Document Control; From Paper to Cloud

John F. Gravel

Our watches can count our steps, while Siri manages our homes and our lives. Google knows what our dogs look like, yet, why can’t I find my punch list?

Large-scale projects continue to struggle with document control. It’s a long-standing issue and a source of great frustration. And with today’s profound technological advancements, it’s hard to fathom why it’s an issue we haven’t put to rest yet.

Project documents are our bloodline. Having one central version of the truth is imperative to successful plan roll-out. Allowing for easy access to the most current version of what you need, when you need it, saves time and mitigates the risk of costly errors. So why aren’t we there yet?

Why are there low adoption rates when document management systems are implemented? Once again, we find ourselves wasting time and looking for critical documents.

Is it a training, process, or complexity issue?

Let’s dig in.

Process Implementation

Option: Six Sigma’s DMAIC

“In the acquisition of a new habit, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided initiative as possible. Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life.” – William James

According to ISIXSIGMA, the roots of Six Sigma, a measurement standard, was introduced by Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), with the concept of the normal curve. In the 1920s, Walter Shewhart developed statistical methods for quality control, using the Greek letter Sigma to measure deviation from a standard, Walter showed that three sigmas from the mean (average or standard) are the point where a process requires correction.

Motorola then picked up the baton, developing Six Sigma as a quality standard and methodology. They then went on to document $16 billion in savings for their efforts. Under Six Sigma’s methodology, waste is recognized in all forms, whether it be time, resources, or materials. Processes of any type, in any industry, can be improved upon by adopting Six Sigma’s lean mindset.

Implemented in tens of thousands of companies the globe over, including Amazon and 3M, Six Sigma is worth paying attention to. And the Construction Industry has. Gilbane Building Company adopted lean Six Sigma with great success after training their employees in the strategies. In the UK, Construction Innovation Hub is using Six Sigma to drive out waste as part of its Transforming Construction program.

There are five phases in Lean Six Sigma’s DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. In many cases, failure of implementation stems from two key points, lack of analysis when establishing root causes, and lack of follow-through in the final phase, Control.

Much like in Change Management, sustaining improvements are found through careful and ongoing implementation of the final phase. A Control Team is assigned to measure gains and implement a Monitoring and Response Plan. The process owner is then responsible for ongoing measurement and maintenance.

The control team is specifically in charge of the final documentation process. Without this crucial control step, issues go unresolved and halt long term adaption as human nature sets in. Old habits do die hard, with people often reverting to depending on hard copies, revisions are made manually, and system updates are all but forgotten. Implementing new processes requires an unrelenting push for improvements, an unceasing excavation for the truth, and an alignment of values across all departments.

Complexity is No Excuse for Failure

From the Assessment & Approval stage through to the Production & Development, whether in exploration or operations, utilizing the right technology to control costs throughout the life cycle is imperative. Accessibility, revision control, and ease of in-field modifications are only some of the many challenges faced. However, complexity is not an excuse for failure.

The E&C sector has found solutions to these complexities, and contractors have started going digital, with cloud-based operating systems that allow for collaborative environments. Today’s solutions are helping save time, minimize costly errors, and much like blockchain, providing accessibility to that crucial single record of truth.

The fourth technological revolution, Industry 4.0, is indeed upon us, revolutionizing our homes and our industry. From infiltrating our daily lives with ads that seem to be reading our minds to robots, building robots, the future is here. Whether it’s paper or cloud, finding the right solutions, and creating a streamlined, frictionless process allows us to work smarter, and ultimately economize our most precious resource of all, time.