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Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions
2

Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

(OP)
What solutions can the community recommend for software to manage a vendor document review process?

Current state is receiving drawings and calculations from vendors by PDF in an email. Someone prints those out with a cover sheet with a list of people to route the packet too. The paper gets passed around the office with each person on the review making comments with pen on paper. At the end of the review circuit, someone scans in the marked up document and returns it by PDF in an email to the vendor.

The prevailing thought is that we spend too much on paper, too much time printing and scanning, and too much time tracking down who has a misplaced hard copy packet. I.e. the support costs are too high.

However, everyone acknowledges that having a hard copy routed has advantages in that every engineer & designer can see all previously-made comments, and every engineer & designer knows how to use a red pen. I.e. Engineering is not wasting much effort.

The ideal solution would be paperless, highly automated after initial setup, and intuitive for engineers of varying computer-proficiency. All the sales literature claims all of this of course... but I want to know the real story from real users.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

Why not just circulate it electronically with all comments marked up using Adobe, PDF exchange, Blue Beam, etc? There are several software that allow documents to be checked in and out to allow only one user at a time (Falcon and Projectwise come to mind)

I think inevitably you will find that certain individuals will make a hard copy regardless either for their personal copy or reviewing purposes

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

I'd recommend SharePoint as a starter. Very scalable depending upon levels of automation required beyond its integral capabilities through aftermarket add-ons.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

Whoever receives the document originally should place it on a shared drive and email a link to the distribution list. Individual contributors can then comment using Adobe as many times as necessary and see everyone else's comments. Easy-peezy.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

There are quite a few options around that will do that, Bluebeam is probably one that comes to mind. All of them will require some sort of customisation and deployment for your needs, except maybe Adobe's offering.

What you are asking for is one of the functions of a Document Management System, and there is probably other information that would also need to be stored (i.e. the email that eventually goes out to the vendor).

Whilst I hear Sharepoint being suggested for such things (as per Mr168's suggestion), all of my experiences with it have been poor, mostly due to lack of configuration or not purchasing the correct Sharepoint package. If you find a platform based on Sharepoint, and are prepared to spend the time in not only configuring the functionality, but how you want it to work, it might be a viable option; but in my experience this never happens. If you want the platform to play well with other applications (e.g. AutoCAD) then Sharepoint probably isn't for you either.

Whatever you choose, expect to spend time and money working out how you want it to work (including changing the way you do things, rather than forcing the software to do it the way you've done it previously) and paying someone to configure it. If you don't spend the effort up front, expect that the end result will reflect it and likely not be well accepted.

EDMS Australia

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

The OP is looking for a PDM/workflow solution, but I don't know any standouts, except the ones I've come into contact with have been terrible. Expensive, slow, unsupported, and dead-ended.

For example: Sherpa - slow, then they were slow with updates, and when updates came they were incompatible with business process customizations, which were expensive. Eventually they were bought and killed to form the core of another product. MatrixOne - my company did no customizations, still cost a lot to migrate to the new version. Both required expensive programmers to operate and maintain. Windchill - mostly expensive, but also requires expensive migration and is expensive to maintain. Anything from Oracle or Seimens. The only thing Sharepoint** has going is that some of it is simple enough to be screwed up without requiring a database engineer. (I had one such 'expert' create a Sharepoint structure based on an existing folder structure who failed to even get the structure right. Copy and paste was too hard for someone given the ability to do this sort of thing.)

I suppose the problem is by the time one has spent the development money to solve the wide variety of problems that customers are looking to solve, you've built a giant product that can be sold to a few customers for a lot of money instead of dealing with a lot of low-value, less sophisticated users.

**Sharepoint was created for one reason - to add a Microsoft-only function to office documents.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

I work for a very large company that has to deal with Documentum, so perhaps SharePoint looks like a gift from God by comparison. We've had some engineers set some pages up for internal communications and notifications that worked quite well, and our document control folks use it exclusively for processing incoming and outgoing vendor submittals. It all works quite seamlessly, but I'm sure with any option, it's a product of how much time and resources can be committed to making it function as intended.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

(OP)
I've used SharePoint for working with MS Office files on ad hoc review cycles. Does it work with non-Microsoft files though, like PDFs?

Quote (Mr168)

I work for a very large company that has to deal with Documentum

[Emphasis added.]

So Documetum is a necessary evil, a pain in the rear? Am I reading between the lines correctly?

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

Everything we have come in for official review cycles are all PDF's. They are sent/retrieved using SharePoint, though they are sent for workflow approval using Documentum software when received. It more or less serves as our electronic "post office".

The use of Documentum is based on the sheer volume of documents (tens of millions), archive retention requirements, and NIRMA guidelines for electronic signatures in nuclear usage. It is indeed a pain in the rear to navigate, though, and the company has a full fleet of people dedicated to its maintenance and upkeep. We get quite a few errors due to timeouts and mothballed workflows that need to be recovered due to things like inadequate permissions settings, etc. The administrators certainly stay busy, and we had several severe outages that required deployment of the software supplier's "uh oh" team.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

My company uses SharePoint now, but we have plenty of the same issues we had before we started using it. I think the key is to agree on a workflow at the beginning of construction. There should be a list of submittals that identifies a responsible person for each one. That person coordinates the comments from others and makes the final determination. Sounds simple, but many times there is no set workflow and a confusing free-for-all ensues.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

Documentum has it all. Buggy, expensive, horrible presentation, etc. It was a huge bottleneck when we used it.
We have currently migrated to a platform called Eadoc. It's not perfect, but it's web based, the contractors seem to work well with it, you can attach documents, you can look up contract documents, etc. My only complaint is that when responding to submittals (and RFI's for that matter), the word processing functions are non existent. So if you want to number a list, put in bullets, underline, color or anything else, you need to write up your document in Word, copy it and paste it. And even then it might not be indented or colored correctly.

RE: Vendor Submittal Tracking & Review Solutions

JMO but unless you are a large company with a truly massive library of documents to catalog I would recommend staying away from the various data/document management systems, particularly if employees are used to more antiquated documentation methods. I'm all-for using modern technology to its fullest when employees, management, and IT all support it. However when the task is simple and folks aren't onboard with technology then a well-organized server or cloud location is a better choice IMHO.

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