Manual change notice processes involve walking engineering documents from and to office and manufacturing locations and make for difficult document management. If the products are custom parts, with customers requesting variations on them, engineers are drawing and customizing multiple designs every day. The designs and drawings must make their way to the manufacturing floor to stay on top of orders. The editing, revising, and entire circulation process involves multiple staff and offices. This process, the circulation of changing engineering documents, eats away time and lessens staff productivity and efficiency.
Inter-Office Mail – the Paper-Based Way
A lot of time is wasted sending drawings through inter-office mail, which must then be delivered by staff walking to various locations. In addition, a lot of unnecessary paper is being used just to move a copy from one location to another for each instance. This is, oftentimes, redundant paper. The manufacturing floor with a manual, non-electronic means of information sharing ends up with piles of paper documents – blueprints, specifications and so on.
The engineering change notice process involve multiple people and steps. In addition, revisions result in changed drawings, which can come about for a variety of reasons – different materials or dimensions needed for example. If there are revisions, the manufacturing floor must be sure to have the latest revised drawing match up with the order. If it doesn’t, somebody then has to track down where the correct revision is in the process. Whenever this scenario arises in a manual paper process, it means the correct document(s) must be located and sent again.
Other errors in the process can involve things like improper signing off, drawing format mistakes, left out or incorrect revision levels on the drawing, along with other simple documentation errors. All of these are large time wasters, as when caught, the documents must then again travel back through inter-office mail to be fixed. Then, once corrections are made, the drawings are sent back by the same manual process.
As such, there may not be a field with a larger need for optimal document management than engineering.
The solution for managing engineering drawings and the change notice process is to transition from a purely paper environment towards a digital one. These same scenarios, and the time wasted in them, can be eliminated by having the drawings and notices in electronic format. The various staff involved can then call them up on demand from their computer. There is no more time wasted in packaging then walking the documents to the various locations.
We use the word transition, because there is no such thing as a paperless environment. What electronic document management does is greatly reduce the amount of paper necessary to conduct business. And, it works best when combined with optimal business processes.
The Engineering Document Management Environment – Moving to a Digital Solution
Imaging and Indexing – Unique drawing sizes, which can run from 8.5×11 to 34×44 (ANSI A through F) can be the first barrier to going digital. Not everyone has a scanner that can convert these types of documents into an electronic format. In addition, they will need indexed into the system so they are easy to search for and retrieve as needed. An imaging and indexing solution will either need to be implemented in-house, or outsourced to a provider. This process converts your paper documents into digital form, so they can be integrated with whatever means you use to lookup, send, receive, and/or share information.
Document Management Software – manages your engineering documents and greatly simplifies processes, such as the ECN. It is an electronic storage area and a searchable mechanism to retrieve any documents placed into it. Consider the scenarios mentioned previously and how much inter-office mail (and staff time involved) would be greatly reduced. The manufacturing floor could simply look up the correct revision of the drawing they need, instead of waiting for it to be transported to them, which can cut down on delays in the order process time. Furthermore, it is not as difficult or expensive as you would think to get a system up and running with your processes. You don’t even need IT staff anymore with hosted solutions, such as secure cloud document management.
A complete solution for engineering document management incorporates both of these choices. The imaging and indexing part goes a long way, by digitizing your documents in such a way that they can be accessed and acted on from a computer. Engineering related documents are converted to whatever format that is necessary to work with your existing software.
Document management software centralizes access to your documents. Instead of sometimes multiple copies of drawings existing in multiple locations – and access limited by physical proximity, DM software places them in one central location, accessible by computer. There are additional features such as audit trails and user authorization levels that can be set. This software also has the ability to both import other electronic files (email attachments and so on) and accept scanned/OCR documents into the system.
Whether you are looking to image all or part of your old documents, or would like more information on an end-to-end document management system, call or write us. We’ve scanned and indexed millions of documents, including large format types such as those in the engineering field, and are specialists when it comes to document management. We can suggest in-house desktop systems or hosted solutions, depending on your specifications.