mixed reality would be a great tool for inspections because it could provide a two-way, real-time assistance channel for equipment that requires immediate attention. If an inspector identified extraordinary conditions, he or she could connect with an expert staff member, such as an engineer or manager, who could remotely walk them through how to rectify the issue. Technology like this would dramatically reduce risk and costs by eliminating the need to have experienced staff members on standby 24/7. Although the technology is not there yet, it is expected that its tools will creep into the industry within the next 20 years.

Completing inspections are important for a variety of reasons especially for compliance, preventative maintenance and insurance coverage. By completing inspections, you don’t only fulfill requirements for the above reasons, you also gain a lot of other valuable benefits such as a safer workplace, protection of assets, reduced time loss, increased employee morale and peace of mind. Luckily, you don’t have to wait 10-20 years to put an end to missed inspections. You can do it right now with technology solutions currently on the market such as those using NFC and Tap Report :) 

Contact Info
Tap Report Paul Amendola  Email: paulamendola@tapreport.io Address: 181 Bay Street PO Box 30004 Toronto ON M5J 0A5 Phone: 905-424-8112

[1] Ontario Ministry of Labour (2015). Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario 2014-15 Annual Report. Retrieved from https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/
[3] Donovan, J. and Leary, K. (2016). It’s more than the wallet-killer: Everything you need to know about NFC. Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/nfc-explained/
[4] Meola, A. (2016). What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-the-internet-of-things-definition-2016-8
[5] Morgan, J. (2014). A Simple Explanation Of 'The Internet Of Things'. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/05/13/simple-explanation-internet-things-that-anyone-can-understand/#745d0e168284
[6] McAfee, A. and Brynjolfsson, E. (2012). Big Data: The Management Revolution. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/10/big-data-the-management-revolution
[7] McKalin, V. (2014). Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality: What are the differences and similarities? Retrieved from http://www.techtimes.com/articles/5078/20140406/augmented-reality-vs-virtual-reality-what-are-the-differences-and-similarities.htm
[8] Diaz, R. (2016). Augmented Reality Versus Virtual Reality: The Battle Is Real. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2016/01/04/ar-vs-vr-the-battle-is-real/
[9] Clark, J. (2017). Microsoft Hololens set to bring mixed reality to construction. Retrieved from http://www.cbronline.com/4th-revolution/microsoft-hololens-used-construction/