Paperless or Perish: Why Rail Contractors Need to Embrace Digital Reporting Systems

March 12, 2023
Paperless or Perish: Why Rail Contractors Need to Embrace Digital Reporting Systems

In today's fast-paced world, it's essential for businesses to stay up to date with the latest technologies to remain competitive. In the railway construction industry, where time is money, companies cannot afford to rely on outdated, manual paper-based reporting systems.

While paper reporting may seem like a cost-effective solution at first glance, the hidden costs associated with this outdated method can add up quickly, resulting in lost productivity, missed opportunities, and damaged client relationships.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at the indirect costs of paper reporting and why rail contractors need to embrace digital reporting systems to remain competitive.

Missing or Poor Quality Information

One of the most significant hidden costs associated with paper reporting is the risk of missing or poor-quality information. Paper reports are easily lost or damaged on-site, making it difficult for project management teams to keep track of what's happening on the ground.

Moreover, hastily scribbled notes without context or supporting evidence are virtually useless for project management teams, leading to costly mistakes and misunderstandings down the line.

Poor quality information can result in a host of issues for rail contractors, such as inability to substantiate payment applications, failure to explain change and delay to clients, inability to audit subcontractor and supplier applications, and slow and difficult dispute resolution, which can ultimately result in losing a client relationship altogether.

Time Lost or Wasted

Another hidden cost of paper reporting is the significant amount of time wasted by both on-site and office-based staff. Office staff must spend valuable time collating and typing up reports into a usable format, which takes away from their ability to analyse and improve project delivery.

Meanwhile, on-site supervisors and construction managers must spend extra time after their shifts filling out paperwork, cutting into their already demanding schedules and impacting their ability to rest.

Read how Balfour Beatty overcame this.

Communication Lag Between Worksites

A significant disadvantage of paper reporting is the communication lag between field and office-based teams. Project management staff may not find out what happened on a shift until it's over, or days later, making it difficult to make proactive decisions and prevent overruns.

This can lead to a lack of real-time progress updates during a blockade, poor visibility of labor and plant on-site, close calls not being reported in a timely manner, and inability to predict and prevent cost or schedule overruns without up-to-date shift information.

Field-based teams may end up working with out-of-date project scopes or having to re-plan a shift due to issues that arose overnight. Communicating changes via paper, phone calls, or instant messaging can be messy, lack detail, and often cause audit and substantiation problems down the line.

No Long-term Value

At the end of a project, paper reports are typically filed away and rarely reviewed unless there's a dispute weeks or months later. However, project data can be used to benchmark future cost estimates, tenders, health, and safety processes and schedules, leading to more accurate project plans, increased project value, and smoother delivery.

Without this data, contractors may be unable to calculate exact outputs and activity costs, identify recurring risks and bypass them, analyse access times and lost opportunity, evaluate resource requirements, or impress clients with a fully evidenced tender.

Raildiary: The Solution to Paper Reporting Woes

Raildiary is a data-collection and analysis software tailored specifically to the rail industry, providing real-time progress reporting, data visualisation and analysis, bespoke reports covering key issues such as access, close calls, and resource allocation, and quick and easy site diary records.

By implementing Raildiary's digital reporting system, rail contractors can significantly reduce the hidden costs of paper reporting, streamline communication between field and office-based teams, and unlock the long-term value of project data.

In conclusion, paperless reporting systems are not only environmentally friendly, but they also bring significant benefits to rail contractors. By adopting a digital reporting system, contractors can eliminate the hidden costs of paper-based reporting, including missing or poor-quality information, time lost or wasted, communication lag between worksites, and lack of long-term value.

Raildiary provides comprehensive data-collection and analysis software that is tailored to the rail industry. By using Raildiary, contractors can benefit from real-time progress reporting, data visualisation and analysis, bespoke reports covering key issues such as access, close calls and resource allocation, and quick and easy Sitediary records. These features allow for better decision-making and more accurate project plans, increasing project value and smoother delivery.

When considering the reporting process for your rail construction projects, it’s important to take a holistic view and understand the full return on investment. By considering the indirect costs and benefits of paperless reporting systems, contractors can make more informed decisions that can positively impact their productivity, income, and client relationships.

It’s time for rail contractors to embrace digital reporting systems and say goodbye to the hidden costs of paper-based reporting. The future of the rail industry is digital, and by using innovative tools like Raildiary, contractors can lead the way in delivering efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable projects.

Will Doyle


I am an experienced RICS chartered Quantity Surveyor​ with first-hand experience of how the consistent capture and analysis of data can transform global project delivery.

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