Improving business with electronic document management

“Document management software enables colleagues and business partners to collaborate around the world and around the clock.”

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Document management has transitioned from being a luxury to a necessity. Fifteen years ago, we had file clerks and locked print rooms. When the drafting industry moved from the board to the PC, these old tried-and-true drawing management systems couldn't keep up. Drawings proliferated throughout the organization, on desktops and network hard drives. Finding files became cumbersome, and to deliver them we created multiple copies, with no certain way to know which one was the most current. We need to reclaim control, but how?

Electronic Management for an Electronic Age

The problem is that no matter how many policies we put into place, documents just keep getting away from us. When our procedures rely on human thought and action, they are prone to error and inconsistency. One slight error in the manufacture of an electronic circuit by using the incorrect version of a drawing, for example, could cost a company millions of dollars and further delay time to market. The solution must be electronic.

Document management software keeps documents organized for fast easy access, retrieval and accountability. Once documents are controlled, users across the department can access them from a common location using a unified interface.

While each one of us works to accomplish our own tasks, we need to collaborate with team members. Oftentimes, engineers may be designing a machine to manufacture a semiconductor chip in a U.S. office while the actual production is being done in Asia. This requires global collaboration across borders and time zones where workers are not all in the office at the same time. Document management software enables colleagues and business partners to collaborate around the world and around the clock to maximize productivity.

In a competitive marketplace, designers need to reduce cycle time, increase re-usability of drawings, eliminate lost drawings, and reduce the risk of incorrect versions or unchecked drawings being sent to customers or the shop floor, and many other productivity benefits they'll get by using document management software. Hours saved in design, review or production can make the difference needed to win important business. Perhaps the most valuable benefit of document management software is to eliminate costly and time-consuming errors in production that arise when using the wrong version of a drawing.

What to Look For

There are many features to look for when selecting a document management system. “Sign in/sign out” is a key security feature in that it makes sure that you always work on a copy, not on the original. This prevents unauthorized users from editing documents, while allowing authorized viewers to see documents and information about them. Useful document management software also manages document revisions, so you can keep previous versions online. The software should intelligently remember external reference paths, and should not rename the revision files.

Document management software ultimately has two core tasks – to manage documents and to manage the information about the documents. These two tasks are accomplished by a database that stores information and maintains pointers to the associated files. The database should be robust and conform to industry standards so it is easy to access and maintain. Metadata, or data about drawings and other documents, should be easily accessible without needing to open the document itself. Other key features of effective document management software include access to files and databases via the Internet, sophisticated security settings that protect files from unauthorized browsing, and an easy-to-use interface that allows you to focus on doing your work, not on maintaining the software that supports your work. AP

Jerry Waxler, director of technical communications, can be contacted at Synergis Technologies Inc., 472 California Road, Quakertown, PA 18951; 215-529-9900; Fax: 215-536-9249; E-mail: [email protected].


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