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On the record

Keeping track of documents needs a clear approach, says Lisa Russell.

Introduction of a straighforward, company-wide system to handle the distribution and management of documents internally and externally saves a tremendous effort, says Heery International project manager Colin Park.

Heery International has teamed up with software company Computer Implementation in the development of the TDOC document managment system, and testing of new modules for the Windows version. Heery uses paper documents, but electronically managed.

The scale of task is evident, says Computer Implementation director Richard Townsend-Rose, when you consider that typically there might be 10,000 of work on a drawing, with each drawing revised perhaps seven times and used by 20 people. Close management of the document transmittal and reprographics ensures not only that no-one receives the same drawing twice but also that they arent sent drawings they dont need to see.

Heerys site for the new grandstand at Lords cricket ground is being used for testing the extended scope of the electronic management. The base system manages the handling and distribution of technical documents, and eight modules are being added covering aspects such as requests for information, including making standard forms available over an intranet.

Before introducing TDOC, Heery was using a range of systems. We really wanted to standardise across the company, says Park.

Heery chose TDOC as being a tried and tested system, simple to use and robust, and quite rigid in the way it manages the documents. The TDOC system handles information about documents rather than the documents themselves, and can be used for both electronic and paper files. It records every event in the life of the document, including communications about receipt and amendents.

As Park points out, the way documents are managed doesnt just affect Heery, and dealings with other firms also have to be included. What we are trying to provide is a simple management approach to something quite complex.

However, the firm wanted to extend the scope of the software hence the commissioning of Computer Implementation, whose contract is worth just over 100,000 this year. The modules developed will be incorporated into the standard TDOC system once testing is complete, and will be available for sale.

Charting the path of requests for information is one of the key enhancements; as is treasury management which charts the cost and time implications of decisions made.

One of the difficulties of getting all parties to use the same format is the cost of software, and here Internet technology could have a part to play, says Townsend-Rose. It only costs a few pounds a month, and so is within the scope of smaller firms. You could go to the web site, a form will appear to be filled in, he says. The project is incorporating the latest standards from the Construction Industry Trading Electronically initiative (see box, page V).

But Park believes the paperless office is some years away. Satisfying the quality assurance procedures is always the problem, though these difficulties can always be overcome with time, he has found.

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