Effective control of documents is essential for any organisation.
The document control system must ensure that:
- the current version of each document is available to each person who needs to use it, and there is no chance of superseded versions are used by mistake
- where a document has been revised the user must be able to see what has changed
- new and revised documents must be approved by authorised persons prior to issue
- each document must be identifiable, and they must be stored securely to prevent loss, damage or unauthorised changes.
In the recent past document control required a paper register recording number, title and status of each document, and signed paper prints. Document control was time consuming, but it was relatively easy to keep documents secure and prevent unauthorised changes.
As we started using computers the paper master print was replaced by a file on the server, and the document register was maintained in a text document or spreadsheet. Anyone with access to a computer and the relevant software could access the documents, update the registers and issue them by e-mail to external organisations so there was no longer any need for a dedicated document controller. But there is an increased risk of discrepancies in the document register, and documents are no longer secure from unauthorised changes. It is possible to apply access restrictions to the computer network which will prevent unauthorised persons from seeing, opening, editing, renaming or moving the files. The access privilege provided by the network may not be sufficiently flexible if a large number of people need to copy or edit files, and a separate register of documents may still be required.
If a database is used as the document register each file can be stored in a secure location which can only be accessed through the relevant database record. Access privileges can be set for individual users, or groups. A designer may be allowed to open and read any document in its native format, use it to create a new document with a different title and serial number, or propose a change to the document. If the change is approved the designer would be able to open the file, save it with the same name but the next revision, and make the changes.
The bradQual database has been developed using Filemaker Pro to provide full control of documents and records The database maintains records of distribution of documents to external organisations, and also allows user access privileges to be established for different groups of users.
This database does not link file attributes to database records. If an organisation needs a database which updates information in the document (such as serial number, title, revision status, issue date, name of author and approver) when information is entered in corresponding fields in the database record a more sophisticated database, such as Solidworks PDM, is required. This is a product data management system developed for 3 dimensional design but it is applicable to almost all file types (including Microsoft Office). If your organisation is using Solidworks their product data management system may be included in the software package. For further advice on data management contact d2m3, a company based in Manchester which has experience of deploying Solidworks PDM software tailored to their customer’s needs across a wide range of industries.