By Colin Meyer
Workflow is traditionally defined as “the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.” This is still true of modern workflows with the exception of a twist – automation. Before we begin discussing automation, lets first go over the three different types of workflows engineers may be accustomed to working with.
Map-centric workflows assign employees activities that are passed on to other employees to complete. In this type of workflow, projects can be passed between employees with varying job functions pertinent to the completion of the project.
For example, let’s say a company wants to create a new product. The first step in the engineering design process is to identify the needs and constraints of the project. During this step, information must be passed between team members, managers, and quite possibly other members of the organization.
Once the project objectives have been outlined, it is passed on to the drafters and designers, who are tasked with creating technical drawings that communicate how the product is constructed and its primary functions. This step often requires approvals from other members of the engineering department before advancing to the latter stages of the workflow. This workflow can get complicated, however, since engineers often must design and redesign multiple versions of a draft before moving forward.
Task-centric workflows typically allow multiple employees to work on tasks simultaneously and can help provide employees with an in-depth understanding of the workflows’ processes. Contrarily, linear task-centric workflows are simpler to manage but have drawbacks such as bottlenecks. Enabling employees to work on tasks concurrently, eliminates wait times caused by congestion in earlier stages of a workflow.
While task-centric workflows are efficient by nature, there are many scenarios in which they cannot be used. These scenarios facilitate the requirement for a more complex workflow configuration, bringing us to Document-Centric Workflows.
Document-centric workflows are somewhat linear in the sense that a step must be completed before being passed on to the latter stages of a workflow, however, these are typically integrated workflows, possessing both the traits of map-centric and task-centric workflows. CAD drawings and other design files are passed between several engineers before progressing in the workflow and can be sent back to earlier stages numerous times before final approval.
In most cases, employees with different levels of authorization will need to access the same documents in different stages of a workflow. Managing the transfer of files between locations while ensuring proper versioning and user permissions is often difficult and can be confusing for those without a system to automate these processes.
Workflow automation is used to improve everyday business and engineering processes by allowing engineers to define their work as a series of interrelated workflow steps with assigned deadlines and associated notifications. Workflow and document management software can be used to create conditional statements that automatically move files and documents to their respective locations while automating version control, metadata changes, watermarking, and security modifications to guarantee users are accessing the correct and allowable version of a document at any given time. Workflow management can also be used to automate user permissions as a document or file is passed between members of an organization, whether it be for redlining, document approval, or other workflow-related tasks.
While there is other workflow and document management software, none are quite as robust as ImageSite, eQuorum’s on-premise workflow and document management solution. Through automation, system administrators can eliminate the burden of managing complex workflows from engineers and designers, giving them more time to focus on the projects at hand. This, in turn, can increase workflow efficiency and significantly reduce project completion time.
Rome wasn’t built in a day but had the Romans used a modern workflow management system, it certainly would have been built much quicker. As organizations migrate towards newer, more advanced systems, we begin to feel optimistic about the future of engineering and design.
In this day and age, consumers are eager to see rapid technological advancements made possible through innovation and efficient processes, and without the proper systems in place, your company won’t be the one to give it to them. With that being said, you are likely reading this because you’re an innovator, someone who is fueled by new ideas and who is ready to move towards the new “now” of project management.
ImageSite is an engineering workflow and document management system designed with speed and efficiency in mind. It can be used to solve complex workflow and document management problems and can assist all types of organizations with operational efficiency. eQuorum’s comprehensive solutions can effectively help users improve security, control, and file distribution, while also improving efficiency and reducing complexity through workflow automation.
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For a limited time, eQuorum is offering a free 60-day trial of Engine-Box, a Cloud engineering document and workflow management system. Go to www.eQuorum.com\contact-us and fill out the contact form for more information.