Artisan Myth Busting

Grant Ford

After 5 years of Artisan in production, we get some pretty interesting feedback about what people say about our product and other solutions in the market. Some of the strongest negative opinions of these solutions often come from people who have never used them. We often find that their opinion is based on the propaganda of vendors of competing approaches or from fear of what any technology might mean to their existing roles.

We thought it might be useful to comment on some prevalent misconceptions.

1) Artisan is a remote inspection tool, like WhatsApp, Zoom or Zyte – it is not.

Remote inspection tools are first and foremost digital technologies that allow inspectors to inspect. They require the builder to point their video cameras at things that inspectors would normally go on-site to see, whilst that inspector peers through their desktop screen at whatever the camera is being pointed at. The inspector and the builder are required to be there at the same time and the inspector directs the builder where to point their camera, whilst the inspector completes their stage checklists remotely.

Artisan has a full in-built video screen-sharing facility to be used in this way but it is fundamentally a Quality Assurance “QA” and digital record-keeping system. Building Consenting Authority stage checks have been translated into evidential “shotlists”.  Most shotlist requirements are for photographs to be taken that demonstrate to any inspector at any time building code and workmanship standards compliance.

Builders and BCAs work different hours and Artisan allows them to avoid the scheduling delay and stop-start nature of onsite and remote inspections, by letting tradespeople take photos as they go. They take photos at the natural best time in the building process to take compliance evidence photographs, without having to interrupt that process or leave inspection holes and partially completed work to inspect.  An inspector can watch photos go up in real-time and the system enables them to review the shotlist and determine the past or failed state of it, once the builder has completed the Shotlist and invited the inspector to review it.

Like every other industry where QA systems are the norm, the shotlist describes what good looks like and what evidence of compliance photo to take, so the person doing the work can assure themselves that their work is up to standard before a third-party inspector would confirm that compliance. This ‘four eyes is better than two’ approach to assuring as-built quality is also the current preferred methodology of insurance companies and litigators in our industry. This is one of the reasons why Artisan provides photos and commentary. Insurers prefer this to the opportunity to view video footage in real time. Photos are better for the carbon footprint of our industry than storing much larger video files.

2) Artisan will put inspectors out of work – it won’t.

It is true that an average Artisan inspector can inspect 2 to 3 times the number of sites in a day that a physical inspector can. Remote inspection tools make similar claims but for them to achieve productivity like this requires a significant coordination effort to have the next builder ready to go at the next site ‘hot on the heels’ of the last video call.

With Artisan, if a queue is forming, additional inspectors can jump on and clear it. Very few personnel are required to manage the system and they call on inspector resources to scale up or down to meet demand.  This makes Artisan a very important adjunct to physical site inspections because it frees up site visit resources to focus on where there is a greater risk or greater history of poor performance. It enables specialist inspectors to have greater oversight of more jobs in their specialty and it encourages professional tradespeople to do a better job by rewarding them by allowing them to optimize their work schedules, have less inspector delay downtime on site and ultimately improve their profitability. 

Artisan has already proven to be a major way to utilise the inspector ‘walking wounded’, allow older inspectors to continue to be highly valuable contributors; past their normal use-by date and enable working from home to ease office work space demands on councils.

Artisan will prolong an inspecting career and allow new digital native generations to join the workforce, reducing wait times and costs for everyone.

3) Artisan will prevent inspector onsite coaching and advice – it won’t.

If the last 5 years have proven anything it is that relations between inspectors and tradespeople, whose work they are inspecting can be quite adversarial during an inspection and Artisan has really changed that. Inspectors do turn up on site, in your App or on your phone but it is to talk to you generally about how you are doing on the system. The things they say are backed up by the photos you took and their comments on them and generally, these conversations are about how we can improve the process and outcomes together. Eyeballing the compliance issues and practices and not each other.

4) Artisan exposes BCAs and builders to greater liability – it doesn’t.

Misconceptions around risk and liability do prevent the building industry from moving forward in quality assurance and digital decision-making. Traditionalists believe the only way to protect themselves from inferior non-compliant workmanship is to go onsite and see for themselves. In reality, BCAs take on a lot more risk and liability when they go onsite than if they had assessed shotlists in Artisan remotely.

When an inspector is onsite looking at one stage check he or she has committed the BCA to be jointly liable for the compliant nature of all work done up to that point on that site; even things he or she was not explicitly onsite to check.  On the other side of the coin, some tradespeople exploit using the councils as a check in the mistaken belief that liability for their workmanship has somehow passed from them to the council with a passed stage check. Others believe by taking photos and presenting them they have taken over the BCA’s liability which now rests solely with them. 

The truth is tradespeople are liable for the quality of their work from the moment they start until long after they have completed every aspect of a build. The BCA/ Council takes on joint liability with them when they verify the quality of the work as complying with the building code and Act. Nothing either party does by way of verification method choice changes that. 

One thing the enduring digital record of the build in Artisan does do is very quickly identify when an error has been made and by whom. Some will view this as a risk, others as the very best mitigation of that risk, depending on how good their practices and resulting as-built quality are. However, in this case, perception is not reality. Digitally recorded evidence is enduring and the fuel for a transparent continuously improving future for the New Zealand building system.

Grant Ford
Artisan Myth Busting