Tips for Evaluating Effective Engineering Document Management

Every so often I like to take a look at research coming out of universities regarding the engineering issues and technologies I write about. It is good to step back, so to speak, and take a fresh look from a different perspective. A recent journal article summarizes the pitfalls and potentials associated with the use of a good engineering document management system (EDMS). The study by Prof. C.S. Devanand is specific to construction projects, but the results have wider relevance.

In the absence of a comprehensive engineering document management system, Devanand says there are specific and consistent negative impacts on cost, time and quality. He organizes them by action, then notes the result and the impact.

Action: Inefficient communication within the project team
Result: Delay
Impact: Time

Action: Inability to locate drawing or documents where required.
Result: Delay
Impact: Time

Action: Loss of important documents
Result: Delay
Impact: Time and Cost

Action: Works being carried out with outdated information
Result: Disputes, delays, reworks, abortive works
Impact: Time, Cost, Quality

Action: Incomplete specifications and drawings
Result: Reworks, abortive works
Impact: Time, Cost, Quality

Action: Non-compliance with site and works inspections due to incomplete or incorrect documentation
Result: Delay
Impact: Time, Cost, Quality

Devanand then goes on to summarize the hallmarks of successful EDMS. His six tips for best practices make a good yardstick for measuring effective use of document management.

Access: Engineers and construction teams should have easy access to every single document at any given time. “In the absence of availability, the teams cannot work or will be forced to work with uncontrolled documentation.”

Changes: Project team members have to be informed immediately if there are any changes to documents or drawings.

Markup: Marking up changes in the field — and distributing these changes quickly — is as essential as distributing “official” changes.

Numbering system: Every document and drawing must come under the control of a master document naming or numbering system. No exceptions.

Version control: Every document or drawing must be immediately superseded with the current version. Manually, this is challenging to execute but using an EDMS like Synergis Adept makes it an automatic process.

Status: Documents and drawings may be static in nature, but they are a reflection of processes and milestones. Always noting the status of a document makes it clear it is about work in progress, ready for (or received) approval, up for comment, or transmitted.

These are Prof. Devanand’s observations, so I will give him the final word. “The importance of using such a system on projects should be realized right at the conception level and necessary precautions are to be taken to ensure the project and the project team members will be benefited to the maximum. At the end of the day, we all strive to achieve the best possible results out of a project with the given time, cost and scope.” The full report is available online from International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET).

If you’re considering how to better manage your product, facilities or plant data, contact us to learn more about how Adept can impact your organization.


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. 

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