Understanding Controlled Documents

If you've been around drafters or document controllers long enough you may have heard the terms Controlled, and Uncontrolled documents. So, what are controlled documents, and why does it matter?

Drawing Management Systems make a distinction between two different categories of documents, Controlled and Uncontrolled.

Uncontrolled documents

The most common example that I come across of uncontrolled documents are photos. Imagine this scenario; You're in the field and you notice a defect with a particular diagram. In Lunr, one option is to take a photo of the asset in question and upload it as a comment against the associated diagram. This photo is not controlled by the system, meaning that it doesn't go through a workflow, or require any specific approvals, and revision history is not maintained.

If you're working with a Windows File share then from a system perspective all documents are uncontrolled. There may be business processes in place to manage changes on the documents, but Windows lacks any kind of constraints around who can modify the document, how versions are managed, and so on.

In the photo example, this is a great use case for an uncontrolled document because there is no risk involved in modifying or removing it without approval, and generally you don't care about maintaining the file's version history.

Controlled documents

In addition to working with uncontrolled documents, Drawing Management Systems also allow you to work with Controlled Documents. Controlled documents have the following constraints:

  • Workflow: Changes to a document are completed within a workflow. For example, Julie wants to make a change to drawing BXY_A1005.dwg, to do this she should initiate a change on the document. The document is then locked for change to prevent anyone else from inadvertently make a conflicting change. Once the document edits are complete, it can then go through an optional approval depending on its nature. For example, it's common for electrical documents to require multiple approval steps before the version is finalized. Once all required approvals have been completed the document is released from the workflow and unlocked. This makes it available for the next user to make the change.
  • Version History: Controlled documents maintain a full version history, making it possible to revert back to a previous version of the document at any point in time.
  • Automated version numbering: Engineering documents such as drawings and models are often managed in a Drawing Management System. Drawing Management systems usually automatically allocate version numbers each time a new document version is created. For example, a document may start as version A, then automatically be allocated with version B when the first version is completed. Most CAD standards define a version numbering system. Systems that provide this out of the box avoid the need for users to manage this manually, ensuring that the version numbers are always consistent.
  • Automated document numbering: Some Drawing Management systems such as Lunr also allow you to set up common rules for how controlled documents are named. For example a file name may consist of Location Code, followed by Discipline Code, and a unique sequence numbers. Documents named in this way carry a basic amount of information with them even when they're transferred out of the system, allowing users to easily differentiate between different types of files. Systems like these also ensure that documents are unique, making it easy to retrieve the correct document.
  • Audit Trail: Many asset owners can other engineering groups are required to comply with ISO9000. Controlled documents assist with this compliance by providing a full changelog. An example changelog entry may look something like this: Julie Brown edited the document 2017-01-01 5am. The critical pieces of information are: Who completed the change, what the change was, and when the change was completed.

Both uncontrolled and controlled documents have their place. Drawing Management Systems provide the best way to manage controlled documents in the Engineering space, whilst still allowing you the option of uploading uncontrolled documents as needed.