Renewable Energy

BC Hydro smoothes unit integration with new EDMS

Issue 12 and Volume 78.

Electronic document management software (EDMS) specifically designed for engineering CAD/CAM drawings has come into its own over the last five years. In theory, EDMS holds the promise of reducing paper pushing and freeing up organizational resources to focus on delivering services to customers, an important consideration in the emerging deregulated era.

Electronic document management has been used by BC Hydro’s various divisions for many years, but the individual business unit systems lacked integration, and information could not be shared easily between the different user communities. In 1998 the power system (PS) division moved to upgrade their existing CAD document management system. Rather than bring in another standalone system, the office of the chief information officer recommended the selection of an enterprise-wide document management standard. After an extensive evaluation process, the FileNET Discovery Suite of electronic document management products was selected.

When it was recently completed, the $1 million, yearlong implementation project allowed the corporation to retire older systems from PC DOCS, SoftSolutions, File Librarian and CADMANDU, and replace them with the new FileNET system. After a short period of parallel operation, the old systems were abandoned.

“EMDS is fairly new and has only come into its own during the last five years, but there’s no question it’s a real improvement,” said Al Williams, manager of drafting services for the power supply division. “Working with engineering drawings in these systems is fairly straightforward, as the drawings are self-contained and well-structured. EDMS is advanced in storing and handling electronic CAD files.”

An important issue for Hydro was deciding which documents should be managed by the system; clearly it would not be economical to scan the more than 750,000 paper drawings dating back to the turn of the century. Instead, an online index of the older documents was created and 70,000 newer electronic CAD drawings were “migrated” to the new system. These were made available online for quick access by staff in both divisions.

Such important features as improved security access to drawings, automated document control procedures during “WIP” (work-in-progress), viewing and redlining capabilities, sub-second response time when searching, seamless integration with CAD tools and Web access to drawings from anywhere, allow users to browse all libraries from a common desktop interface with minimal training.

“The EDMS system provides greater functionality and a more stable work environment than the previous mix of incompatible document management systems,” notes John Lam, project manager for BC Hydro’s FileNET implementation.

Although preparations for Y2K took center stage for BC Hydro during the past couple of years, the corporation’s eventual goal is to extend the EDMS system throughout the enterprise. On the engineering side for instance, one objective is to make the online CAD library accessible in the view-only mode to 43 BC Hydro locations throughout the province, again saving both staff time and paper.

Given that an internal business analysis at BC Hydro estimated the capital cost of each drawing at $2,000, security can be just as important as stability for senior management. It is also an issue for those organizations seeking to meet ISO requirements. The new system at Hydro ensures that its central networking computers are the prime repository for documents and drawings, providing vital protection for what now amounts to a valuable record of environmental, legal, public process, regulatory and other processes – essentially, a top-quality paper trail for engineers, minus the paper.

Adam Wilkins is vice-president of Yaletown Technology Group (www.yaletech.com), a Vancouver-headquartered knowledge management consulting firm. Yaletown acted as outside consultants for the BC Hydro EDMS project and for recent projects at PacificCorp and at Calgary’s ENMAX power company. Mr. Wilkins can be reached at (604) 683-8781 or [email protected]


Tips on selecting and implementing an EDMS system

  • Talk with colleagues with situations similar to yours and ask what software and best practices they might recommend.
  • Gather information from software product vendors. (One way to uncover potential products is through an Internet search.)
  • Review the qualifications of the consultants. Have them provide reference projects similar in scope to yours.
  • Conduct an internal survey to determine exactly what the department or administration requires.
  • Decide what internal and external resources must be marshaled.
  • Develop an in-house project manager and good executive support.
  • Negotiate with the proposed consultant and product vendor.
  • If you decide to proceed, secure an implementation date.
  • Select a go-live date, and stick to it.