From Silos to Reservoirs

The phrase “information silo” is often used to describe when departments can’t or won’t play nice with sharing needed data. But I’ve never read of a similar metaphor to describe the opposite, when companies root out all the inefficiencies and everyone has the direct access they need to do their jobs. So let’s call it “information reservoir.”

Silos and reservoirs are two very different types of infrastructure. If the existing infrastructure is Windows Explorer or a product data management (PDM) program that only works on CAD drawings, then not only are you definitely stuck in silo mode, you have much to gain by investing in an engineering document management system (EDMS) that works equally well with geometry, words, and numbers.

Manufacturing products and constructing assets are team sports and as such, thrive in reservoir mode. For every colleague who creates models, drawings, or visualizations, there are 2x to 10x others who need to work with the data created in a project—and most of that information is words and numbers, not geometry.

Making the transition from silos to reservoirs

If you start with the idea that each retrieval and edit of a document as a transaction, then it makes sense that the faster a member of your team gains access to a specific document (such as the most recent BOM) or data point (a part number), the more efficient they become. So, if retrieving the data takes longer because it’s not stored in a centralized repository, then it’s likely your colleagues are operating inefficiently and the existing level of computer automation is letting your company down. Sounds like a silo problem to me.

Evaluating your company’s transactional efficiency shouldn’t end with the engineering department. To a large degree, everyone in the organization relies on information generated by every department. It’s a good reason why you need to shift away from silos to accessing information stored in reservoirs. After all, the typical engineering group relies on documents created in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel (and often converted to PDF) to present the data others need. Many companies have designed templates for creating these documents, to standardize and simplify gathering the required information. But templates don’t help eliminate extra transactions nor do they tell you where the information is stored. Who has access to it? What are the rules of access? What are the notes and comments about the information? Without a system in place to reduce transactions based on these questions, efficiency bogs down.

EDMS software effectively reduces transactions with:

  • File management and search
  • Preservation of tribal knowledge
  • Data security and regulation compliance
  • Version control
  • Access to unstructured content

An EDMS software solution like Synergis Adept can do more than organize and distribute engineering information; it can become the new infrastructure of efficiency—the new reservoir—for the entire company. It is not uncommon for an installation of Adept to start with the engineering team, but within a few months operations and administration are asking for seats of Adept. I know of many Adept users who also deployed it to their quality, marketing and finance departments. Leaving those silos behind becomes enviable, when the new reservoir makes data access easy for everyone.


Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/randallnewton.

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