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From Chaos to Order: CDE's Role in Manufacturing

April 12, 2024

Introduction: Physical libraries and their impact on cost and time in operation.

Librarian gatering technical drawings

In large manufacturing units, there are physical libraries where all the technical documents (engineering drawings, user manual, spec sheets, QC certificates, Inspection documents, etc) are stored. There is also a custodian for all these drawings called librarians who keep track of these documents as well. He will be well aware of all the documents available in the library. 

Usually, these documents are accessed by the maintenance/engineering or operating departments during 4 or 5 instances as mentioned below.

when are Maintenance Documents essential?

When these departmental people gain more experience working in the same plant the number of times they refer to these documents decreases.

But have you ever thought of a library without a librarian? Yes, it will be a mess. Here is something for you to think of. Consider a librarian who will be there in that organization for 30-40 years. He/She is well aware of the changes happening in that unit and where each document is stored. What if he is retiring and has to hand over the charge to the next person? I am sure that the new person won’t be able to find the documents on time at the time of a breakdown.  

Another best part is practically speaking there won’t be a librarian who looks after the library in the majority of the industries. Usually, all these documents will be with the maintenance or engineering department. It will be disordered; they will also take time to find the relevant documents at the time of emergency. There is a potential impact on cost and time when an operation stops in a manufacturing plant which gives additional pressure to meet the planned production.

Operation halts in manufacturing impacts cost and time, straining planned production

Now let’s see how a Common Data Environment(CDE) can be helpful to the maintenance/ engineering and operations departments in a manufacturing industry.

How can a CDE be helpful to a project or asset owner?

From my previous experience setting up a project-based CDE is not a hard task and is very easy to set up. A lot of CDE solutions are available in the market and their representatives are available to help you in setting it up. However, a thorough analysis is required by the project or asset owner in putting up the requirements of a CDE. Here are a few questions for you.

  1. What is the vision in implementing a CDE or what is the aim of implementing a CDE?
  2. What are the problems that you are trying to solve by implementing a CDE?
  3. Is the CDE planned for the project phase only or is it being extended to the operational phase? 
  4. What are the features that are expected in a CDE?
  5. What is your understanding of CDE?

These are not questions that can be answered by a single person simply. These are questions that have to be answered by the asset owner after discussions with multiple people within the organization or with Information management consultants like Desapex who understand the customer requirements through tailored methodologies and strive to achieve them. The majority of the time the asset owners will have a basic idea of what a CDE is! But not on its features or its capability and capacity in totality. 

So, it is the decisions made by the project or asset owner and the information management team that are the key players in making a CDE more useful. The clarity on the outcome of a CDE before the start of its setup will add more value to it. Why because the impact of making changes in a project CDE at a late stage of the project has a larger impact on the flow of work.

Doing things right in the first place has a larger value addition on the CDE

How to set up a CDE?

Setting up a Common Data Environment(CDE) has three components as mentioned below. We will go through each one for better understanding.

  1. Folder Structure
  2. File Naming Convention
  3. Review Workflow

1. Folder Structure

The basic folder structure for a CDE is mentioned in the ISO 19650 standard. The project folder will contain four folders and they are Work In Progress(WIP), Shared, Published & Archive as shown below. All the documents related to the project will be maintained in any of the WIP & Shared folders during the project and further moved to the Published folder once approved by the client.

The folder structure to be followed within these folders has to be defined properly at the beginning of the CDE setup as it does not have a specific format. This will be project-specific or as specified by the Information Management team.

2. File Naming Convention

Each file in a project has a unique file name with a specific format defined before the start of the project. Usually, the organization has a specific naming convention that has to be followed throughout the projects carried out by them. From the file name itself, one will understand what it represents without opening the file.

Status code and version code are also two important aspects when it comes to the naming of a file in a CDE. The status code represents whether a file is a work in progress or for what information that file can be used whereas version code helps to identify the latest file to be considered with the same file name.

3. Review Workflow

The review workflow depends on which documents have to be reviewed by which stakeholders in the project. Those stakeholders can review/approve/reject/give comments on the documents submitted. This review workflow has a dependency on the folder structure and file naming convention. 

Defining these three parameters at the start of a CDE setup is very important as the impact of changing it at a later stage is very high as they are interlinked.

Define these three parameters early in CDE setup; changing them later can have big impacts

How to utilize CDE as a digital library from project completion to asset lifecycle end?

By reading till now I hope that it is clear on the importance of having a CDE in a project & how to set it up. Now we will see how it will help as we move to the operational phase of an asset. So, now it is clear that all the documents related to a project will be available in the CDE. Everyone who reads this will agree that the most important documents are engineering drawings when it comes to the operational phase. Because all of you are well aware of the impact of cost and time when the operation stops.

1. Maintenance Management:

Imagine a breakdown occurs in the manufacturing facility, immediately the phone call from the process department will go to the maintenance department. They will go to the spot and start analyzing the issue. At this point, think of two scenarios where one person is running to the library to get the drawings and the second is the availability of the drawings on fingertips. Which one gives the team less mental pressure? The second one. 

So, in the previous section, it is already mentioned the folder structure at which each document is available and the file naming convention to identify the documents. But you will think of having a computer to do this operation. However, most of the CDE solution providers have a field application that can be accessed through the mobile phone or tablets. This saves a pretty good amount of time and keeps the technical calm. This can be made use of in the project execution time as well. However, this requires a training session when new employees join the maintenance or the project team.

2. Renovation Management:

When any renovation happens in the existing plant, all the documents of the existing plant are available in the CDE. It is easy to take out the existing models or drawings to send out to the contractor to make necessary changes.

But here is a general mistake people make. All the renovations are done and approved by the regulatory authorities. But are you managing to keep the central digital library updated with the latest information? If this is the case this will again be a mess as a physical library without a librarian. 

The information management team in the organization must make sure that the central digital library is up to date cent percentage. The same information in the CDE can be considered as a reference to the upcoming plants the organization is going to invest in.

3. Facility Management:

Facility management plays a crucial role in the operational phase of an asset. All this information available in the CDE can be transferred to them for the implementation of the Computerised Maintenance Management Solution(CMMS) at any point of its operation. They will not ask for any further information if there is a well-managed CDE.

4. End of the life cycle of an asset:

At the end of the life cycle of an asset also the information available in the CDE is enough to understand how to dismantle each machinery, in which all parts or machinery can be reused or recycled. Any further modifications to any machinery can be made to meet the present world's requirements. As we move ahead and when the world speaks about sustainability the CDE also has an important role to play.

The way you think about technology like CDE drives its applications

Can a traditionally managed asset adopt digitalization midway?

Yes, digitalization can happen to manufacturing facilities at any point in their lifespan. This is being recognized by many facilities in the world that do not have updated drawings of their facility. And also it is from their experience of losing physical information due to calamities like fire, flood, etc. 

Initially, they set up a CDE and then they do the scanning with laser scanners and develop the BIM model with the help of service providers like Desapex. All the relevant and available information is fed into the model and stored in the CDE at the start of their digital journey.

In today's world, digital adoption isn't optional — it's essential


In conclusion, establishing a centralized digital library requires nothing more than a secure account with the CDE, comprising a username and password, ensuring both accessibility and security.

Desapex warmly welcomes you to embark on the journey of digitalization with us. Let's begin together!

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