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Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Using Google forms on Construction sites

Measurements are a part of daily routine on construction sites, this simple looking task can be quite painful at times when you have to do the same thing again & again. By that I mean to say that 1st you have to take the measurements and then again type those same measurements on a system to calculate the quantities. The measurements are usually taken on a paper or triplicate book to ensure that all parties are having the record of the real measure. This triplicate system does provide a sense of security but if the work & measurements are too many then it becomes a pain. The volume of too many measurements can cause errors & ultimately lead to poor quality of work leading to distrust & spoiled relations between the parties involved in the construction work.

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Getting Hi-tech!
Google forms can come to aid at such an instance!

Here's the story...
I was working as an Engineer at a site in a remote area, my job included management of site works, leveling, taking measurements & coordinating activities. I used to take measurements with the company engineer at site for different items such as excavation, PCC, stub columns, etc. The weather was extremely bad, hot & humid climate added to the difficulty. Initially I used to take measurements in a book, while taking the measurements I used to have two labors to hold the measuring tap while taking linear measurements or the level staff while taking the vertical levels. Then after taking these readings I used to copy those in a triplicate book so that the engineer could keep a copy, the contractor could keep one & one could be safe at site. After the readings are copied then its now time to compute the quantities, oh god, this was the most painful task. I had to manually type in all the values in the calculator to get the quantities. I used to program the calculator but even then it used to appear a never ending task but somehow I used to complete it. Now this is a good mechanism but it conflicts with my lazy nature, for a person like me who wants to automate everything & have the least efforts. I had to come up with something to end this donkey work & enhance my productivity on site.

Measurements of Excavation & Plinth Works

Then, I realized that I had used Google forms for such task while I was a student in an Engineering college. The purpose behind making such forms was to get data such as Name, class, etc. isn't it the same - I figured out that the same logic could be used on site as well. Next time I made a google form & carried my phone along while taking the readings, sounded simple? It was difficult to explain the engineer that it was a trust-able & that he can see what values are being entered. I opened the spreadsheet that pulls in value from the form & he could monitor those along with me. Within a couple of minutes he got confidence & was happy that I thought about such technique.  The plus point was that he could read it, believe me my hand-writing is even worse than doctors sometimes even I can't interpret what I've written. Next and additional plus point was that once the values were available in the spreadsheet format there was no need of me to manually compute those values. I just used Google Spreadsheets & by placing proper formulas everywhere I was able to compute the quantities within minutes after taking the readings. What a relief it was! The work that took me almost two days was completed withing 2 hours. Such is the power of technology. Later I discovered that I could use Google Spreadsheets app to log in the magnitudes but later I scrapped it as it was not that good because I had to navigate, zoom & pan which made it quite time consuming & also it was not possible for the engineer to monitor the real-time inputs in such a sheet so I scrapped the idea of using Google Spreadsheets & instead continued using Google Forms. I was fortunate that the place where my was had good internet connection. The only problem was that there was no electricity to power my laptop so almost everything was to be done my phone itself. I made the form on my phone & also computed the quantities on the phone only, you see apps these days make life extremely easy.

So this is how Google forms save me a lot of effort & increased accuracy on site. It is as if I created a software for myself that pings data back to the server where I can use it for processing later. Now a days, I don't visit the site but instead just send links to the supervisors there who in coordination with the engineer take the measurements & complete the task for me. And yes, just to verify if everything was correct I do ask them to click & email me the snaps of the work so that I can just have a random sample check if everything is correct.

An example:

I had prepared this form as I had to take measurement of excavation pits at the site, as you can see the form contains fields such as 
Column No. - to type in the column number
HI - to mention the HI of the AutoLevel
AG, BG, CG, DG - These were the fields to mention the Staff reading for ground surface 
AS, BS, CS, DS - These were the fields to mention the Staff reading for ground surface

The form that I used is as below, you can go ahead & fill it with sample values to test how the output works.

So the form is like the input terminal to your database & spreadsheets are the place where you collect the data & analyse it as per your requirement.

Here is the spreadsheet

As you can see the data from the form is directly logged into the spreadsheet to which I've hooked a few formulas at the end that help me calculate the average ground level & the average excavation level along with their depth & reduced levels. This makes the task of quantity survey very simple & easy.

So this how I used & continue using Google forms for much of the automation works, would be glad to learn about how you'd implement such tools. Leave them in the comments block below...

Thanks for Reading
- Sayyed Shadaab
The Engineer for the Digital Civilisation

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