The Dow Chemical Company was an early leader in the use of Engineering Document Management (EDM) in the 1980s. But through the 1990s and 2000s it grew rapidly by acquisition. For data management, this meant the company acquired and continued to use more than 25 different homegrown and commercial EDM systems. An internal Six Sigma audit in 2011 revealed a variety of gaps and other inefficiencies in the use of engineering data; the wide variety of EDM systems in use was cited as a major factor. “All of them had some usability or supportability issues,” says Barbara Migl, CAE Technology Leader for Dow. “One system took 45 minutes to sign in a document.”
The problems found in the Six Sigma internal study are not that unusual, according to research by Dr. Mario Hirz, a leading research on engineering data and documentation management. Successful EDM is highly dependent on interdepartmental and interdisciplinary integrations of both data and workflow. His research notes key issues that large companies often struggle with when trying to gain efficiency through better EDM:
- Insufficient transmission of knowledge;
- The need for a systematic approach to the design and development of EDM processes and systems;
- The complexity of implementation in large organizations;
- Lack of unified processes.
Dow is large (53,000 employees in 180 countries), and that size creates its own challenges. It operates chemical plants around the world, and has more than 3,000 engineers who act as the internal equivalents of EPC’s — Engineering Procurement & Construction providers. To solve the problems revealed in the internal audit, Dow needed a new EDM system that could cope with design and operational issues across continents. The existing mesh of cobbled-together EDM systems was not a foundation for improvement. The status quo did not support Dow’s objectives of a globally consistent, single point of access for engineering documents that could improve document access and provide global collaboration.
Dow’s senior leadership was committed to a long-term vision to integrate engineering design and construction work processes. The goal was to expose information in “asset view” as opposed to the traditional “document view” approach. An asset view approach would let employees find all relevant data about a specific piece of equipment by making a single query.
After a lengthy search and in-house trials, Dow selected Synergic Adept. The company then began a systematic review of how to update its far-flung engineering departments to unite under the new vision of comprehensive document, data, and asset management inside Synergis Adept. The process led to several new best practices for planning, deploying, and measuring effectiveness of their new global document management solution.
For the first time, a leader of Dow’s implementation will share insights from this process in a Synergis webinar. Gregg Schuler is Global Manager for Engineering Collaboration at Dow, and has been part of the EDM implementation of Adept from the very beginning. If you are an owner/operator looking for ideas on how to use a centrally deployed document management system, or an EPC wanting to learn practical ways to advance your project work through better document and data management, this webinar is just the ticket.
For more information and a link to sign up, visit the Synergis webinar home page.
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.