Engineering the Technology Solution

On engineering projects, it is fair to say that communication can be challenging. When it works well, the collaborative process between the designer, the engineer and the wider team can deliver the desired results, exactly as a project was envisaged in the planning stages.  In reality, teams often work in silos. Construction teams are disconnected from design teams and there is an even larger disconnect with operations teams who maintain the assets further down the line. The people working across the asset lifecycle are using disparate systems, which can make it difficult to search and find engineering content when it is needed, leading to misunderstandings and delays on projects and maintenance work.

Similarly, the sheer volume of information that needs to be managed and shared during the construction phase, and into commissioning, handover and then operation, can be stored in multiple file formats and across systems – perhaps in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or in external systems such as asset maintenance and management systems. This impacts productivity and efficiency as time is wasted searching for content related to a particular asset. Engineers need to be able to recognize the relationships amongst the separate data points and ensure they are working from the most up-to-date version of a document. However, the systems they are using have not been designed specifically for their role and their ways of working, which results in difficulty accessing the information they need quickly and easily.

Out in the field doesn’t have to mean disconnected

Due to the nature of their jobs, engineers are often out in the field with the need to access the same documentation that they would have available to them in the office, but from a remote location – often with little or no connectivity. Without implementing mobile technologies, teams would struggle to stay connected across offices and multiple sites and cause delays in key decision-making. Having the ability to access documentation remotely on tablets and other mobile devices, saves a lot of time and improves communication throughout the asset lifecycle. Adoption rates of mobile technologies are increasing as a means to stay connected with teams across sites, share updates in real time and remain productive during downtime. The use of mobile technology reduces the complexity of searching, finding and retrieving fundamental documentation, regardless of the location of the document, or the engineer themselves.

Processes are changing with much more focus in recent years on role-based design software being developed to facilitate a joined-up approach to working. It stands to reason that the system tailored to the design team will not fit the requirements of the operations team and maintenance engineer. Through working with systems that are role-based and intuitive, the engineer can customize layouts, and easily access documents related to an asset, or particular plant much more easily. Working this way saves them time and makes them far more productive, reducing the impact of working in silos and with disparate systems by providing a new interface through which to find the relevant engineering content.

Links in the Information Chain

Commented Steven Bruce, Director of Development Operations for OnLink, a new solution from Idox: “We have recognized the need for a ‘single-point-of-truth portal’ that provides engineers with an interface to the document management system and external document stores, to allow engineers to search, navigate and view related engineering content from one place. We’re calling the solution OnLink as it links P&IDS to associated documents through hotspots, tags and hyperlinks.  It improves productivity and reduces costs in searching and accessing up-to-date, relevant information. We also recognized that for remote and on-site activity where there may be limited connectivity, engineers need to have access to content on mobile devices, so OnLink has been designed with all of these requirements in mind. Companies in the energy sector are striving to save money and leverage their existing systems. What better way to do that than introduce a complementary interface, without the need to upgrade or change your existing ECM system?”

He continued, “Role-based, intuitive systems, configurable to the user, inevitably have a higher rate of user adoption, which in turn eliminates waste and leads to higher job satisfaction and improved productivity. In recent times, we have seen a wider trend developing, which pushes towards the development of role-based applications to enrich the communications process, drive productivity and make savings. Further to this, the increasing adoption of mobile technologies is driving the need to have access to information on all devices and from all locations. The use of these sorts of technologies will ensure that the engineer is fully integrated into the process at all stages of the project, and they will have confidence in the quality of their documentation, joining up teams at every stage of a project.”

Find out more about OnLink and the benefits it could bring to your engineering information management process – without the need to upgrade or replace your existing systems.