The Five Worst Questions about Controlled Documents You Don’t Want To Ask

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“Controlled documents” are those paper drawings or electronic files that are tightly controlled to maintain the accuracy of their contents. Each document’s integrity is assured by securing the master document, and controlling who can modify and approve it. The latest revision of a controlled document is indicated by a revision letter or number.

Without an effective document control solution to manage your company’s controlled documents, many questions concerning the state of your documents will arise. These are the five worst questions you do not want to be asking yourself.


Where’s this document? I need it right away!

Bob the maintenance foreman is away on a well-deserved vacation. The turnaround is over and the plant is back up and running. That’s great for Bob, but you need an engineering drawing, and you need it right now, and only Bob has the current revision. Bob saves all of his important documents on a locked network drive that only he can access. This keeps his documents secure and controlled but hardly accessible. You spend 2 hours looking for the latest revision. None of your coworkers has it. Their documents were all recycled after the turnaround. You once had a copy of the document on your computer, but even if you can find it it’s hopelessly out of date. Eventually, you find a redlined copy from the turnaround in a box in Bob’s office. It’ll have to do…


Who changed the operating procedure, and why wasn’t I told about it?

You’ve worked as a unit operator for over 5 years. You take pride in knowing your job and doing it well to protect yourself, your coworkers, and the environment. Each year you read through every operating procedure to sharpen your skills. You do this because it’s your only way to know what changed. Your MOC program keeps you up to date most of the time, but often things get missed, and some of these changes can be significant. You’ve just read an operating procedure and learned that you have been performing a job that places you and your coworkers at a significant risk for a serious injury. Fortunately, nothing happened. It’s discoveries like this that keep you awake at night.


Where is my document review package, and why is it missing drawings?

You are the Production Control Manager, and you brought Amy on board as a Production Control intern. One of her many jobs is to route the document review packages to the engineers in your department. Amy is new to the company and still doesn’t know everyone’s name or the location of their office. More than once, documents were delivered to the wrong person or to someone on vacation. More than once, documents went missing or were delayed. More than once some of the documents were missing. Amy easily loses track of who has the document package and when it’s time to move it along to the next reviewer. You politely transfer Amy into another department and replace her with another intern. Everyone hopes for a better outcome.


Is this the latest revision?

You are a piping designer for an engineering company performing a major upgrade at a client’s facility. You’ve been given redlined drawings from the field crew along with the latest AutoCAD files from the client to update. You’re on a tight schedule. It’s a complex job and you’ve spent hours transferring the information into the drawing before noticing that something isn’t quite right. The field measurements aren’t matching those on the drawing. You contact your supervisor. Your supervisor contacts the client’s document control department. They reply that another project in the same unit had just updated the master documents from the work they completed a month ago. You get a new set of AutoCAD files. You toss out your previous work and start all over again. You count the number of documents you have to go back and modify. Your supervisor counts the hours of overtime in her budget.


What’s our policy for recertifying our time-sensitive documents? Anybody?

You’re document control department has been asked to participate in a corporate audit. You are meeting with Marilyn on the audit team. Marilyn wears corporate clothes. Marilyn carries a corporate leather briefcase. Marilyn gives you a warm corporate smile and then asks you for a list of all your time-sensitive documents, their last certification dates, and their recertification schedules. When you turn around to ask someone in your group about your policies, you realize that everyone is gone and you are completely alone in the room; with Marilyn.

A good controlled document management solution should give all users secure and immediate access to every controlled document in the system. Modified operating procedures should be distributed to a list of selected users at check-in. Document review packages should be paperless and routed electronically as a linear or a distributed review. All review comments should be captured and returned electronically to the editor. Copies of all controlled documents should be freely available to all projects. When changes from one project are reconciled into the master documents, all other project users should be notified of these changes. The recertification dates of all time-sensitive documents should be linked to a central calendar that sends out timely reminders to assigned editors and their assigned supervisors for backup. Reports on the status of any document should be instantly available to anyone who needs this information.

A good controlled document management solution is E*Doc from AIS Software. Visit for more information.