The hidden risks of delaying data digitisation
by David Beckett
Organizational change including the upgrading of tech platforms and related business workflows has posed challenges for organizations for decades.
The decision-making process typically goes something along the lines of: do we completely replace our existing investment and take the financial hit to upgrade? Or do we continue to push on with the legacy systems that our people know how to use, and which although not ideal and put the business at risk, “more or less” get the job done?
Historically, data migrations - and particularly the migration and digitization of large and complex documents like engineering drawings, 3D models and videos - have been time-consuming and expensive.
In my experience of working with asset–intensive organizations around the country, I frequently see this being one of the decision points that can stall their progress in capitalizing on the benefits of digitizing and centralizing their core asset drawings and data into a single platform.
What we usually find is a large collection of duplicate drawings and documents, stored in multiple locations and systems across the country - or in some cases, across the world. Team members and contractors are unsure of which is the most up-to-date version and spend much of their time looking for the information they need to do their job efficiently.
In the worst-case scenario, owners and operators of critical infrastructure assets who continue to work this way can inadvertently be jeopardizing the safety of their employees. For example, if an engineer is performing maintenance on an electrical component using an outdated paper drawing, and they suffer an injury or death as a result, the company is liable.
While Safe Work Australia reports that the number of work-related injury fatalities has decreased by 50% from a peak in 2007, there has been a concerning uptick in those numbers since 2018.
Regardless of the statistics, no company wants to lose a single employee or to be found to be non-compliant with workplace health and safety laws and regulations. As well as the human tragedy of workplace deaths and accidents, businesses can suffer tremendous reputational damage in those situations.
Increasingly, organizations are using digital transformation initiatives to mitigate the risk of workplace accidents and deaths, while better meeting their compliance requirements, by providing staff with access to the correct information.
El Paso Electric is a great example of a power utility which digitized its key asset drawings and data to mitigate the operational challenges that Covid-19 created for its field crews. With safety being one of the organization’s highest priorities, centralizing all key asset information into one platform meant that El Paso’s teams could share accurate critical outage information and work safely in often stormy conditions.
A second major risk - and cost - of delaying data digitization initiatives is wasted productivity. The cost of lost time, productivity and employee motivation caused by the constant need to “track down” the right information is relative to each organization - but even our own personal experiences suggest the issue is chronic everywhere.
For most organizations, improving productivity often drives at least one key performance indicator. However, unless operational inefficiencies are actually removed (rather than having bandaid workarounds applied), the situation never really improves in a sustainable way.
WestSide, an oil and gas producer in Australia, reported that it saved approximately 16% of its engineering budget due to creating more efficient processes by implementing RedEye DMS.
The oil and gas producer uses RedEye to manage some 53,000 critical artifacts including as-built drawings, documents, photos and videos, with more than 200 users accessing the system. WestSide’s engineering teams, field crews and contractors are benefiting from improved metadata, which makes key documents and drawings much easier and quicker to find.
WestSide also estimates it saves about 1% of its annual engineering cost by not having to recreate lost documents.
Other businesses could achieve similar efficiency improvements and cost savings simply by better organizing their engineering drawings and documents.
Delaying the digitisation and centralisation of 2D drawings and related documents also means that organisations cannot easily move ahead with Building Information Modelling (BIM) technologies and work with 3D to 7D models.
Without having a foundation of accurate, core asset data in one place, it is virtually impossible to create the detailed models and visualisations which drive many of the benefits of BIM.
At RedEye, we’re watching this space closely, and working with customers to bridge the gap between paper-based drawings, digitisation and the more complex world of 3D to 7D models.
Increasingly, we’re seeing the ownership and/or maintenance of critical infrastructure assets being shared by different organizations.
If the drawings and documents related to those assets aren’t managed appropriately, the previous risks I’ve identified also extend to the contractors and service providers who operate and maintain them.
A purpose-built drawing and document platform like RedEye DMS allows all key information about a specific asset to be grouped together, and access provided to those with appropriate clearance.
This means contractors do not need to jump in and out of different systems and apps to see the information they need - and everyone can be assured they’re working on the most current version of a drawing. It essentially makes the data more available, usable and valuable to anyone who needs it.
Urban Utilities is one of many RedEye customers who provide secure access to their external service providers, as part of their responsibility to preserve Queensland’s critical infrastructure.
As we look to the future, and the push towards digital cities, the collaboration around critical infrastructure assets will move even more into the spotlight. Organizations still working with paper-based systems will struggle to participate - particularly where shared assets are concerned.
Interoperability within an organization, and across its peers and key external stakeholders, will become even more necessary.
We’re already seeing many utility clients writing into their contracts that service providers must use particular online platforms to access information, seek approvals and so on. Any form of offline, silo approach will become a sticking point in this increasingly digitized world.
Embarking on a digital transformation project can seem daunting - especially when an organization is looking to digitize hundreds of thousands of drawings and documents. It can easily be cast into the “too hard” basket.
But as technology has evolved, so too have data migration processes. At RedEye for example, this is what we have specialized in for ten years. It’s our business to make this part of the digitization process easy for our customers - and to support them in ongoing digital transformation initiatives.
If you’re not sure where and how to start this process, give the RedEye team a call to see how we may be able to assist.