The ever-changing landscape in the engineering information world makes it difficult to know which software and systems will meet your unique needs.

Oftentimes, engineering departments are left scrambling to piece together information at the last minute to maintain compliance or to simply justify the value of what their team brings to the table. The stress and inherent inaccuracies of these situations can be avoided, though, with a well-designed and properly implemented EIM system.

An engineering information management (EIM) system is a platform that helps businesses organize, store, retrieve, and manage engineering-related information, documents, and data. It is a crucial tool for engineering firms, construction companies, and manufacturers.

But where do you start when it comes to finding the right EIM software for your business? This guide covers the benefits of an EIM software, including:

  • Gain Efficiency in Engineering Projects
  • Centralize Mission-Critical Engineering Information
  • Break Down Information Silos to Ensure Plant Safety
  • Support Engineers in the Field
  • Take Control of Regulatory Compliance
  • Stay in Control of Your Hazardous Area Classification

We’ll also offer tips and resources on what to look for in an EIM system to ensure your software meets the unique needs of your business. Let’s dive in.​​​

Gain Efficiency in Engineering Projects

When managing a global portfolio of projects, accurate information is crucial. Oftentimes, several organizations are managing projects in disparate systems and are therefore communicating in silos. Internal and external stakeholders need to sort through endless amounts of paperwork and data to find information needed to complete a project, which wastes time and resources. Even within an organization, communication breakdowns can result in data inaccuracies or team members working from old documents.

With an automated EIM system, however, this is no longer the case. Using a cloud-based collaborative tool, global project stakeholders can facilitate an efficient and controlled engineering document exchange. An EIM system provides a single source of truth to ensure everyone is working from the same document version. And deliverables and due dates can be properly tracked to maintain control of their document flow throughout the project.

Organizations can also reduce the workload of document controllers with an automated distribution process based on a distribution matrix. This increases efficiency and ensures great data quality because nothing is overlooked, lost, or exchanged incorrectly. Furthermore, the review process becomes greatly improved with these features:

  • Users can review and markup an engineering document or engineering drawing within the portal
  • Online and offline reviews can be merged
  • All actions within the system are traced and logged with a timestamp providing a full audit trail
  • All data (structured and unstructured) is accumulated and available for use in detailed dashboards and reports for actionable insight

EIM software UX features to look for:

Good EIM software will be designed for quick adoption and usage and should include built-in features like:

  • Dashboard for quick navigation
  • Robust reporting capabilities
  • Simple and intuitive web interface

Further reading and resources on EIM efficiencies

Centralize Mission-critical Engineering Information

According to the IDC, a typical enterprise with 1,000+ knowledge workers wastes anywhere from $2.5 million to $3.5 million per year searching for nonexistent information, failing to find existing information, or recreating information that cannot be found. These issues typically stem from an organization’s inability to manage and access engineering information with properly configured EIM software.

Organizations must be able to access their mission critical engineering information anytime, anywhere, and without delay. This level of shareability in data management requires an EIM strategy that goes beyond what most engineering teams can produce on their own. By centralizing engineering information into EIM software, businesses can reduce operational costs and:

  Document Exchange Process With Meridian EIM System

  • Significantly improve collaboration between internal and external stakeholders
  • Ensure that everyone is working from the same data
  • Allow stakeholders to know where to find the latest version of a document

Information management features to look for in EIM software

  1. Document version control: Without version control, users are likely to find multiple, outdated versions of a document throughout the organization which can prove to be extremely costly in terms of time, money, and safety. In the worst cases, inaccurate versions of engineering information can lead to fines for noncompliance with industry regulations and to accidents. The best document management systems keep all versions of engineering documents accessible, but also include indicators and safeguards to ensure the user knows they are using the most up-to-date documentation. This not only protects the user from potential accidents but keeps workflows moving smoothly.
  2. Support for large engineering files: Since engineering designs and documents are quite large, moving them from one place to another can be an extremely cumbersome and slow process. This process can prove to be even more difficult if those engineering designs are referencing a wholly separate design file. Good EIM software is specifically designed for engineering documents, so file transfers are quick and easy, and documents can be linked for easy access.
  3. Security features: The security of an organization’s engineering information is an enormous challenge for organizations in asset-intensive industries. Whenever a company is handling information in a decentralized way across the enterprise, it can be overly difficult to share accessible engineering documentation to other internal departments or external contractors without exposing the data to potential security vulnerabilities present in formats like email and removable storage devices. Your EIM software should include security features that allow for the safe handling of sensitive information and controls that keep non-authorized users out.

Further reading and resources on EIM system document management 

Break Down Information Silos to Ensure Plant Safety

A lack of accurate engineering information can lead to operations and maintenance staff being at risk of getting hurt. The primary danger lies in there being multiple, outdated versions of documents stored in several different places, and the lack of a quick, secure way to access the right documentation. Issues like these can affect the overall safety of employees on-site and decrease staff productivity. Inaccurate engineering documentation may result in:

  • Accidents due to the wrong maintenance procedures
  • Incorrect parts ordered due to outdated documentation
  • Incorrect information sent to external parties, jeopardizing confidentiality and security
  • Production delays due to unplanned process downtime

Safety features to look for in EIM software

To ensure a safer, secure workplace, consider implementing a software solution for EIM that ensures employees always have the most up-to-date information. The best engineering info management software provides the ability to:

  • Access document revision histories
  • View previous versions of documents
  • Add documents to print queues for processing
  • Initiate requests for changes to documents

Further reading and resources on using EIM systems to promote safety

Support Engineers in the Field

There is a growing desire among industry leaders to utilize mobile applications to boost the safety of employees and increase efficiency in product development. Although the interest is rising, 61% of workers say that if their organization is not deploying enterprise mobile apps, then it is at a competitive disadvantage. These apps can help employees perform their jobs more quickly and effectively on a daily basis. Common problems engineers face in the field without access to mobile devices include:

EIM system mobile platform

  1. Outdated, inaccurate engineering documentation: Typically, engineers need to predict which documents and drawings they will need on-site, and then print all relevant documents prior to a site visit. During this process, there is not generally a single source of truth, often leading engineers to guess and hope that all the information they will need on-site is accurate and up to date. This process can waste valuable time, especially if the information turns out to be inaccurate and does not allow them to perform their jobs as required.
  2. Difficulties providing on-site feedback: If a maintenance engineer takes paper copies of drawings and technical documentation on-site, they will need to provide the feedback on the paper copies and then transfer that data into an online repository when they return to their desk. This process generally does not consider the high likelihood of the engineer losing track of individual paper copies of documents along the way. Without access to an engineering information management solution while on-site, engineers can be stuck waiting until they can access their desktop computers to approve the changes, in turn creating a backlog of work for internal and external teams.

When looking for EIM software, be sure to consider products with mobile apps to support engineers and technicians in the field.

Take Control of Regulatory Compliance

It is mission critical for organizations to maintain a complete audit trail for engineering documents throughout its lifecycle. While organizations understand that complying with industry standards for asset information is important and required, the process can prove to be time-consuming and expensive. Some key problems include the following:

  • Inability to keep track of constant changing regulations and shifts in technology and innovation
  • Pressure from business stakeholders to extend the lifetime of their assets, while simultaneously confronting an aging infrastructure
  • Risks of audits, cost overruns, and production delays from inaccurate document versions

Compliance features to look for in an EIM system

To ensure a safer, secure workplace, consider implementing a software solution for engineering information management that ensures employees always have the most up-to-date information. Software for managing compliance with engineering documentation should always include:

  1. A controlled platform: Regulated industries, such as Life Sciences, require structured documentation to ensure completeness. During implementation projects, an EIM system must lead the user through the maze of validation documentation to ensure compliance. When changes are required during implementation projects there must be a tested “configuration change management” procedure to ensure that all aspects of the proposed change have been thought through, documented, and agreed upon prior to making changes.
  2. Secure access: EIM software utilizes a central vault for documentation that ensures that everyone is accessing the most up-to-date version of their engineering documents and drawings. The best document management systems for compliance provide certain areas within the central vault that require higher security than others. In addition, role-based security allows the provisioning of access rights that fluctuate and shift by project and can be configured to allow single sign-on access.
  3. Flexibility: One of the greatest challenges faced by companies that do not use a standardized central system to manage engineering content, is that the various locations, plants, and facilities have often kept the same manner of tracking their mission critical engineering documents for decades, without regard to the numerous business changes that have occurred over the years. Flexible numbering, document naming and filing conventions help to accommodate multiple plants in one system, with acceptable differences between plants. With a flexible engineering document management system, you can start to standardize the building blocks, such as look-up lists and mandatory fields. Automated revision control also ensures that project changes undergo revision updates and released documents show the latest approved versions, providing peace-of-mind.
  4. Proof of control: In any facility where field changes must be controlled, the modification of engineering documents is critical. A controlled way to check documents out to certain projects and control who has privileges to modify and approve are necessary components of any EIM system. The proper configuration allows users to check out a document to multiple projects, as well as introducing checks and balances to ensure that modifications by users are not lost. In addition to workflows on documents, EIM software should allow for workflows on projects, and for the projects to be linked. During approvals, a good system can also apply watermarks and electronic signatures and print stamps to ensure compliance with various electronic records regulations. This way, the user of these documents is always assured that they are using approved and current documentation. By using engineering document management software, users can establish control of engineering data changes, safeguarding accurate review and approval steps for effective change control while ensuring safety and compliance.
  5. Support audits: Unplanned downtime due to audit failure or non-compliance can negatively affect a company’s brand. By using an engineering information system, organizations can easily track who changed what, when they changed it and why. Uses can easily track the reasons for the change, the decisions involved, and the approvers of that change. Audit logs can be shown on a per-document basis, or, with sufficient privileges, the log for the entire vault. This ensures that organizations can be more confident during audits and decrease corporate risk as well as failed audits.
  6. Integrations and collaboration: Data exchange with CAD applications includes active reference management and exchanging title block data. The best engineering information software ensures this can happen even if the user does not have CAD installed on their computer. This data exchange can also typically be extended to include other in-house systems and large enterprise maintenance management systems like Maximo, SAP, etc. It can also extend beyond the enterprise. When exchanging data and documents with contractors, make sure the right data and documents are being sent and received with a good well-researched and properly implemented engineering information management software program.

Further EIM compliance reading and resources

Stay in Control of your Hazardous Area Classification

Staying compliant with OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.119 “Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals” is a struggle for many organizations. Companies require significant effort from their internal resources that tend to be scarce, affecting the control of their hazardous area classification (HAC). Companies are also required to implement a five-year review cycle, placing a burden on the engineering team, and hindering the ability to improve the plant. With a flexible software system designed to improve your documentation both in scale and quality, your engineering team will be more prepared and proactive for compliance and reviews.

Hazardous area features to look for in EIM software

  1. Proactive preparation for reviews: Typically, the review process is handled reactively, either when the review is due or when the master documentation is evaluated and additional activities, such as on-site inspections, are scheduled. However, data quality can be improved when HAC is handled proactively as part of the engineering change. This proactive approach triggers re-evaluation of the classification creating a much more efficient workflow.A person wearing a hard hat and earmuffs

Description automatically generated
  2. Readiness for changes: During an engineering project, an organization’s classification of an area may need to change. The information handover process between Operations and Maintenance can be more easily and cheaply completed during a project because engineers are more likely to remember various details regarding the project when they are working through it versus after a project has closed. Years later when a HAC review is due, the original engineers are working on other projects and many external contractors are no longer with the organization so inevitably, the project information is lost.
  3. Management of HAC assessment dependencies: In reviewing the process of controlling your hazardous area classification in an engineering project, HAC assessment hinges on a number of key factors such as:
  • Classification of materials
  • Presence of flammable materials under normal or abnormal conditions
  • Grouping of gas vapors
  • Temperature classification

The documents that describe these key factors are usually mandatory deliverables in an engineering project. These factors are derived from engineering documents assigned to the change project, such as piping and instrumentation design, material safety data sheets, equipment data sheets, etc. If one of these deliverables changes in the project, the assessment factors may change. By defining documents that describe the assessment factors as project deliverables, workflows are triggered to update and review them. This process ensures that the review and update of HAC deliverables can occur as needed. Depending on the nature of the change, the involvement of specialists is targeted to cases where they are needed. Upon completion, organizations rely on up-to-date HAC deliverables which provides the foundation needed for HAC compliance.


Discover the EIM System Trusted by Engineering Teams Around the World

Meridian helps over 350,000 maintenance, operations, and engineering professionals keep their asset documentation up to date. It helps organizations ensure data is easily accessible by the right people while maximizing staff productivity and supporting personnel safety.

Explore Meridian, Accruent’s EIM and engineering document management system today to see how it can transform your operations. 

Meridian EIM system software