Electronic document management systems can be an engineer’s best friend – a tool that is proven to enhance the productivity of its users and will liberate engineers from the most tedious aspects of their job, improving the quality and accuracy of their work through accurate documentation. Integrated electronic document management systems – electrical computer-aided engineering (E-CAE) – automate all manually performed functions. In the past, separate systems have been used to automate some of the tasks using multiple software programs, e.g., a computer-aided design (CAD) package to create graphical schematics and a table-based Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to create parts lists. Those programs do not share data with each other, which necessitates a great deal of manual (and redundant) data entry, cross-referencing, and error-checking. These approaches have a great potential to foster incorrect documentation. Today’s advanced E-CAE programs have automated these and many other tasks. Engineers are able to provide correct documentation on a timely basis, eliminating tedious error checking tasks that once took days or weeks to complete.
The latest generation of E-CAE programs has improved decisively from CAD and earlier CAE tools by adding a powerful central database that brings together a wide range of information in one accessible database. This database can hold a large archive of recurrent content, ready for insertion into a project with a single keystroke. Engineers can convert project documentation into different languages or regional, national, and international standards.
With all of their labor- and time-saving features, database-centric CAE programs provide a greater benefit of ownership than older CAD software by making the user more productive. Even more compelling is their capacity to make electronic document management more efficient and cost-effective, with gains like:
Improved accuracy. The database-driven E-CAE delivers a systematic reduction of errors, improvement in error-checking, and near elimination of data redundancy. That means few, if any, errors survive to the manufacturing stage or beyond.
Transparency within the organization. With collaboration between engineers within one organization, changes are documented and updated simultaneously and can be seen by anyone currently working on the project. Modifications are transparent and well-understood by all involved, vastly improving workflows among these engineering disciplines and enabling them to work simultaneously on a project instead of sequentially.
Creating efficiencies through transparency. The database can be integrated into a company’s IT architecture, allowing other departments to monitor documentation progress for more accurate systems modifications, retrofits, maintenance, and project coordination. System integrators gain more accurate customer quotes and timely reports to keep projects running smoothly. Important to manufacturing organizations are improvements in cost-effective stocking of components, which result in more reliable production and delivery scheduling. This fosters collaboration among designers at multiple locations, between manufacturer and customers, suppliers and service technicians.
Streamlined interaction with stakeholders. Project files can be exported to users and re-imported with changes to speed up revisions and approvals. They can then be exported to subcontractors to shorten delivery times. During the design process, engineers can import component data directly from vendor catalogs.
Fostering international collaborations. With many corporations having multiple locations around the world, a robust E-CAE system enables seamless documentation in the language required. These systems transcend geography and language barriers by automatically converting projects into different languages and output formats, making it easier to share real-time data.
When actual project work begins using E-CAE, engineers can work from different starting points that best suit the project’s requirements. Facing a rush order, for example, an electrical engineer might assemble any documentation from any starting point. A parts list can be compiled to assure the availability of components for an early manufacturing start; the job can be finished by numbering devices and wires and generating all documentation with the system.