Project management and construction relies heavily on processes and reporting to monitor progress and keep a wide range of stakeholders up to date. A number of technology platforms have advanced this space, although you are still likely to find excel at the heart of most site office reporting. Snagr is one of the most advanced, and client focused, defect inspection solutions available so we caught up with Managing Director, Mark Henderson, to understand more:
As a family business, there must be an interesting story behind Snagr?
The original idea came from my father Graham over dinner with an architect friend. They discussed the idea of plotting issues on plans. Devices in those days were either PDAs which proved to be cumbersome, slow and limited or windows ‘laptops without a lid’. Even the smaller, expensive ones that had a rear facing camera had no proper protection and needed a stylus. These devices got us started but we could not have progressed without the advent of the iPhone/iPad.
Did you or your father have a background in construction? If so, has the technology side been completely new to you?
Dad worked as a labourer in school and university holidays in the 70’s and loved construction. He also worked as a chippy, steel erector and roofer. He then studied architecture at the University of Liverpool but re-trained into computing 30 years ago. It all came full circle with the advent of SnagR. Graham’s extensive construction experience and my programming and UX Design background allowed us to create a compelling product without requiring outside investment. We were joined by Elizabeth (Mum) as head of Sales and my two brothers Nick as a software developer and James (with a PHD in Construction Management) heading the support team in Europe. Nick recently moved to Dubai to open our office there.
Was it originally born as a defect management system or something else?
Yes, the original version was purely for Defect Management. Capture on a mobile device, synchronise, publish and sign-off. We have always tried to engage with our clients and understand their needs. I must admit probably every great idea and function came from a feedback session with a client: ‘Can I do ‘x’ with the system?’ would be followed with ‘Hmm no not the way you want to do it, but it’s a bloody good idea, leave it with us!’. By being a tight-knit team of family programmers we were able to develop the technology quickly and release often. The system is now configurable for any data collection task which requires mobile devices. I think a better way to describe SnagR is Mobile Data Collection with Inspections and Issue management.
What are your plans for commissioning and safety?
We realised a few years ago that SnagR was perfect to be used by safety teams even in the same project it was being used for quality assurance. The data that needs to be captured is largely the same: take photo, assign to a team, categorise and track sign-off through a workflow. This year our clients have been winning awards for safety using SnagR including 6 awards from the Macau government and one from the Hong Kong government. We will be expanding the functionality of the core product to better suit safety team workflows and communication requirements, and are also now being used to record injuries and near-misses. The ability to report across projects globally is something unique to SnagR and allows our larger clients to profile where safety improvements can be made as part of company culture and policy efficiently.
Commissioning, Progress Reporting and Site Diaries are a personal passion of Dad’s. SnagR can be used for testing and commissioning in many different ways through checklists, inspections and progress reporting. We think that commissioning can be improved and made more efficient with better technology. Progress Reporting and Site Diaries are also something we want to make easier to capture, more accurate and useful.
It looks like you have expanded from the UK to Hong Kong and beyond… what has the overseas expansion been like (in terms of challenges, different cultures, clients etc)?
Expanding from the UK to HK and Dubai has been an exciting journey. Originally, we would go on overseas trade missions with the UKTI (UK Trade & Investment). We would go to Singapore, HK, Canada, Qatar, Dubai, Canada and South Africa. Our first major project in Hong Kong was the Tamar building and Peninsula Hotel refurbishment. As we had never taken outside investment we grew organically. The money from these projects was invested in supporting the projects with regular visits and the opportunity to try to develop the markets further. It was because we had many more projects in Hong Kong at the time that we ended up opening our first Asia office there and not Singapore.
We now have projects throughout Asia, with partners in Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia. As the Technical Director, when I moved to Hong Kong the software development came with me. Now all software development is done from Hong Kong. Expanding outside of the UK has helped us better understand the worldwide construction market. The software is now available in 8 languages with more being added. Projects in Hong Kong or with international clients use SnagR in a dual-language mode so that local sub-contractors and the client can all understand the data without the ongoing need for translation. At the beginning of 2016 we opened an office in Dubai – there are still a huge amount of large construction projects going on in the region so that office has grown rapidly.
Who are your key competitors?
There are other defect management solutions available in the market but nothing that really matches SnagR’s approach. We have over 3,000 active projects around the world and SnagR is designed to be a company wide solution helping larger clients and projects standardise their approach and look across their entire business for learning outcomes and improvements.
What is your business model?
SnagR is sold either per project or as an annual enterprise license. SnagR differs from most SAAS (software as a service) products in that we do not charge per user, instead we charge per project based on the construction value of the project. This means that users, data, drawings etc, everything is unlimited so that the sub-contractors, consultants and client users can all be issued with as many user accounts as required. We believe strongly that collaboration software like ours needs to be accessible to all stakeholders. The pricing structure is designed so that SnagR is used on all projects by default regardless of their size so that our clients can compare the performance and data collected across their whole business.
Typically, are new clients moving from completely paper based processes to cloud based, or are they already working with technologies then trying your product?
It depends, it’s not so much paper based processes we see anymore but normally something excel based. Lots of our larger clients have attempted to create defect management solutions in the past. The main problem with this approach is that mobile technology moves so fast that continual investment is required in order to keep up and support all the new device types and operating systems. SnagR does nothing else but invest and continually improve our product offering. New technological advances and changes in the industry, as well as new ideas that people have suggested elsewhere in the world are quickly added to the system and available to all of our clients.
The software industry is moving away from a swiss army knife approach towards apps that are specialised: the right tool for the right job that can talk to each other and can be integrated together to share data. On your phone you probably have a different app per social network, one for taking photos and other for ‘To Do’ lists and a Calendar app. We see this continuing so we work hard to keep SnagR being the best at mobile data collection, indexing data visually, analysing and reporting that data but also allowing clients to integrate with their other enterprise systems.
What are the biggest benefits your clients report – cost savings, time saving, improved quality?
I think the biggest benefits are speed, transparency, communication, standardisation and with that comes improved quality. There is a huge amount of reporting required in construction between all of the different stakeholders. Progress reporting back to the client, reporting issues to the sub-contractors etc. Site staff have to spend significant amounts of the week in the site office in front of a laptop compiling reports, trying to remember which photo was for what thing. SnagR removes all of that administration for issue management, safety, progress reporting, check-lists, inspections, handover, testing and commissioning plans, site diaries and much more. By the time you walk off-site and synchronise your data (the system works offline), the reporting and communication is automatic and you can analyse your data in real-time.
This saves time and money and more importantly improves safety and quality as your key people are able to spend more time out on-site solving problems instead of being behind a laptop compiling reports. A quantifiable example is our client Dragages working on the City of Dreams project in Macau. The 4 person safety team estimated they were spending around 18 hours collectively per week compiling reports of weekly statistics and safety findings. SnagR was able to completely eliminate the reporting requirement. We were able to recreate their standard report format so that the weekly report is automatically produced, available instantly but can also be created for any time period of the project duration. This same approach has now been rolled out for all Dragages projects in Hong Kong and Macau. This helped the team meet their KPI of spending 80% of their time out on-site as they now can concentrate on improving safety by quickly recording safety findings with photos using their mobile devices and signing these off through the system.
What do you think is the future of construction quality and safety in terms of new technology – ie. virtual reality, drones, IoT (Internet of Things)?
I think quality and safety will become more important in the future. More developed countries already take safety extremely seriously as the strengthening of health and safety laws, fines and the bad press that come with it have had a positive effect. In Asia, specifically some countries are still developing a ‘safety culture’. We are seeing international clients with projects in less developed countries demanding safety statistics and accident reporting. They won’t accept corners being cut and this is accelerating safety improvements. SnagR not only allows international safety practises to be imported and implemented more quickly, but also helps our international clients benchmark and feedback learning outcomes across their business more effectively. We see this being a major growth area in the next few years.
I think Virtual Reality can lower the cost of visualising a space which will improve quality and could be used to improve safety training. Drones are useful for remote surveying but are in their infancy in construction. IoT will make construction more complex with even minor components potentially requiring connected embedded sensors. Increased use of pre-fabrication could offset this complexity, but we will see.
Snagr includes a youtube tutorial series.