What Enterprise Content Management Technologies Do Manufacturing Companies Use?


Manufacturing and “heavy industry” have much in common with respect to their enterprise content management (ECM) habits. Comparing your own organization against a wider peer group may help get you out of the status quo rut you may be in.

This post discusses the technologies and products Doculabs most typically sees in large manufacturing and heavy industry companies. I’m casting a wide net — including oil and gas, chemical manufacturing, consumer goods manufacturing, and even pharma. But it’s worth it.

The comparison may be most useful if you're a core member of this large peer group. But it should also be of interest if you represent another vertical or if you belong to a mid-sized organization. The data presented here is based on Doculabs’ consulting practice, on market research, and on discussions with end-user organizations and with vendors.

Let’s Start with a Map of the ECM Capabilities

To organize the comparison, I’m going to use a reference model I often use to discuss the primary capabilities in ECM. An ECM environment can be conceptualized as a series of layers, each of which includes discrete functional components, as depicted in the figure below.


The model doesn’t tell the whole story about what’s happening in the content technologies today, since the trend is to include “classic” ECM into the broader domain of Enterprise Information Management (EIM). EIM contains ECM, but also Enterprise Data Management (EDM – the stuff in databases), social content, and instrument data. But for our present purposes, this model will work, and it does include, or at least provides a way to address, all of the EIM capabilities. Social content, for example, is spread across a number of boxes (such as Collaboration and Information Exchange).

Compare Your Company with Your Peers

1. ECM Presentation Layer

1.1. Capture

Many manufacturing and heavy industry companies are standardizing on Kofax or Captiva.

Some (but not most) have successfully incorporated the automated ingestion of email, attachments, and faxes into the capture/ECM workstream.

Most use multi-function printers (MFPs), some have incorporated them into the centralized capture operation.

None have begun to use mobile device capture heavily, but many are planning mobile applications.

All have at least some optical character recognition (OCR) or other recognition, but few have widespread document recognition.

1.2. E-forms

Most manufacturing companies have an organically grown mess of e-forms.

Some are using Microsoft InfoPath for simpler internal applications.

Most are paralyzed into inaction because of the perceived effort and resources required to comprehensively “address” e-forms.

1.3. User Interface (UI)

Few have a widespread UI to advanced ECM, though many have some integration hub; most are considering content management interoperability services (CMIS) compliance for the next upgrade and are planning on doing less customization (depending on productized integration components).

Few peers integrate desktop applications (e.g. Microsoft Office) well with advanced ECM systems.

Most are beginning to face their unmanaged enterprise systems integration (ESI) on shared drives, hard drives, and in email; Microsoft SharePoint is becoming the go-forward system for this content.

Most have not successfully implemented an integration between SharePoint and advanced ECM; the few who did have expended far more resources than originally planned.

Most have at least standard integration of business applications, particularly enterprise resource planning (ERP), with external ECM systems, providing at least user access to content from within the UI.

 2. Process and Collaboration Layer

2.1. Collaboration

Most manufacturing companies use email and shared drives for the majority of collaboration, though there is increasing use of Microsoft SharePoint.

There are pockets of social media use, but few have external collaboration in production; few use mobile technology in production applications.

2.2. Workflow

Most use workflow provided by business systems (e.g. SAP, Oracle); some use ECM document-centric workflow from EMC/Documentum, sometimes others.

There is increasing use of SharePoint for basic authoring-review-approval workflow.

Few manufacturing companies have a clear division of labor and standards for types of workflow.

2.3. Process Automation

Most use offerings from IBM, Oracle, and others, along with a mix of middleware or specialist components (e.g. Envision for modeling).

 3. Content Middleware Layer

3.1. Enterprise Search

None of the manufacturing or heavy industry companies I know of have successfully implemented a single, "universal" search engine; few have been successful in more modest federated search across repositories from different vendors.

Most currently use a mix of basic Microsoft search, or use the inherent search capabilities of ECM (e.g. OpenText, Documentum) and archiving tools (e.g. Symantec), or business systems.

Some manufacturing companies have implemented Autonomy; a few have implemented IBM’s offering (IBM Content Analytics with Enterprise Search); and a small but growing number have implemented FAST for enterprise search.

Some have implemented specialized search, such as Oracle Endeca.

3.2. Taxonomy Management

Few have implemented — and successfully used — specialized taxonomy tools (e.g. Smartlogic); most have inadequate taxonomies or rely on the taxonomy capabilities of their primary advanced ECM solution (e.g. Documentum, OpenText).

3.3. Document Composition/Publishing

Most manufacturing companies don’t need it.

3.4. Document Security

Most are using Active Directory or Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

Few do encryption extensively.

3.5. Information Rights Management (IRM)

Most are concerned about intellectual property (IP) leakage, but most underuse information rights management (IRM) — either using basic tools like Microsoft or Adobe, or occasionally using more extensive IRM specialist tools.

3.6. E-discovery

Many have purchased point solutions for parts of the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM); until recently, litigation readiness was not effectively aligned with either records management (RM) or broader ECM, but that is changing.

Trends include addressing litigation process and project management (e.g. legal hold management), bringing simpler cases in-house for "right side" activities, and focusing on proactive information lifecycle management (ILM).

3.7. Integration

Many manufacturing companies have some integration hub; many are considering CMIS compliance for the next upgrade and are planning on doing less customization (depending instead on productized integration components).

3.8. Digital Signatures

Many are using a mix to address the range of applications from simple, low-risk internal workflows to customer-facing replacement of "wet" signatures.

Many manufacturing companies are delayed in migration because of internal inertia, rather than regulatory requirements.

4. Repository Management Layer

4.1. Document and Technical Document Management

Most have an advanced ECM system (e.g. OpenText, Documentum) that can address document management (DM), but most have not been highly successful at dynamic DM for documents that are not tightly associated to a line-of-business workflow.

Most prevalent content repositories at manufacturing organizations are shared drives, followed by email and hard drives; most have growing, ungoverned use of SharePoint for document sharing.

Many are beginning to govern and implement SharePoint to address the above two issues: ineffective dynamic DM/RM and the risky "swamp" of unmanaged ESI in shared drives, email and hard drives.

4.2. Document Image Management

Many are consolidating image management into a single advanced ECM vendor and product — at least on a day-forward and selected backfile basis.

4.3. Web Content Management

Most have a mix of homegrown, SharePoint and either a pure-play web content management (WCM) product or the WCM product from an ECM suite (typically OpenText, Oracle, Documentum, or HP/Interwoven — not IBM).

Many manufacturing companies are moving to SharePoint for the intranet; few are using SharePoint for extranet or internet.

Many do not have a defined extranet/internet WCM technology strategy.

4.4. Digital Asset Management

Most have scattered repositories (mostly shared drives) for digital asset management (DAM); some use standardized SharePoint folders or the standard ECM capabilities of their advanced ECM system (e.g. core OpenText or Documentum)

Many have replaced or are replacing the above solutions with a specialized DAM tool as a point solution.

4.5. Output/Report Management

Most manufacturing companies use “afterthought” products rather than top-tier products.

4.6. Records Management

Most have acquired electronic records management (RM) from their ECM suite provider (e.g. Documentum, OpenText); some have limited deployments, but very few have successful implementations.

Those manufacturing companies who have succeeded at RM have invested years of resources, and provide only limited models for “greenfield” organizations.

Organizations have an advantage if they can "capture" a significant proportion of records in their structured processes and place them in managed repositories; this is an advantage because the most successful electronic programs have been built upon successful ECM deployments that already have the relevant documents under control.

4.7. Email Management/Archive

Most have a self-defeating mix of too-small quotas, use of email as the de facto DM and workflow tool (with attachments), rampant PSTs, and no standardized information organization.

Many manufacturing companies  tried to address these issues with email management tools from ECM suite vendors, which failed to scale as expected.

Many also tried to change user behavior with quotas or purging and other rules, but did not provide adequate alternatives.

While there is no dominant trend today, an ascending trend at manufacturing organizations is more aggressive disposition of email.

4.8. Storage

Many are not changing their storage strategy today, but recognize that it may have to be addressed in a few years.

Some are seeking ways to reduce the rate of increased storage requirements through de-duplication of stored content.

Some manufacturing companies are realizing that their current storage approaches can’t fulfill their ECM, RM and e-discovery requirements — e.g. for fast reliable access, for granular retention, purging, holds, and releases.

To Sum It All Up

So there you have it: the ECM habits of manufacturing and heavy industry companies, as we at Doculabs have seen it in recent consulting engagements and in our discussions with players in the ECM market space. There’s always a value to seeing how your industry peers do things. Seeing how you compare to this wider peer group in their use of the ECM component technologies and products may be just what you need to get buy-in for an initiative to address gaps in the ECM capabilities at your own organization.

Rich Medina
Rich Medina
I’m a Principal Consultant and co-founder of Doculabs, and the resident expert in using ECM for information lifecycle management.