Measuring the ROI of Information Access

In my previous blog post for Synergis, I ended it by saying, “Don’t measure the ROI of having a place to put your CAD stuff; measure the ROI of creating digital business processes for product development.” So let’s take a look at an engineering company that has taken the time to figure it out.

Calculating Return on Investment is fairly simple when one buys a product wholesale and sells it retail. When the purchase is a software product that guides crucial operations, the calculations get more intricate. For example, if you don’t know how long it takes your team to work with information, you can’t measure the benefit of automation. In a report entitled “Validating the Possible” CIMdata calculates the potential for savings in specific processes, including:

  • Time to find information—75% to 90% time reduction;
  • Engineering changes process—10% to 70% time reduction;
  • Design review process—50% to 80% time reduction;

If a company has never taken the time to measure how much time employees spend looking up and/or sending along bits of data, it can’t measure how much can be saved when these processes are streamlined.  Questions like “What was that part number?” or “Have the changes to the drawing been entered in the drawing register?” are actually hiding a considerable expenditure of time.

Taggart Global is a multi-disciplined Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) company specializing in energy and resources projects. When it decided to automate the use of more than 1 million documents, it first took a close look at the cost of routine processes. Two common and important processes—updating the Drawing Register and preparing/sending transmittals—were costing the company $760,000 per year. Driving down the cost of these non-billable non-design work tasks became a top priority.

Taggart found their solution in making Synergis Adept the center of its business processes. When a Request for Proposal comes in, it is entered into Adept, which generates a job number. From then on, every document associated with this proposal is entered into Adept to be tracked and managed.

For design work, Taggart used a Microsoft Excel-based Drawing Register to track all design changes. Before Adept, information was manually typed into the drawing and into an Excel-based drawing register. Whenever a drawing was edited, the information had to be manually updated in Excel. The company was surprised to learn designers were spending three to four hours every day modifying an Excel file. Three hours a day, for 12 people making an average of $40/hour turns into $360,000 a year devoted to repetitive manual tasks.

With Adept the Excel file has been replaced with a database. When attribute information changes in the drawing, it is read by Adept, which updates the Drawing Register. Taggart then has Adept generate an update to Crystal Reports. Taggart now has a real-time Drawing Register, redirecting $360,000 in employee efficiency annually.

Taggart found similar benefits in reworking its transmittal process. The original process required a full-time person to type a series of 12-digit drawing numbers into an Excel file—along with titles and descriptions—and then print out all the necessary drawings that form the transmittal. Then a transmittal cover letter was generated, and all the drawing numbers in Excel were manually matched up to the drawings in a zip file. Taggart estimates the cost of time and labor per year for creating transmittals was $400,000.

The new transmittal process is much simpler. Adept creates a transmittal PDF based on a standard template. Files are selected within Adept using the FileGuide feature. Adept then generates the transmittal letter and zips all the related drawing files to be sent.

Two common tasks automated in Synergis Adept gave Taggart Global $760,000 in redirected efficiency by automating the creating and management of crucial business information. But Taggart didn’t stop there:  it decided to use Adept from start to finish. You can read about their transformation in detail in a case study on the Synergis site:

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

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