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Version Control

One of my friends, Bob works for a road constructions company that specializes in large projects. Currently they are working in a mountainous area over a 10 mile stretch to create a new route to eliminate some dangerous curves and to increase the number of lanes. He is the construction foreman responsible for the work and as such has to make sure the work is being done correctly.

Recently, Bob was called in by the site supervisor and told that the some 100 yards of the route were off by 15 feet and would have to be corrected. This not only involved new excavation but also backfilling what had been removed incorrectly. Bob pointed out that according to his blueprints he was correct. The supervisor told him that he had an old version which had been updated recently. The cost of using the wrong version of the blueprint exceeded $100,000.00.

I sympathized with Bob and pointed out that with a proper Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) this would have been avoided. The reason I told him this was that a good EDMS provides what is called Version Control of documents including the ability to store and recall drawings such as blueprints. Version Control means that while old copies are on file, the latest version is always available.

An EDMS stores all documents in a central file location. The initial copy is “filed away” on a server that the appropriate parties can access. Meta data is used so that it can be easily recalled. As changes are made to the document, a new copy is stored with the along with the user that made the changes and the date the changes were made. Bob could have looked at the document and pulled up the latest version so that he did not make the mistake in the route.

The system my company uses is called FileHold. Its Version Control capabilities include the ability to restrict who can make changes to documents while allowing other users to simply view and print them for their use. If a change needs to be made, an authorized user signs the document out which gives him control over it. This control means that no one else can make changes until he signs it back into the central file repository. It also alerts other users who has the document signed out so that the can follow up to see when it will be available.

Version Control becomes essential whenever there are going to be changes to documents whether they are blueprints, contracts, newspaper advertisements, etc. It ensures that the latest copy of the document is the one that is put into use. One final note, I told Bob the cost to implement FileHold just for his drawings department started at around $4,000.00.