Every successful retrofit project begins with a great audit. But great audits don’t just happen by accident! A lot of work goes into the audit process.
After spending the last two years at StreamLinx in multiple roles – including quality assurance, customer success, and onboarding and training – I’ve had the benefit of working with some amazing auditors. I’d love to share with you some of the audit best practices I’ve learned along the way.
Common Challenges Faced During an Audit
However, before we dive into best practices, let’s first touch base on the ways auditors can get tripped up during an audit.
The immediate objective for any auditor is to collect the data needed to produce a quote for a retrofit project. But time is money, and auditors want to do their work as quickly and as accurately as possible.
Auditors can be slowed down by all sorts of obstacles. For example, facility managers are busy people, and being available to give the auditor access to a building may be low on their priority list. Or the auditor may be blocked from entering certain sensitive rooms.
Additionally, the process of collecting data can present challenges.
Is the auditor using a technology solution (such as lighting audit software) to collect the data, or is the auditor relying on a pencil and a notepad? Handwritten, manual data collection presents all sorts of problems. Any manual process introduces the risk of error.
For example, handwritten notes will need to be transferred into a spreadsheet or other software to complete the calculations that will determine the scope of the project and rebates available to the customer. But what happens if messy handwriting results in the numbers being read incorrectly? Or what happens if certain data points are missed and not collected?
When there’s a problem with collecting audit data, the consequences can be serious:
- If the error is caught up front, the auditor will need to go back to the facility to fix the mistake or collect the missing information. This means coordinating with the facility manager for a follow-up visit, taking the time to go back out to the facility to collect the right information, etc. Did we mention that time is money?
- If the error is not caught, the incorrect information may end up impacting the quote. Eventually, the error will be found – but by then, the retrofit company will likely either be locked into the terms of the project and will have to eat any additional cost, or the company will have to ask the customer to pay more due to the change in project scope … and no customer ever does that happily.
Clearly, anything that either slows down the audit process or results in missing or inaccurate information presents a major obstacle for the auditor.
So, what audit best practices can help the process run smoother?
Tips for a Successful Retrofit Audit
The following are my best pieces of advice I share with my SnapCount trainees.
You always want to start your audit off on the right foot. Organization is key! Do your homework ahead of time and come to the audit prepared.
Who is your contact on site, and how will you access the facility? Will any rooms be off-limits? Will you need to wear any special protective gear? Do you need to be mindful of business operating hours?
Also, think about how the facility is laid out, so you can map out the most efficient approach to the audit. This might mean requesting floor plan images from the customer, or making a drawing of the floorplan ahead of time, which will also help to orient yourself while you’re in the facility conducting the audit.
You want to complete your audit as quickly as possible without sacrificing the quality of the data you collect.
Anything you can do to keep yourself moving forward will help. Many auditors like to stick to the right wall of a building and work their way around the facility clockwise – as opposed to zig zagging their way through the facility.
It’s also a good idea to identify landmarks in your notes (e.g., “the hallway by the men’s restroom on the second floor”). Or if you’re using an audit software tool (such as SnapCount), it’s incredibly helpful if there’s a pin drop feature. Making it crystal clear exactly where a fixture is located not only helps you keep mental track of where you are at any point in time, it also helps the installer understand your data, which helps reduce errors and makes their job easier and more efficient.
Keep the End Goal in Mind
Remember, the goal of the audit is to enable an accurate proposal to be produced, which results in paying work with the customer, that you’re able to successfully complete.
But remember, somebody has to prepare that proposal. And somebody will have to complete the installation based on what’s contained in the proposal
Keep this end goal in mind while you’re conducting your audit, to ensure you’re collecting the right, accurate information. Ask yourself:
- What information will you or your team need to design a great solution for this client?
- What information will the installer need to have to complete this project on time and on budget?
Many auditors focus on collecting the basics: What kind of fixture is it, what’s the voltage, what’s the ceiling height, etc.
But is this enough? If the proposal or the installation would benefit from having better data, think about ways you can enhance the data you’re collecting. Use your smart phone or tablet to take an image of the mounting hardware. Add pin drops to clarify exactly where an unusual fixture is located. Identify any wiring issues. You get the idea!
Review Your Data Before You Leave
Your high school math teacher probably told you to check your answers before you turned in your test and this is even more important in retrofit audits.
Before you walk out the door, look through everything you’ve collected. Make sure nothing has been missed, and that all of your notes and comments are coherent and properly labeled. The last thing you want is to have to return to the site to fix a mistake.
Although a lot of this advice might sound like common sense, when you’re in the middle of a million-square-foot facility and every fixture looks just like the other, a little bit of common sense will go a long way.
Be mindful of how you organize your time, and be thorough with the way you collect your data. Do this, and you’ll be on your way to producing an amazing proposal and completing a terrific installation project!