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The Watershed Materials Mobile App: Making Pipeline Data Easier to Collect, Analyze and Use

If you’ve ever delved deeper into ESPN’s coverage of any sporting event, you know that the organization collects an absurd level of statistics. That’s why its analysts are able to cite incredibly specific facts about players, teams and coaches during coverage. Sporting news organizations and all of the professional leagues pay thousands of statisticians to collect and crunch these stats.

In the business world, we have another term for statistics: It’s data. And Watershed Materials learned firsthand that there’s as much data to track during a drain tile repair as anywhere.

The methodology, however, was not as pristine as Major League Baseball’s. When we were out in the field repairing drain tiles, we would collect as much information as possible into a notebook—things like GPS coordinates, weather and notes about conditions in the field. We would then log all of that information into a spreadsheet at the end of the day, while also collecting the data sent to us by other team leaders.

This method presented several problems. For one, data that’s being entered into the system by a second source, hours after it was collected, has a greater chance of being inaccurate. Secondly, once that data was in a spreadsheet… who cares? Analyzing it would be a colossal headache, making it difficult to act upon.

This experience inspired Watershed Materials to create both a mobile and web app to solve these problems, and we’re happy to preview how these tools will help drain tile teams in the field.

THE WATERSHED MATERIALS MOBILE APP

Data collection becomes more accurate, and easier, if team leaders can add information as it happens. Not by sending it to project managers hours later. That’s the purpose of the Watershed Materials Mobile App.

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Users can add a new repair themselves, add all of the relevant information directly, and it will be stored within the app. This can be done quickly thanks to the app’s ability to gather GPS coordinates automatically, instead of requiring manual measurement.

By entering the data firsthand, the chances of losing information is minimized. Notebooks can be soaked; the digital cloud cannot. If a team repairs 10 tiles in a day, the leader can forget to send data for one repair hours later…but not if he’s entering the data as the job occurs.

Communication is not removed entirely, however. The mobile app offers centralized messaging, which identifies the sender. It’s much more organized than sifting through dozens of texts from unrecognized numbers.  

Project managers aren’t losing any power; they’re just entering less numbers. At the end of the day, they can view activity done by the rest of the app users in their team (such as how many repairs were completed that day), as well as using the app’s robust search ability to hone in on specific repairs, a range of repairs, or the repairs entered by any member of the team.

There was one goal in mind during the entire process of planning and developing this app: Is it easy to use? We could make the world’s most superior app, but it would be worthless if the workers in the field weren’t comfortable using it. The final product accomplishes everything a pipeline construction company could want for drain tile repairs, and it does it simply.

THE WATERSHED MATERIALS WEB APP

The existence of data demands two things. We’ve discussed collection, but analysis is just as important. The Watershed Materials Web App makes this easier than the spreadsheets of old, and not just because of improved accuracy.

The web app offers the same robust search capabilities as the mobile app, as well as more developed reporting functions. Project managers will be able to use this app to add videos taken in the field, as well as GPS coordinates, in bulk. Drag a large collection of files into the app and it will automatically process them into the right place.

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This comes in handy for the “client view” side of the app, where your clients will be able to look at maps that accurately depict all repairs as well as status reports for individual sections of the project. All of the GPS coordinates for individual repairs will show up in their respective locations.

The ultimate purpose? Making data more accessible and easier to analyze, so that you can make more informed decisions on your current project, and more informed decisions on projects in the future.

We’re hoping to launch the Watershed Materials Apps as early as Spring 2017. Sign up below for updates, or reach out to grhyne@watershedm.com if you have any questions we can answer!

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