Papertrail – turning LOLER on its head…

We’re six months in to our journey with Papertrail and, while this puppy gathers momentum within the Arb industry, we thought we’d share our experiences of using it.

Papertrail – endorsed in the early days by Treepartner founders Richard Allmond and Chris Cowell; more recently by the likes of DMM, has been around now for over a year. Like any new business Papertrail have refined their offer over time and it’s considerably better now than it was when we first met it. On the whole we’ve found it generally to be a much better alternative for recording equipment inventories and inspections than keeping paper records.

What do we love about it?

  • It’s accessible on any mobile device with an internet connection – Got a few minutes down-time before a job? You can do your weekly checks and record them online from the van.
  • Your inventory and inspection history is always where you know you can find it – online! No more missing folders, scraps of muddy paper or traipsing through piles of invoices.
  • It’s easy to add equipment items to an inventory using the ‘New Record’ form that has a simple layout and pre-loaded lists of manufacturers.
  • It’s simple to upload multiple inspections – there’s a clever ‘copy to all’ tab that allows really quick bulk uploading of inspection outcomes (assuming they’re all the same)
  • You can’t miss the reminder tags that tell you when your inspections are over-due, if items need monitoring or are in quarantine.
  • The system emails to remind you to do your inspections – whether they are weekly checks, monthly logs, six monthly Thorough Inspections or any other routine activity you need to carry out.
  • There’s a nifty ‘Add Photo/File’ option that allows you to attach pics of equipment – useful if kit gets damaged or to demonstrate multiple bits of kit in use.

What have Papertrail listened to us about?

  • We love the ‘Print’ function that allows you to print a summary of all your equipment’s very latest inspections. But we got frustrated trying to print of histories of multiple items. You have to export the data into Excel and extract it from there.

We told Papertrail and we are pleased to hear that they are devising a new reporting system that allows you to run reports on your data without exporting to Excel. Great stuff.

  • Most days we love the simplicity of the Papertrail system because there is only one way to store information. You add a record, you add an inspection – It’s pretty hard to mess it up! But at times we’ve wanted to do something a bit more complicated and found ourselves setting up ‘work-arounds’ that seem longwinded. Things like storing multiple inspection documents.

We spoke to Papertrail and had to accept that ‘storing documents’ exposed our own need to cling to old systems involving pieces of paper. In our defence – we are trying to serve two masters at this stage of the game; those willing to embrace technology, but also those who still require pieces of paper –  inspectors, employers, commissioners.

  • Not all our customers are administration friendly. Let’s face it, we all care more about trees than we do about administration. So even when we’ve set up Papertrail accounts and run workshops to implore our customers to use them – sometimes it still doesn’t happen.

When we shared this frustration with Papertrail the problem seemed to resonate with them. They are in early talks with the Arb Association on exactly this subject. Whilst there’s no easy answer, we do at least agree that there is much to be done to educate the industry about the importance of compliance with legislation.

“We dream of the day when all kit carries its own ID and history – in a chip or some other ‘tag’ that means it stays with the kit wherever it goes and anyone can have access to it anywhere. Maybe it could even have some indicator that tells you its inspection is overdue like it changes colour or something?”

Max Storey – Treekit Director June 2015

So will Papertrail really stop us all using using paper and help the many Arborists who have fallen behind get back on track with their equipment checks and inspections?

The answer is clearly a resounding yes – the transition to paperless kit-logging is inevitable. We’re just not quite all there yet.

And that’s not down to the functionality of Papertrail – it’s also down to the functionality of the people who use it and the functionality of the people who need to see the evidence of inspections.

We’ve certainly come a long way from our old paper systems for recording Thorough Inspections for our customers. These days we always recommend that our customers adopt Papertrail to manage their equipment and we help them to do it. We are certain that it saves masses of paper and has the ability to remove many headaches.

Our occasional frustration with Papertrail lies, in part, with its inflexibility – especially when we want summary information and to manipulate content.  But our frustration lies mostly with the age-old need to provide people with hard ‘paper’ evidence of checks and inspections. It seems that often an ‘electronic’ signature is just not enough. Papertrail is perhaps too ahead of its time to accommodate this problem but the problem remains nonetheless.

Helping our customers to be safe in the work they do is at the core of what TREEKIT is all about. We think industry leaders need to hit home the reasons why it is so important to document equipment management. Only then can systems like Papertrail find a permanent home in the treeworker’s daily life.

We’re up for it and we won’t let it lie. We hope you are. Using Papertrail is one step closer.

For more information on our Equipment Management Service click here.

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