How the engineering and construction industry achieve process automation with SharePoint

Automate business processes with SharePoint

The recent decades have brought about tremendous changes to the way engineering and construction companies operate. Sophisticated structural and mechanical systems have led to complex and modern buildings. New technologies are being developed specifically for these firms as their requirements are quite distinct and unique. The engineering and construction industry is always in tune with the latest hardware, machinery and software technological advancements.

The nature of the engineering and construction industry involves frequent communication and collaboration between owners, contractors, engineers and designers. Let’s have a quick look at how engineering, manufacturing and construction companies have evolved; from sharing data via emails and shared networks to achieving process automation and productivity benefits with SharePoint.

The old-school approach

A past survey based around operating methods of manufacturing, engineering and construction companies reported email as their main mode of communication and collaboration.

While email communication can be deemed to be safe and secure, it is not the latest nor the best collaborative practice. Apart from being a familiar and easy to use technology, there is no reason why organisations need to rely ONLY on email for collaboration. Engineering, manufacturing and construction firms identified that associated costs of not having a modern approach to co-working are a lot more than the price of the new technology.

The realisation

Initially engineering and construction firms maintained data in several databases and spreadsheets with information siloed at each business location. Having different versions of truth, leads to making decisions based on outdated or inaccurate data.

Different business centres worked on the projects based on the locally saved information. This lack of transparency swayed resource allocation and project outcomes costing stakeholders time, effort and money. Additionally, the lack of a centralised data repository affected staff productivity and ultimately employee morale causing higher employee attrition.

Yet another issue associated with having no single version of truth is the inaccessibility to historical project data.  This led to wastage of time and effort while planning new projects from scratch, in addition to preventing project teams from finding new methods of avoiding past mistakes.

They rightly identified that the associated costs of not having a team collaborative platform could easily add up and affect their bottom-line profits. Hence, in order to stay competitive; engineering and construction companies altered their approach to adopt industry best practices and transform project collaboration.

SharePoint Team-Site

An Example of SharePoint Team site

The Modern Approach

Identifying the need to transform their project collaboration methods led to the industry leaders zeroing on Microsoft SharePoint solution. Already being widely used for document management and co-authoring designs; SharePoint was the perfect solution.  This was due to its familiar interface and ease of use. Software usage and familiarity was one of the key deciding factors as none of the companies were prepared to incur the costs and downtime associated with software usage training.

Upon successful SharePoint implementation; manufacturing, engineering and construction companies have taken advantage of the wide-range of SharePoint templates.  They can create team sites based on projects and departments with enhanced team collaboration.

They have reportedly used SharePoint team sites mainly for the information sharing and project management activities.

Information sharing

SharePoint team site is used for:

  • announcing company related news,
  • project status updates,
  • team reshuffle news, and
  • any major changes that staff need to be aware of.

In addition, information sharing also includes document creating, co-authoring, management and sharing via team sites. Document libraries can also be created where teams can find user manuals, historical project data, equipment usage instructions or project objectives.

Secure knowledge sharing is one of the main benefits of SharePoint. Users create discussion boards, knowledge libraries or wiki-pages to help efficiently collaborate information with existing and new team members.

Project management

One of the major objective of using SharePoint team site is to share project objectives, tasks and activities. The SharePoint team site is a collaborative platform for providing feedback, sharing project-related ideas and tracking the activity status.

Users have reported using SharePoint team sites for logging and managing project issues/tickets. This helps prevent issue duplication and track the status of each reported issue.

Reporting is made easier using the SharePoint team site to manage employee calendars. In fact, organisations have stated the flexibility and ease of integrating Meeting Workspace sites has helped organise meetings to discuss project objectives and outcomes.

SharePoint team sites offer users the flexibility to create their own mini-website for team collaboration, maintaining one centralised data repository. As a result engineering, manufacturing and construction companies have successfully automated several project related tasks and processes with SharePoint team sites.

Benefits of SharePoint team sites

Sending out updates via email was a major hurdle for the companies in the engineering sector owing to the large sizes of design files. With the adoption of SharePoint; they have seen an increase in employee productivity and better co-ordination among their contractors, sub-contractors, designers, engineers and company stakeholders.

Along with increased productivity, reduced costs and enhanced collaboration; SharePoint has helped reimagine business processed, helping to:

  • Achieve business process automation: Instead of spending unproductive hours dealing with communicating up-to-date designs and project data; firms have automated and standardised the processes with workflows and project accountability. This has helped eliminate unwanted delays and project inefficiencies.
  • Get complete project/task/status visibility: With SharePoint team sites; project teams now have access to accurate data at all times with real-time view of project status.
  • Tackle project bottlenecks as they occur: The single version of truth helps teams take proactive measures to meet project timelines by spotting potential problems.
  • Ramp up quickly: With SharePoint being scalable and available in the cloud, teams have access to the information at all times on all devices; assisting them ramp up project work to deliver on or before deadlines.

Thus, if you are an engineering, manufacturing or construction company and still haven’t caught up with the latest methods of collaboration, it’s time to act. Contact the team at Empower IT to discuss your company setup; and we can help you in planning and implementing SharePoint according to your business needs.

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