Content-centric application puts context into engineering document management

Engineering organizations have long struggled with management, modification, and distribution of project documentation. With efficiency a priority, how does one get the right information to those who need it, when they need it—whether they are in the same department, at a different site, or working on a different but related project altogether? McLaren Software puts it all together with i...

12/01/2007


Engineering organizations have long struggled with management, modification, and distribution of project documentation. With efficiency a priority, how does one get the right information to those who need it, when they need it—whether they are in the same department, at a different site, or working on a different but related project altogether?

McLaren Software puts it all together with its latest offering, Enterprise Engineer for Assets. Enabling electronic dispersion of asset-related documentation such as standard operating procedures, as-built drawings, and plant documents, the system is based on what McLaren developers term "the institutionalization of process," permitting users to create and receive consistent data.

The heart of the system is the asset information vault (AIV), which serves as a centralized storage bank housing all engineering documents. Automated functionality manages changes across multiple engineering projects, and the system's auditing capabilities ensure the most up-to-date version of any given document is admitted to the AIV.

California's Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is in the process of implementing EE for Assets, with the goal of reaching full deployment by early November. Senior Project Manager Quennon Coleman says the organization aims to improve processing of approvals and design modifications.

“Rather than taking a stack of hard copy drawings and walking them from person to person for their review and approval, we want to do that routing online with the drawings in electronic format,” Coleman says.

The system's central storage capabilities and concurrent engineering functionality—which enables several projects to communicate with one another at the same time—were attractive options. The software's revision management feature, Coleman adds, will give the organization better control over changes.

“If someone checks out a drawing for a design modification, when we check that drawing back in, the revision will be added to the master drawing, so we've got good version control,” says Coleman.



The Enterprise Engineer for Assets solution is based on what McLaren Software developers call "the institutionalization of process," permitting users to create and receive consistent data.

Coleman says SMUD has other document management systems in place, but software dedicated to the management of drawings is new for the organization. He concedes that the transition will require all users to modify their work habits, and SMUD will provide the training to get everyone up to speed.

“The McLaren tool calls things a certain name, and our convention here at our facility has been a bit different,” he says. “The challenge is developing the same vocabulary with respect to what the software will do for us and what we think it's going to do.”

Kyle McNabb, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research , notes that content-centric applications such as EE for Assets contribute to better communications between the IT department and business operations. “Most business people don't think about their content, but IT does,” he observes. “These applications bridge the gap by helping IT focus more on the context in which people use content—not the content alone.”

David Parry, CTO, McLaren Software, says systems like EE for Assets help organizations do more with the personnel they already have onboard.

“In North America, for about the last three of four years, the number of engineers graduating from universities has been declining,” he says, noting that in conjunction with this trend, the rate at which capital projects are being announced is increasing—especially with natural disasters such as Katrina and Rita creating a need for new project builds. “There is a big demand for engineers, and a [declining] resource pool. Our customers are focusing on how to get the best performance possible from their existing staff. They also are looking at how they can use what is becoming a global workforce.”

McNabb notes that the focus on content-centric document management is a natural evolution in the effort to boost efficiencies using technology.

“We have for years prioritized streamlining highly transactional processes, such as those supported by enterprise resources planning technologies,” says McNabb. “Putting content to work will drive greater innovation, productivity, and differentiation in tomorrow's commoditized market.”





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