Streamlining Access to Vital Data

Ken Neal CBPSby Ken Neal | 7/5/16

In this blog we highlight a client case history that demonstrates an important element of efficient records management workflow: document remediation (or document “repair”). The story concerns a major passenger rail service provider that wanted to streamline access to important engineering information stored in its relational database.

The company needed to significantly reduce the time it took to search and retrieve documents located in different repositories, content management systems and shared drives. The goal was to change the existing practice in which engineers filed information according to personal criteria rather than complying with an agreed-upon system. A key part of initiating a new approach would be to remediate thousands of documents by ensuring they contained two metadata elements that would greatly improve searches: the drawing title and the drawing number (also known as the part number).

The company tapped us to help implement and complete the project based on our experience in information governance including document management, imaging and remediation services. The company believed that we were a good fit in terms of the technology, people and programming skills required to get the job done on time and on budget. Together with our client’s project team we created a plan that started with an analysis of the transportation company’s current system.

The team began implementing its solution with an assessment of workflows and practices. Information management experts spent time analyzing processes at select client sites that included the drawing and engineering departments as well as the production shop floor. Based on its assessment, the team created a report estimating how many documents were missing titles and drawing numbers.

The team then created a detailed strategy for taking the current system to a desired future state — where engineers could much more easily and quickly access the data they needed. The plan specified that implementing programmatic (i.e., software) data manipulation would not be sufficient; human document review would be required as well. The latter involves people examining documents and drawings that required metadata to be updated or entered if missing, and to review old drawings and images that OCR (optical character recognition) software could not read. An initial test of repairing 100,000 documents confirmed that both approaches were necessary and that the project could meet the goals set by team members.

The team moved ahead with a full scale program, accessing documents digitally, repairing them and uploading them back into the client’s system. This workflow comprised programmatic work done in our U.S.-based business processing center. Human review, which utilized a proprietary, cloud-based document review platform, was completed at our offshore business processing center. The platform enables information management teams to collaboratively process, search, review, and produce documents for purposes including remediation, legal discovery and more. Benefits of using our offshore facility include the capacity to review hundreds of documents daily, lower costs and greater efficiency due to the ability to leverage work across a different time zone.

By project completion over 700,000 documents were remediated. The company’s Engineering Design Department central repository is up to date and back on track. This significantly enhances operational efficiency and furthers the company’s goal of providing its customers with the highest quality service available.

The project yielded a number of important results. These include the creation of a document repository that now serves as a central system of record for all engineering documents. Additionally, there now exists a much improved user experience. Engineers searching for documents and drawings can quickly receive an accurate, concise list of potential hits. Previously, this process required multiple searches across various repositories, often returning lists containing hundreds of potential hits. There’s also the benefit of faster data access. Before remediation, retrieving drawings and other documents that facilitate repair work on passenger cars could take several hours. After remediation, this can process is often completed in minutes.

Finally, customer service has been greatly enhanced. Because important engineering information can now be accessed efficiently, the overall turnaround time for performing maintenance tasks has been reduced. As a result, train cars are back on track and servicing customers much more quickly.

Ken Neal is a certified enterprise content management practitioner (ECMP) and fellow, corporate communications at Canon Business Process Services, a leader in managed services and technology.