Voices: Hebert

Improve Access to Plant Information

There Are Four Stages of Content Management Maturity: Content Under Control, Access Anywhere, Managing Change and Integration With the Business

By Dan Hebert

Process plant designers and operators are good at generating lots of documents, drawings and diagrams—but not always adept at keeping track of all this content and transferring the knowledge embedded in it to others. This can present problems when information is needed to solve an operational issue, comply with regulatory requirements, or make an upgrade.

The challenge of finding, organizing and storing process plant content so it's easy and quickly accessible by the right people can be overwhelming, so it's best to take things one step at a time. Automation systems seem to generate a disproportionate share of this information, thus any content management effort will require the involvement of process automation professionals at the plant and possibly throughout the organization.

Enterprise content management industry leader EMC labels the four stages of content management maturity as: Stage 1, Content Under Control; Stage 2, Access Anywhere; Stage 3, Managing Change; and Stage 4, Integrating with the Business.

These stages follow one another in sequential fashion, and process plant personnel can follow three steps to progress from the baseline of Stage 1 to Stage 4, allowing them to proceed at their own pace and consolidate changes before proceeding to the next stage.

Stage 1 is defined as the point where a plant has its content under control with all documents managed electronically, and stored in a single repository that can be accessed throughout the enterprise. Most process plants are part way to Stage 1 completion with a combination of paper and electronic documents residing in multiple repositories.

Complete transition to Stage 1 requires evaluation, purchase and installation of an enterprise content management system, and conversion of all paper documents to electronic equivalents. Conversion usually requires third-party assistance because digitizing paper documents, drawings and other content is a specialized task. Once the transition to Stage 1 is complete, plants can take the step to Stage 2, where project and role-based controls are put in place to ensure access to the approved content through the web and mobile devices.

"Because access now moves from within the walls of the enterprise IT system to web access, often via mobile devices, security becomes a paramount concern. If the enterprise content management system is hosted in a private or hybrid cloud, as opposed to the public cloud, access can be more tightly controlled and security can be enhanced," says Chris McLaughlin, vice president and general manager for Energy & Engineering at EMC Information Intelligence Group.

Security and safety also are improved by implementing role-based controls, so each group of individuals can only access and make changes to relevant content. For example, many employees might be able to view overall plant performance data, but only a select few would be allowed to make changes to production plans. For upgrade, retrofit and plant-expansion projects, role-based controls are particularly important for restricting access and changes to content.

Stage 3 is a further refinement during which change management procedures, including simultaneous collaboration on documents, are implemented. Workflows should  be defined to control the flow of content from one role to the next. Moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3 requires a thorough examination of the content stored in the content management system, so roles and workflows can be more closely defined.

The final step is moving from Stage 3 to Stage 4, where content stored in the enterprise content management system can be accessed directly from existing business systems and applications, enabling personnel to author, distribute and collaborate using familiar tools—which reduces training expenses and increases productivity. 

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