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Re: Document Control Systems - Suggestions Requested

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On Jul 2, 2007, at 8:39 AM, John Whitty wrote:

As our company continues to grow we are increasingly in need of a good, solid engineering document control system.
I'd be interested in hearing about this myself, if only to see one case of a good system. Given what I've seen, and a couple of my own efforts I'd say it's damn near impossible without someone keeping up with it full-time. Where you make compliance into everyone's responsibility, it automatically becomes no one's responsibility. Moreover if it adds to someone's administrative burden without showing an almost immediate benefit, it gets neglected and ignored.

Most of the 'systems' I've run into are far too complicated and so inflexible that they they don't adapt very well to changes in philosophy and emphasis. They're also hard enough to explain to a new hire that mistakes occur and stuff gets misplaced.

The three biggest mistakes engineers make is to save everything, create overly complicated procedures and identification systems and fail to clean up and organize files when a job is over. So when you do a system, you need to decide why you have a control system, what exactly you want to control and why.

Emphasize process before you start writing up procedures. If you start putting together a procedure based on what would have prevented the most recent misfiled correspondence crisis, you're likely to miss the next crisis which will occur for entirely different reasons. If it takes a 5 page procedure and 2 hours of orientation to explain your drawing number system you're begging for problems. Don't mistake flexibility for ambiguity.

I've found that it makes a lot more sense to number things sequentially and do the categorizations in software as needed. It's almost impossible to misfile sequentially numbered file folders or drawings because there's nothing to remember and mistakes are obvious. Classification schemes should be carefully reviewed for sources of ambiguity--you don't want to have one thing fit two categories. And give some serious thought to how the system will be used in another 10 or 15 years. Decide what needs to be in a job file when the job is finished--what needs to be saved and why.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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