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 avoid being out of 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 using the latest software and features.
But where do you start? We offer this guide to get you on the road to choosing the perfect EIM solution and to help you succeed at your overall information management strategies.
What can an EIM system do for you?
Section summary (click for quick navigation):
- Gain Efficiency in Engineering Projects
- Centralize Mission-Critical Engineering Information
- Break Down Information Silos to Ensure Plant Safety
- Take Control of Regulatory Compliance
- Stay in Control of Your Hazardous Area Classification
1. Gain efficiency in engineering projects.
Make faster, more accurate decisions.
When using an automated EIM system, internal and external stakeholders no longer need to sort through endless amounts of paperwork and data. Instead, they can facilitate an efficient and controlled engineering document exchange. Organizations can track deliverables and due dates properly to maintain control of their document flow throughout the project. EIM software is designed for quick system adoption and usage because global contractors are no longer spending time on how and where to input the data with built in features including:
- Dashboard for quick navigation
- Robust reporting capabilities
- Simple and intuitive web interface
Collaborate in the cloud with project stakeholders.
Organizations often need to manage a global portfolio of projects and reliable, accurate information is crucial. A robust EIM system helps solve for these types of problems:
- Several organizations are managing those projects in disparate systems with communication silos
- Organizations with global footprints experiencing inaccuracies from breakdowns in information exchange process
- Lack of timely information from inherent problems with person-to-person exchange
Automate the distribution process.
Organizations can reduce the workload of document controllers with an automated distribution process based on a distribution matrix increasing efficiency and ensuring 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
Further Reading & Resources
- Infographic: Top 10 Objections and Reasons for Investment in a Cloud-based Maintenance System
- Case Study: How COVRA Improved Efficiency and Compliance of Operational Assets with Engineering Information Management
- Blog Post: 4 Ways to Shorten Project Turnaround Time
2. Centralize mission-critical engineering information.
By managing engineering information from a centralized location, organizations can:
- Improve collaboration between internal and external stakeholders significantly
- Ensure that everyone is working from the same data
- Allow stakeholders to know where to find the latest version of a document
The centralization of engineering information can reduce the cost of directly handling engineering information and the a cornerstone feature of any company's enterprise content management (ECM) strategy. Implementation of this level of control requires a robust EIM system software that includes the following crucial features:
Document version control
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 document version control software. Without it, 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 as users may be working with outdated information. 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 that ensure that 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.
File management, security, shareability.
Make sure everyone accesses the same documents & data.
There can be several challenges to ensuring that mission-critical information is available 24/7 and consistently up-to-date. Since engineering designs and documents are quite large, moving them from one place to another for changes 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.
Keep info in the right hands.
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.
Remove obstacles to the flow of information.
Engineering document information stored within a user’s local hard drive often takes a manual process to share with other stakeholders in the business. 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.
Further Reading & Resources
- Infographic: Example of How An EIM System Helps With Document Workflows and Handovers
- Case Study: How AbbVie Streamlined Workflows and Improved Communication with an EIM System
- Brochure: Meridian Portal - Project Collaboration in the Cloud
3. 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. The types of problems that may result from inaccurate engineering documentation include:
- Accidents due to the wrong maintenance procedures
- Wrong spare parts ordered because of outdated documentation
- Incorrect information to external parties which jeopardizes confidentiality and security
- Production delays due to unplanned process downtime
Choose the right 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
Provide mobile capabilities for accessible engineering information in the field.
There is a growing desire among industry leaders to utilize mobile applications to boost safety for 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:
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, generally there is not 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.
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
Further Reading & Resources
- Webinar: Three Ways to Ensure Plant Safety: Integrations, Mobile Capabilities, and Analytics
- Brochure: Establishing a Single Source of Truth for All Asset Information to Ensure Plant Safety and Compliance
- Blog Post: Unify Engineering and Maintenance Departments with Mobile Manufacturing Solutions
4. 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, ensure that the right data and documents are being sent and received with a good well-researched and properly implemented engineering information management software program.
Further reading & resources.
- Case Study: How Seattle City Light Increased Productivity and Compliance.
- Brochure: How Improving Engineering Data Integrity Speeds Up Compliance and Time To Market.
- Webinar: Take Control of Regulatory Compliance with Engineering Information.
5. 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 perform 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.
Look for these hazardous area systems software features:
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.
Readiness for changes.
During an engineering project, an organization’s classification of an area may need to change. However, the informational handover process between Operations and Maintenance can be easier and cheaper 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.
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. Ensuring that data is easily accessible by the right people while maximizing staff productivity and supporting personnel safety.