The packout. It can be a crucial piece of the restoration/remediation puzzle, especially for jobs requiring a full suite of services, like contents management. But it’s also fertile ground for inefficiencies and costly errors. The old-fashioned way - creating hard copy lists on site and transferring all that information to a computer back at the office - can be plagued by factors such as hard-to-read handwriting, inaccuracies during data entry and lost or missing documentation. When that happens in front of a customer, it can look very unprofessional.

To address these issues, software apps are fast becoming the industry standard. For companies that have made the switch, the decision is delivering multiple benefits.

Jordan Callahan, Operations Manager at SERVPRO of Orange/Nederland/Lumberton in Texas, found that the volume of work his company was doing became the tipping point to make a change.

“We just got to the point where we were getting too many claims to process everything by hand,” says Callahan. “Prior to the switch we had done everything by hand - handwritten lists, individual pictures imported into folders from a digital camera - and it was just all jumbled, all across the board. We decided we needed something to consolidate all that.”

Callahan and SERVPRO of Orange/Nederland/Lumberton are just one example of the many companies that are gaining efficiency and increasing profits by making the switch.

“We are finding that the efficiencies gained from reduced time on site and in the office are so good, a company can expect to save enough money to not only recoup their investment, but also realize a profit on just one to two packout jobs per month,” says Brian Cannon, president, Assured Software. “But the big benefit is when a company realizes that they are able to go after bigger jobs thanks to the software.”

Typical packout software lets users create a complete record of each item, with barcode, picture and status information, thereby making it possible to accurately track items through the restoration process. There’s also the ability to create custom reports and include detailed information such as serial and model/make information, along with time-saving features such as using more than one iPad to catalog items to a single, always up-to-date inventory.

But the key feature of packout apps - the ability to get crucial information into digital form while still on-site - not only offers efficiencies, it delivers peace of mind to the clients of restoration and remediation contractors.

“Our clients are instantly impressed that their names and a barcode are put on their content before it is removed from their homes,” says Scott Williams, branch manager for Belfor Property Restoration in Abbotsford, British Columbia. “It provides them with the security of knowing that all their items made it back to our building and any questions regarding locations and conditions can be answered in real-time.”

In some industries, making a major switch to a new workflow that incorporates computers, training and software can give managers a feeling of dread, especially if it means convincing front-line staff that the switch will make their jobs easier. But with packout software, it’s turning out to be an easy sell.

“We made the switch in stages,” explains Williams. “In October 2012, we went to the digital inventory platform but continued to use traditional tagging methods. We switched to labeling of content using a labeling option in January 2013 and, lastly, we implemented the full barcoding in June 2013 to capture the ‘who did what when and where is it now’ capabilities it provided. For me, as a former warehouse manager, it was the realization of something I never thought I would see and it has made the biggest difference.”

A good packout software solution equals greater efficiency, lower productions costs, a reduced documentation time and, ideally, happy clients.

And don’t expect this digital revolution in packouts to end anytime soon.

“The next step will be to get contents management and job management software working together,” says Cannon. “For the contractor, it is important to have a view of all the aspects of their business whether it’s emergency response, contents or reconstruction and to see how they fit together and contribute to the business as a whole.”

 There’s no doubt that technology such as iPads and other handheld devices have changed the way we read books, watch TV and interact with the massive amounts of data and content available on the Internet. For the forward-thinking companies in the restoration and remediation industry that are adopting these tools, it’s also proving to be a great way to improve their business.