What is a smart EDMS?
“…noticeably affects the profit margin”
In my role as Manager of Product Engineering at WRENCH, it falls into my purview to train new recruits on the difference between project management applications and project delivery management solutions. (There is an overlap but they are not the same). The younger generation engineers, although well grounded in fundamentals of project management, lack knowledge of software designed specifically for engineering and in particular engineering document and data management.
What is an EDMS and what does it do?
I feel both customers and new WRENCHINEERS struggle with the idea of an engineering specific DMS. The basic knowledge is there of course, that EDMS is an Electronic/Engineering Document Management System which manages CAD drawings, BIMs, MOMs, invoices, memos, emails, reports etc, ie it manages how all this data is created, revised, stored, searched, and shared across users. So far so good. But if that is all it does, what makes an EDMS different from a good Folder Management System? Here is where things get fuzzy.
Revisions and Version Management
I would say that a key aspect of any good DMS is how it manages revisions & changes in
documents. The software should somehow ensure that users access only the latest versions of
drawings and avoid any chance of using older or obsolete versions by accident (using wrong
versions is a big issue that can have real-world consequences).
Is ‘Smart’ software just marketing hype?
When I use the term ‘smart EDMS’ I mean two things: first, a system that is self-driving and self correcting and needs very little human supervision, and second, a system that offers something beyond regular EDMS.
For example, an EDMS which has inbuilt report templates linked to processes can be called ‘smart’. A system that lets a user track the status of a deliverable almost ‘live’ can be called ‘smart’. A system that automatically updates all relevant people of any change in a drawing can be called ‘smart’. And so on.
In a nutshell, a smart EDMS should not just add efficiency, it should make a noticeable difference to the company’s profit margin.
Do you need an EDMS?
In my view, yes, every modern engineering company needs an EDMS. Without it they have no reliable way to keep track of document flow or jobs status or document versions/revisions, and searching/retrieving data can be cumbersome. Security is also an issue without a decent EDMS.
With a good EDMS, companies gain benefits beyond data and document management features, like they get a better relationship with project stakeholders and less monetary losses caused by conflicts or litigation. But the one outstanding benefit is the huge savings in time and costs. We have seen this over and over with clients, so that now I feel justified in calling it a pattern – namely, a company implements a smart EDMS or at least a cloud-based DMS and immediately starts seeing two significant changes – big savings in their projects costs, and a much better chance of delivering the project on time and to required quality specifications.
Types of E/DMS – what is best for you?
First let’s look at the different types of EDMS.
Web based: as the name suggests, the internet browser on each workstation is the access point for end users.
Client Server based: This type uses client server technology and is faster and more robust than
Database packages: These types of packages are usually integrated with an underlying data base structure like Oracle or SQL.
Cloud based packages: This is very similar to web-based packages, except that in the cloud scenario the user data is stored on the host’s servers rather than on a server located in the user’s office. (There is no software to acquire and a monthly subscription is used to pay for the service.)
Before deciding, consider your company’s actual needs (what is your day to day operations, how many users do you have, how many projects in the pipeline etc), your current software, and your comfort level with cloud technology ie how comfortable will your team and client be with a virtual and paperless working environment.
For the reasons cited above, I believe that a good EDMS is the single best IT investment an EPC or design company could make today.