In this first of a two-part series highlighting Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Valley Metro, we’ll explore how technology has helped document controllers at both organizations positively transform their professions.
Increased efficiency should empower us to spend more time doing what we love and less time completing mundane tasks. That said, words like “automation” can raise concerns about technology replacing our jobs.
However, in many cases, automation elevates careers in addition to preserving jobs. Document control is one such profession.
Document control professionals are meticulous, organized, focused, patient, and persistent. They have traditionally held the keys to critical information that can help sway billion-dollar decisions that impact quality, safety, and budget.
Over the years, I’ve observed a consistent theme among document controllers and project managers: Technology has expanded the role of document control, adding more value to projects and operations by automating manual administrative tasks and freeing up these professionals to optimize how data if structured and used.
Marizaane Loubser, document control manager of the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Schiphol), shared the following six benefits of adopting proven technology to manage document control.
No time is wasted tracking progress, finding an item, providing replacement copies, or expediting reviews through a workflow. All parties know they are accessing and using the correct version of a document or drawing.
Schiphol has easily configured more than 500 different workflow templates across their projects to support various review cycles, including different participants and organizations on each cycle. Using Oracle Aconex workflows, the airport has reviewed:
• 44,821 documents between the general contractor and its subcontractors
• 12,683 documents between the general contractor and the project manager/construction manager (PMCM)
Lessen or eliminate the need to print, route, and store copies of drawings and documents for document control. Reviews and approvals are completed online and signed off using electronic signatures.
The general contractor on one project saved about US $42,000 just on paper and US $490,000 in time savings using Oracle Aconex.
Information is easily accessible by appropriate team members in one central system of record, including: RFI status, overdue documents, days overdue, the current document status, and expected due date. This is a vast improvement from relying on document control to combine data from multiple sources and systems.
For example, Schiphol generates reports 50% faster using Oracle Aconex Packages functionality.
There is no time wasted with error prone translation gathering, pulling information in from the field, or recording information in the office.
Document controllers no longer need to respond to fire drills, including locating and sending information to the field as soon as possible to avoid idle time and potential schedule impacts.
A common platform eliminates inconsistencies, errors, and disagreements while improving collaboration and productivity. Document controllers no longer have the pressure or responsibility of finding and delivering documentation or a paper trail to support their organization’s position.
Supporting documentation can be easily attached to inspection items. For example, inspection closeout records can accompany documents of record for handover.
Document controllers don’t have to pull information for inspectors, create inspection reports, or ensure all inspection records are filed correctly to meet safety and legal requirements. Inspectors can easily manage the process directly within the project-wide system.
As a result, Schiphol can resolve issues 80% faster (from 33 days to just five days) using Oracle Aconex.
Loubser, in collaboration with the PMCM, general contractor, subcontractor, and designer document controllers, have transitioned from manual tasks to higher-value work, such as process improvement and information architecture.
The document control team is now focused on:
• Developing the information architecture for their organizations and projects instead of looking for and providing documents
• Analyzing reports to see how they can further streamline document flows and retention protocols in lieu of pulling together information for reports
• Optimizing the format and accessibility of handover information to the operations team rather than managing revision control
“Document control had been regarded as a non-essential position to many on project teams for a long time on many projects, yet it’s such an important role. Without document control, there is no clear guideline on process, revision control, communication control, or audit trail—crucial elements for any project,” says Loubser.
She continues, “My first role as document controller assistant was basically keeping track of hard copies in boxes and carting hard copies to and from site. The only tool I had was a rudimentary spreadsheet.”
Fortunately, there has been a huge evolution in document control.
”The first time I was introduced to Oracle Aconex, my initial thought was how daunting this new system seemed,” says Loubser. However, any change can seem challenging at first.
“[T]he Oracle system made life so much easier, especially on complex projects with multiple contributing organizations. I said goodbye to my little spreadsheet, hoarding hard copies in boxes, and carting drawings and documents to and from site,” says Loubser. “Oracle Aconex is a true game changer!”
The Oracle tool offers a neutral common data environment with a clear and concise record of revision history and documentation flow. The digital revolution had already been changing norms, including where workers needed to be located.
Now, amidst a global pandemic, Oracle Aconex has played an instrumental role in allowing document controllers to work from home without delaying projects.
Information is flowing, workflows are approved and completed, and collaboration is taking place from the comfort and safety of our homes. For example, Oracle Aconex Field Cloud Service helps users on site capture issues, complete inspections, share the information, and close out items without face-to-face interactions with other parties.
“Oracle Aconex has transformed my role from physically storing, tracking and transporting documents to a much broader set of responsibilities,” says Loubser.
“These days, I am a document control manager; which entails defining the optimal naming conventions and processes for our projects; providing system training; and being a super user providing onsite support. I also serve as a hub for communications to both identify and solve issues.”
Loubser and her role continue to evolve as Oracle Aconex brings new functionality and opportunities to her team.
There will always be e-mails floating around, but if information has not been processed in Oracle Aconex, it is not as accepted as official project correspondence. This important guideline ensures there is one version of truth accessible to Schiphol Airport throughout the long life of the asset.
“I look forward to continually learning and growing in my profession as technology continues to grow and evolve,” says Loubser.
Stay tuned for the second post in this series, "From document control to knowledge management: How technology has transformed a profession" in which Arizona’s Valley Metro shares how technology has elevated the profession of document control.
Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.