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PennDOT app helps reduce paperwork, cost of construction management

Officials: Program saves time by digitizing bulky paper documents

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards speaks about the agency's use of a mobile construction app to save project managers time and money by reducing dependence on large, heavy paper documents. - (Photo / Roger DuPuis)

Once again, PennDOT is paving the way.

Literally, sure, because that’s what the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation does.

More than that, the agency’s use of mobile technology to reduce construction inspectors’ reliance on bulky, printed project documents is leading to millions of dollars in cost-savings by increasing the amount of time those managers can spend out in the field, PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said today.

“We have nearly 400 inspectors on staff and 1,200 under contract to check on the roughly $2.5 billion worth of construction work we have underway each year,” Richards said, as she and other officials gathered at an Interstate 83 construction project in Lower Paxton Township to talk about the app, one of several projects PennDOT has launched to meet Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Go-Time” initiative, encouraging state agencies to work smarter.

The digital app allows inspectors to spend an additional 1.5 hours per day in the field, or nearly 300,000 additional person-hours each year. That, Richards said, has resulted in $11 million worth of productivity savings last year, when it was rolled out, with an additional $17 million in savings expected this fiscal year.

Wolf’s initiative is designed to promote interagency coordination, modernization and efficiency, and PennDOT’s construction app is one of several Go-Time projects launched by the agency.

Go-Time initiatives saved the state more than $156 million in fiscal 2015-16, officials said, more than Wolf’s target of $150 million.

PennDOT has been a leader not just within its own jurisdiction, but through sharing its experiences with other state agencies said Sharon Ward, director of the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management and Efficiency (“GOTIME”).

“For a long time, ideas and projects that we developed in one agency stayed in that agency, and that is no longer the case,” Ward said.

Among the other bodies which have benefited from PennDOT’s expertise, Ward said, are inspectors who oversee agricultural and environmental matters, from restaurant and farm safety to protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Like the people who oversee PennDOT construction projects, such inspectors traditionally have relied on labor-intensive, paper-based processes to do their work.

Richards underscored that point today.

She gestured toward reams and reams of reports with their stiff cardboard covers, piled high on the trunk of a car parked near her podium. Filled with critical details, the chunky documents have been the conventional tools of inspectors who keep tabs on major projects.

They’re also on the way to becoming antiques.

Instead of lugging such documents around and having to pore through them, “now they can file and access these reports on the mobile app,” Richards explained.

Nearby, Dave Haverstock, an inspector with Michael Baker Corp., demonstrated the process, his hands filled with nothing more than a slim white mobile tablet.

“These are the staff out there who do the quality checks on our roads and bridges,” Richards added.

“The mobile construction app reduces time spent on administrative tasks.” 

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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