Floodlight Software For Non-Destructive Testing & Inspections
In an era where the need for non-destructive testing (NDT) and inspection services is steadily growing, and qualified inspectors are in high demand and short supply, industrial inspection companies are turning to technology solutions to become more efficient and effective with existing resources. This paper looks at the factors driving NDT organizations to adopt digitalization, discusses some of the characteristics of digital solutions that lead to better outcomes, and finally shares an in-depth look at our answer, Floodlight Software.
Factors driving interest in Digitalization
Operational inefficiencies – marked by manual data entry, lost or misplaced data, fragmented communication channels, and an inability to track jobs in real-time – lead to increased costs, project delays, and decreased customer satisfaction. Many NDT companies find themselves in a constant battle with these issues, resulting in decreased profitability and customer turnover. This situation forces continued financial pressure and difficulty making necessary process improvements in the business. Managing inspections using a digital platform provides an opportunity to break out of this vicious cycle and start making the slow, steady improvements that will ultimately transform your business.
Some NDT organizations have started using digital testing tools and/or automated inspection data capture to become more competitive and provide more value to their customers. Managing digital inspection output with manual processes can be cumbersome and error-prone, so these organizations are turning to digital workflow tools to better manage these digital datasets.
Finally, some organizations simply recognize that their operations could be improved by a digital software platform that manages their end-to-end inspection workflows. Streamlining processes and reducing administrative overhead will not only reduce the costs and imperfections of existing business processes, but also open the door for additional opportunities to grow their business.
Digital Solution Characteristics
There are many options available to NDT organizations looking to digitally transform their business. For some, simply creating digital reports is the top priority, and for others, using a digital workflow and capturing operational metrics is key. When looking at various options, there are some basic solution characteristics that, based on your own priorities, can help find the right solution for your business.
- Cloud versus On-Premises: Products that are Software as a Service (SaaS) or Cloud-based, run on an external cloud architecture and are accessed through the Internet, generally via a web browser. The advantage of Cloud-based products is that you do not have to have your own servers installed in your environment with an IT person or staff to secure them and operate them. The SaaS provider manages all of that, which is generally more efficient and cost-effective, relieving you of needing to own the IT support. The opposite of SaaS is an On-Premises solution. An On-Premises solution is installed in your environment, typically on a Server, and your end-users will login through your local network. The advantage of an On-Premises solution is that there are no external components and you are in complete control of the software, the data, and access to it. The disadvantage of an On-Premises solution is that you are responsible for building and supporting the IT infrastructure required for the product, including its security and access-control. This can be overwhelming for organizations like NDT Service Organizations that generally do not have a large IT staff or the infrastructure in place to handle On-Premises applications.
- Point Solutions versus End-to-End Platforms: Software products that are described as “Point Solutions” focus on solving one very specific problem without considering the context where it is being used. An NDT service organization might have one point solution for managing schedules of technicians, another point solution for generating professional reports, and yet another point solution for building quotes. The challenge with point solutions is figuring out how to make them work together. Sometimes the solutions can be automatically integrated, but sometimes integration is difficult or not possible. End-to-end platforms, on the other hand, look to solve a specific workflow from start to finish and are designed to have most of the functionality needed to manage that entire workflow. If an organization already has a good end-to-end platform or process and just needs to enhance one part of it, getting a specific point solution is a good strategy, particularly one that can be integrated into their existing end-to-end process. For organizations that want a cohesive process and can adopt all or most of the components in an end-to-end platform, that is usually the best choice.
- Buy versus Build: When looking at software platforms and products, you may sometimes consider the alternative of building your own software versus buying an existing product. This might be the right option if none of the available products meets your most pressing requirements and you have the software development acumen and resources to do the work. Oftentimes, we (even software developers) greatly underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to build a software product. And, when estimating the cost of building, it is important to take into account the ongoing maintenance and support costs in addition to the initial build. Overall, it will almost certainly cost more and take more time to build a solution than buy one. So, buying is going to be the better route to take unless you have the software development expertise, you don’t have a sense of timeline urgency, and you really want full control of the end-product’s features and capabilities.
- Specific versus General: If you have chosen to look for an existing end-to-end platform, you will find that there are still many options to choose from. Some of these options will be general workflow platforms that can “do everything”, while others seem to be very specific to an industry or process. Deciding the best option for you will come down to how close each product matches your specific needs and how much flexibility you want. The more general the platform is, the more work you need to do to get it to work the way you want. The more specific the platform is, the more limited your ability is to go outside the product’s standard behaviors. The right choice is usually the most specific platform you can find that matches as closely as possible to your own desired end-to-end workflow. And, if you need additional functionality, you can look at point solutions that can be integrated in.
Based on all these considerations, we believe that Floodlight Software is the best digitalization fit for most NDT Service companies. Floodlight is a cloud-based, end-to-end workflow platform that is specific to testing and inspection processes. The rest of this paper takes a deeper dive into how Floodlight works and describes some of the platform’s major features and capabilities.
Floodlight Software Highlight
Many NDT companies struggle with reducing administrative overhead to become more efficient and competitive, and to effectively take on new business. When opportunities arise, you want to be able to confidently acquire new contracts and deliver exceptional value to your customers without needing to hire additional resources or increase the error-prone administrative headaches that naturally go along with services growth. Floodlight Software has been designed to address these challenges to encourage better, more, and safer inspections across the entire industrial inspections industry. Read on to learn more about this innovative software platform and how you can up your game within a few short months.
Running on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Floodlight is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) platform built specifically for managing NDT and other industrial inspection work. You purchase Floodlight on an annual subscription and access your system via a web browser or Floodlight’s mobile app. All the IT infrastructure required to host and run the product is managed by the software experts at Floodlight, so that you do not need to purchase or manage any additional IT hardware.
What you receive is a dedicated instance of Floodlight with digital workflow to track your inspection jobs from quote to cash, and easily accessible modules to organize data about your customers, your technicians, your equipment, your billing rates, and your organization. As a Floodlight user, you will gain visibility into job metrics such as labor hours, job costs and profitability.
How Floodlight Works
One of the key features of the Floodlight platform is its well-formed digital database. This makes it easy to search for and quickly find information about your inspection jobs that are planned, in progress, or completed, giving you access to historical information for a specific client or asset in a matter of seconds. This growing dataset of job data also gives you full audit capability for all jobs you are responsible for, and also enables you to analyze your work in meaningful ways to advance the effectiveness of your business. Your data will improve over time as you perform more jobs within the platform and can more easily see operational results, trends, and opportunities for improvement.
Another benefit of digitalization with Floodlight is creating consistent job processes. This consistency across field techs and jobs lets you more easily measure your work and make process improvements. An added benefit of this consistency is creating predictable customer experience and deliverables to your clients.
Floodlight maps out the general workflow of an inspection project, moving work from start to finish in an organized, but customizable way. There are three phases to this workflow:
- Sales and Job Planning. This phase involves collecting information from customers who need your services, creating proposals and quotes for the work you plan to perform, and building Jobs to track the work as it progresses. It is here that you set the stage for a successful project with thorough communication not only to your client, but amongst your own employees. Your planning information is captured in digital Request and Proposal modules that are immediately accessible by anyone involved. This keeps everyone on the same page and allows you to provide a responsive and professional experience for your clients.
- Active Job Management. This phase involves dispatching jobs to specific technicians, tracking labor time and expenses on jobs, performing job tasks and recording data associated with those tasks. Field technicians have the option of using Floodlight’s offline-capable mobile app on tablets or smartphones to collect Task data in the field. Ideally, Field techs would collect information directly into their Floodlight app instead of using pen and paper and then having to transcribe the information later. This helps to reduce data collection errors and undesirable administrative overhead. While Field Techs are actively working jobs and collecting data, operational managers can easily keep track of progress and results by accessing Job records from their own Floodlight console. Job reports can be generated at any time, allowing you to inform your client of a critical issue as soon as it is discovered, instead of waiting until the Job is complete, or even until the day is over.
- Completed Jobs. This phase involves reviewing completed job reports and invoices and delivering to your customers. When your field technicians have completed their work, all their data is automatically formatted into your pre-designed job reports. You can review these reports, add information, or make changes, and then very quickly deliver your final report to your customer. Similarly, all labor hours and job expenses that have been tracked by the field techs working the job are automatically formatted into an invoice that you can review, update as needed, and deliver to your customer in a timely fashion, enabling you to get paid for your work as quickly as possible.
Configuring Floodlight to work for Your Business
Floodlight allows you to customize this workflow to meet the needs of your organization. For example, if you perform internal NDT inspections, you may not need to track expenses, create proposals, quotes, or invoices. But you may, instead, need more robust data in your Job module or internal Task checklists. You may perform long-term projects where you need to provide weekly progress reports and invoices. You may be a small organization where every field technician manages his or her own work. Or, conversely, you may have a large, highly structured workforce with separate responsibilities. Floodlight’s flexibility allows you to build out a system that is as unique as your company, while retaining the best practices of digitalization. This flexibility makes Floodlight suitable for handling a variety of inspections including Callout work, Recurring Inspections, and large, scheduled shutdowns. Various inspection methods and other inspection tasks are supported through pre-designed Task Templates so that when it is time to perform work, the operational processes are fast and easy.
Some Floodlight users may also desire or require integration into other companion software products. You can use Floodlight’s REST API to build your own integrations, or Floodlight’s team can work with you to build these out for you. Floodlight’s integration engine is designed to support connections to everything from accounting and financial applications to digital testing tools or analytical software. You also always have the option of importing and exporting data in and out of Floodlight.
Another key feature of Floodlight’s platform is its Customer Portal. You have the ability to invite your customers to this Portal, where you can share documents in real-time without needing to use email. The Portal also allows your customers to easily and quickly request work from you, and for you to propose and quote projects to them, increasing your ability to improve and expand your relationship with them.
Using Floodlight to Grow your Success
Although learning how to use the Floodlight platform and configuring it to align with your business processes is not difficult, changing how you work and getting used to new processes takes some time. As with any business process improvement, success and speed of adoption depend heavily on the amount of time and dedication you bring to the transition. Once you have the system rolled out in your environment, you will almost certainly see some immediate benefits and the impact of digitalization on your business will continue to add more and more value over time.
Some of the immediate benefits that you should expect to realize relatively quickly are improved operational efficiency and reduced administrative overhead. You will be able to deliver well-designed, professional reports to your customers quickly and easily and have access to a complete audit trail of all activity within the system, if and when it is ever required. After building out your first few Task Templates, adding new tasks or making tweaks to your existing processes becomes fast, easy, and fun!
As the NDT landscape becomes more digital and the industry begins to adopt NDE 4.0 concepts and smart inspection tools and software, we will see a major transformation in the efficiency and effectiveness of industrial inspections. More inspections will be possible at the same or lowered cost. Inspection processes will become safer and humans will be focusing on critical issues versus rote tasks. If you are ready to learn more about how you can take a step towards becoming part of this movement to ensure safe, reliable infrastructure across the globe, we are standing by to show you how Floodlight can help you get there!
Come visit us at the 2024 NDTMA Conference in Las Vegas this week. We will be tucked away in the back of the exhibition hall at Table #4. We’d love to meet you in person and answer any questions you have about Floodlight.
Or – if you won’t be in attendance and/or would like to see a product demo, please contact us here: http://floodlfightsoft.com/contact/