Document Management & PLM

Document Management is a Major Component of PLM

Document management is where PLM [product lifecycle management] started.

About 25 years ago, I was speaking with an engineering manager of a major defense contractor.  We were talking about managing engineering drawings.  They had a vault [in concept].

Their vault consisted of a room full of file cabinets and a document control department with several people working there.  It was the responsibility of document control people to make sure that engineers were working on the correct files.  Even though they did have CAD stations back then, they still printed paper to store in the file cabinets.

Engineers were supposed to go to document control to get the latest version of the file that they were going to work on.  When they completed their activity, they were supposed to print a copy and return it to document control.  With proper discipline, this can work successfully.

They showed me a large table with multiple CAD drawings covering it.  I asked how they knew that they were working on the latest released drawing.  They thumbed through the drawings until they found the one with the largest version number.  I then asked, are you sure that is the latest version?

To make a long story short, they ended up sending the wrong drawing to the factory floor.  This error cost them about $300k.

What was lacking here was ‘discipline’.

In order to ensure ‘discipline’ they purchased a copy of my software [not called PLM at the time] and we implemented a solution for them.

Document Management Provides

A Vault – The vault is a secure place to store documentation that can be accessed by anyone with proper permissions.  A vault will not allow you to ‘overwrite’ a file – a user can look at all of the versions but will see the latest released version by default.

Access Controls – Access to the vault is controlled by roles – a user is assigned a role.  Further, access is controlled by where the documentation is within its process.  If it is early in the design [authoring] process, you may not have access even though you do have access to the released version.

Control – Without PLM software there are many reasons that discipline may not be followed.  With PLM software, the computer prevents discipline errors.  It also prevents ‘back door’ shortcuts.  It can make sure that 2 people can’t work on the same file at the same time.

Visibility – Users can see the history of a design.  They can see who is working on the document at any moment in time.  They can quickly see what the latest version is.

Next week – process management…


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