It never ceases to amaze me how many engineering companies still believe they are doing just fine using the same document management methods they used when Windows replaced DOS in the 1980s. Talking to my colleagues, users, and software vendors leads me to believe a majority of engineering firms in both product development and construction are not using modern document management. Instead, they rely on creating operating system directories for document management in shared networks or on individual users’ computers. This is unacceptable business practice in operations, finance, and other divisions of a company; why should the inefficiencies and lack of security inherent in using naked OS folders be acceptable in engineering?
I call it document management on the honor system. It is not much more advanced than printing every electronic document on paper and then arranging them on shelves, where anybody has access to any file. Until one of those shelves is in somebody’s private office and they are gone for two weeks… when you really need that information now. Or until when somebody takes a file folder home for the weekend, but misplaces it and doesn’t bring it back on Monday.
It is no wonder that research shows the average engineering company employee spends 20% of the workday looking for information. That is time taken away from productive, creative, revenue-generating work. The solution is to centralize engineering data, so that it is not owned and filed by the person who created it. All engineering data needs to be accessible to the entire team, subject to the usual permissions and roles. Such centralization treats engineering documents and the data they contain as a precious corporate asset.
A full-featured EDM product — like Synergis Adept — can organize both the structured data in documents (like CAD data, and fields in text-based forms) as well as the unstructured data (like a note attached to an email). Organized data is accessible data. Modern search tools mean you don’t need to go clicking through directories to find a document, you just ask for it based on keywords, assigned job numbers, etc.
Saving employee time is saving money. Less time spent trying to find one particular revision of a document or the CAD file holding one specific part means more time turning ideas into billable services.
In a recent special report, I went into much more detail on how engineering document management software saves time and money. There are internal communications issues, external communications issues, security issues, regulatory issues … the list goes on and on. If you are exploring how to bring your engineering company’s document management into the 21st Century, I suggest you take a look at my report, “Reducing Costs with Engineering Document Management.”
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 athttps://www.linkedin.com/in/randallnewton.