Every year, managers and regulators push more forms, reports and other paperwork onto the natural gas industry. Keeping up with these requirements quickly starts to feel overwhelming. You know these requirements have to be met, but how can you do it without using up your entire workday?
1. Change the Questions and Fields on Your Forms
Some fields on forms are harder to complete than others. To take a simple example, a form that requires you to write “California” rather than “CA” in the state field is inefficient. Just making a form easier to complete will lead to a boost in productivity and compliance.
Here are some other ways you can improve a form’s design and make it easier to complete:
- Use more tick boxes: Instead of asking people to describe the problem, you can use tick boxes instead (e.g., “check off the areas of the facility that have been inspected”)
- Delete questions from the form: Sometimes the most natural solution is to cut material from the form.
- Define technical language and acronyms: Consider adding a short definitions section to the beginning of your form to reduce confusion.
2. Reduce Your Natural Gas Forms
To save time, working harder is not always the best approach. As Tim Ferriss explains in his productivity book The Four Hour Workweek, elimination of low-value tasks is a critical way to improve productivity. Make sure your data collection process is efficient by evaluating your forms and determining if any steps can be eliminated.
Ask your team these questions:
- Which forms do you get the most calls and emails about? That feedback indicates that the form is being read and acted on.
- Which forms cause the most questions in your team? If you regularly have to stop work to answer questions, that is a good sign the form is confusing. You can either fix it or get rid of it.
3. Digitize Your Data Collection Process
Filling in paper forms is a time-consuming way to gather necessary data in the natural gas industry. You may also be adding a new data collection process or component to your workflow. A mobile forms solution can digitize your data collection and eliminate paperwork by allowing your team to easily collect the data on their mobile devices.
Even better, your head office and other departments do not have to wait for digital forms to arrive from the field. If you are struggling with complaints about slow service, digital forms are one excellent way to save time.
Tip: Read our tips on how to use digital forms to achieve your continuous improvement goals. After all, if you save a few hours per week on completing forms, you will have more capacity to take on other projects.
4. Pre-Populate Your Forms With Commonly Used Information
The blank page is one of the greatest problems with traditional paper forms. Each time, you have to enter your location, name and other standard information. You can save time by using smart digital forms that have pre-filled data. Use drop-down menus to simplify the following aspects of your natural gas forms:
- Equipment Impacted: If frontline staff happen to report the wrong machine number on a form, it can cause major confusion or delays. Avoid this problem by creating a list of the 10-20 most common machines and devices in your organization. You can always include “Other” as an option to cover other circumstances.
- Location List: If you only have locations in five states, enter those states into a list so your staff does not have to enter them each time.
- Priority Rating: If you use forms to report problems, you may want to add a form section to rank natural gas problems by priority.
5. Show How Your Natural Gas Forms Are Used by Others
In some cases, lack of motivation and understanding discourage staff from completing forms. Here are a few ways to show how timely, accurate forms add value:
- Customer Satisfaction: By collecting detailed information on malfunctions and customer complaints, the company is better able to address their problems. That means no upset customers are complaining on social media or seeking an alternate supplier.
- Improve Safety: In 2016, New Jersey fined a natural gas company for safety violations that led to an explosion. By thoroughly using safety forms, these problems are less likely to occur.
- Reduce Rework: Have you ever been asked to fill in a form a second time because you made a mistake? It is a frustrating experience. By adopting digital forms, rework will be less likely.
How Will You Improve Your Natural Gas Company This Year?
Installing new pipelines and other natural gas infrastructure add value. Unfortunately, those improvements are costly. If you are looking for another way to boost productivity, just put digital forms in place. You will get better information to make decisions and reduce rework.
Ready to make mobile forms a solution for your business? Learn how they can help.