Paperwork, whether in hard copy or digital form, is the bane of many industrial projects.  MCAA member DocBoss recently conducted a survey of suppliers and engineering companies to see what makes the documentation process so frustrating, and analyzed the results to offer suggestions for making the process less painful.

DocBoss surveyed 106 respondents, 45 represented supplier organizations and 61 were from engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies.  Most EPC respondents were from larger companies. Suppliers ranged from 50 to 500 employees in size and included manufacturers, fabricators and distributors of pumps, instrumentation, valves, tanks, and skids.

Suppliers felt that dealing with EPC’s is slow and costly. Only one in four suppliers reported that most of their documents are approved upon first submission. The same proportion felt that their document submissions are never approved the first time. 75% of suppliers reported experiencing payment holdbacks related to documentation problems.

For their part, EPC’s feel dealing with suppliers is messy and repetitive.  More than 80% of EPC respondents stated that data validation and correct formatting are the most important factors for successfully managing supplier documentation.  75% of EPC respondents use an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). However, only 2% of suppliers currently have an EDMS.

There was also a significant difference between respondents concerning the sending and tracking of transmittals. 90% of suppliers reported using email to regularly send and track transmittals. Only 49% of EPC’s stated email as their preference for transmittals.

So what can be done to improve efficiency and reduce frustration with the documentation process? DocBoss suggests suppliers clearly define their documentation requirements prior to the bid process (if possible), or as early as possible after award, so as to avoid confusion. Suppliers are also encouraged to create formal documentation procedures to ensure some consistency in output, and opportunity for streamlining. Manufacturers should separate the cost of document services from the cost of the equipment itself – if enough do, the work can become revenue generating.

EPC’s should streamline their vendor data requirements before they advertise their proposal requests. This avoids irrelevant requirements (based on the equipment type) from being included. Providing industry-standard lists of document types to suppliers was also encouraged, as well as allowing suppliers to imbed metadata in their documents, versus always applying cover/front sheets.

The key to solving many problems of document management for both parties is to reduce or eliminate manual steps. Investing in an efficient EDMS is a great resource for creating templates, tracking submissions, and producing reports for the entire documentation process.

“With the explosion of digital assets, more and more end users are asking for tag to document relationships as part of their vendor data,” said DocBoss President Brad Bowyer. “Currently we see these requirements on projects through large EPCs, but soon those requirements will permeate projects for all EPCs.”

He added, “Finding a way to keep and provide those relationships when submitting vendor data will become more and more important in the near future.”

To request a copy of the complete survey report from DocBoss, please go to: