Tuesday, September 28, 2010

8 Document Management Tips for Manufacturers

When it comes to document management, manufacturers have a huge responsibility towards their customers. They must provide accurate information that is up to date and easily available for their customers to find.

As Dan pointed out in his post on How Not to Design a Manufacturer Website, construction product manufacturers face a challenge when trying to make product lists and their corresponding documentation available on the web. The number of documents that need uploading is staggering, and managing them can be quite overwhelming. Mistakes in the updating process are not uncommon; I have encountered everything from broken links to product documents with mistaken identities to documents that belong in my grandfather’s chest of ancient curiosities. Buyers looking for product documents are therefore left with no choice but to find a different manufacturer that provides the correct documentation for the product they need. Efficient document management is thus a key factor in getting your products submitted.

In view of the huge amount of documents, how can product managers keep the changes in their product’s documentation in check?

Here are a few best practices for document management:

Tip #1: Choose a naming convention and stick to it!
Webmasters in charge of updating your document database will be more prone to make mistakes if there is no naming convention for each document type.

Tip #2: Include the document type in the name.

A good way to keep track of your documents is to include a tag in the file name. The tag states the type of document (such as “MSDS” for material safety data sheet or “TD” for technical data) in all the file names.

Tip #3: Get your team into the habit of replacing spaces with dashes.
Website scripts cannot read spaces in file names. Therefore, use a dash or underscore in place of a space to facilitate the process of uploading documents.

Tip #4: Avoid using dates in file names for product documents.
Dating the file name may cause confusion, especially when products are updated and uploaded at different times. If records of old files must be kept, it is better to develop a system where dated folders are used for keeping outdated documents.

Tip #5: Avoid naming your files by only using numbers.
Using numbers to name your files makes the process of finding the corresponding document for a product confusing and time consuming. So unless your product’s name either is a number or includes a number, don’t use numbers!

Tip #6: Match your file name to your product’s name.
Customers looking for your product’s paperwork will be happy to find that they don’t have to change the file name when downloading a document. Remember, people who have to build submittals download hundreds of documents for each package of products. Making their task an easy one-click save will put your products in their "favorites" list.

Tip #7: Build a logical folder system.
Compartmentalize your documents by type or category--this can go a long way for a customer who needs to keep your information organized. Also, giving a label like “specs” or “roof insulation” to your folders will accelerate the updating process for the website manager.

Tip #8: Use BuildSite’s database to keep your product documentation in check and in sight!
Many manufacturers use BuildSite’s database to keep track of changes in their own documents. Aside from the fact that you increase visibility for your product when using BuildSite, an added perk of using our database is that you have all your company and product documents compiled in one place. Listing your products on BuildSite helps you manage your documents and ensures that those considering your products for their project have all the documents they need ready for uploading onto their submittals. Everything is just one click of a button away!

Follow all these tips, or a combination of them, and both your employees and customers will be happy to find your documents within easy reach!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tekla UM 2010: Lessons from BIM Users

I knew Tekla's User Meeting was sure to be "hot" even before reaching Atlanta during its worst recorded heat wave. There's always a lot of action, and I'm not referring to the fact that the Braves took out the Dodgers while the User Meeting attendees looked on. Tekla's meetings are always intriguing because our partner, Tekla Structures, is a state-of-the-art building information modeling (BIM) software provider.

The Teklans were fantastic hosts. They provided a great evening of baseball for their User Meeting attendees (see Braves reference, above), and also created a program filled with BIM success stories. I was able to break away for a session called Integrated Project Environments: Integrations With Other Solutions In The Project Landscape. Corinne Ambler and Jason McFadden discussed how Barton Malow is providing owners with a more complete package at handover.

Ambler and McFadden noted that common problems and risks have been minimized when there is mandated use of the BIM model and its updating. They shared their experience on a recent project demonstrating the power and functionality of Tekla Structures. Incorporating other Tekla partners, such as Vela Systems and Motion Computing's Tablet PC, makes construction management analysis straight forward and comprehensive.

Beyond clash detection, Ambler and McFadden noted that BIM could help with many other aspects of the construction process. We know that BIM can be extremely helpful during and after construction with testing, inspection tracking, change management, electronic closeout and facilities management. However, Ambler and McFadden also suggested Tekla can be used with estimating, coordination, commissioning, scheduling, material tracking, and electronic document control.

I would go further and suggest that BIM can be used beyond managing electronic documents. Given BuildSite's integration with Tekla Structures, users can download a plug-in from Tekla's extranet to search for product information and attach product documents directly to the design model. The plug-in allows Tekla users to attach all appropriate documents to each BIM object, completing the truly integrated package.

In this difficult economy, we are all looking to add value to our product or service, and Barton Malow and Tekla are no exceptions. Tekla works with its users to maximize its application to each part of the construction process. I'm sure Barton Malow and the other User Meeting attendees agree with me when I say, "Tekla, you hit a home run with Tekla Structures!" Congratulations to Barton Malow and its professionals for bringing more examples of BIM's potential to light.

Photo Credit: Tekla Structures North America's Facebook Photos - UM10.