Cell phone towers are the Rodney Dangerfield of cellular communications: they get no respect from the public. Yet this infrastructure, and the people who maintain them, are indispensable to keeping our 21st century lifestyle. Consistent inspection of each and every cell phone tower keeps our systems running smoothly.
The Challenges of Staying Productive in the Field
Unlike office workers, cellphone tower technicians work in the field. It can be dangerous work! In 2014, OSHA investigated the safety of this field after several deadly accidents.
Pacific Standard described the field in these terms: “Tower climbing, a small field of roughly 10,000 workers, has been called the most dangerous job in America.” Fortunately, there is one simple way to improve safety and productivity: use a standardized inspection report.
With a standard form to use, it is easier to focus under pressure. You don’t have to worry about your tasks or what to look at next. You just work through the list one item at a time.
Keeping staff safe and productive in the field is one benefit of the inspection report, but it’s not the whole story.
Who Reads Your Cell Phone Tower Inspection Reports?
Before we can improve your cell phone tower inspections, we need to take a step back. Who exactly uses this report? What do they need from this report? The answers will vary depending on your company situation. Here are some of the answers:
- Field Technicians. Easy to read and use inspection reports help your front-line staff organize their daily work.
- First Line Managers. By reviewing these reports, managers are better able to coach and guide their staff to success. This information also informs management reporting and planning questions such as “do we need to hire more staff?” and “are we equipping our staff to succeed?”
- Business Intelligence and Analytics. Companies run on data, and the telecom industry is no exception. Back office analysts use data from inspection reports to detect problems and trends throughout the system.
- Business Planning and Strategy. How much money should we budget for maintenance and inspection activities next year? To answer that question, management analysts require high quality data from the field.
The 5 Step Improvement Process
1. What is your “why” for improving the inspection report?
Improving a report may not be your idea of a good time. Don’t worry — we understand. However, the process is still worth the effort once you understand your why.
In this situation, look for a way to connect improving the report to your existing goals. Take a look at the following examples to get started:
- Productivity. What if you are asked to service 5% more cell towers with the same budget you currently have? Looking at every aspect of your operation — including reports and procedures — would make sense. You may find out that you can simplify your inspection reports without hurting quality.
- Worker Safety. A few years ago, worker safety was a major issue in the cell phone tower inspection industry. Don’t wait for the government to step in — take responsibility for improving safety by improving your inspection processes.
2. Talk to your field staff about their experience with the reports
Now that you understand why you are changing the report, it is time to gather feedback. Ask your staff about their experience, positive and negative. In particular, find out what sections they find difficult to use.
If multiple people consider a section to be unclear, it is time to cut it. By including your staff, they are more likely to use the revised report diligently.
3. Cut, cut, cut: ask what can be removed from the inspection report
A highly complex inspection report with out of date fields and requirements doesn’t serve anyone. That’s why we recommend that you start by cutting irrelevant and out of date material from the inspection report design first.
If you leave obsolete sections on the form, your staff are more likely to make mistakes when try to determine which sections are mandatory in the field.
4. Add legal and regulatory updates to the inspection report
Staying current with legal and regulatory updates is vital for cell phone tower inspections, and to avoid violations. Take note of telecommunications requirements, health and safety (e.g. OSHA regulations) and company policies.
If a company’s policy is not translated into daily practice, those policies have no value.
Tip: For policy news related to the telecommunications industry, look into RCR Wireless.
5. Seek digitization opportunities for the inspection report
If you are still working with paper inspection reports, pay special attention to this step. Instead of wasting time trying to decipher handwriting on forms, a digital form is easier to manage.
Get access to inspection data from the field faster with mobile forms. Learn how.