Closer Ties Simplify Processes

Tighter hooks to business apps should help users of Documentum's content-management system improve workflows
York International Corp., a $4.1 billion-a-year maker of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, until recently didn't have a way for two manufacturing plants to refer to the same part in the same way. The lack of a common frame of reference at the company, which has 29 plants in 13 countries, made it difficult to automate business processes across manufacturing, inventory, and sales. "There was a lack of consistency across countries and throughout this organization on how business processes could be achieved," says Timothy Fives, manager of global content solutions at York.

York was inconsistent about business processes, says Timothy Fives, manager of global content solutions at York.

York was inconsistent about business processes, Fives says.
With new content-management software from Documentum, a unit of EMC Corp., York created a database of its more than 2,000 parts that contains all the essential information on a data sheet, plus links to related documents. It's updated as information flows in from Singapore, China, Denmark, and U.S. offices in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. The system leaves a virtual paper trail of who created information and who modified it, and can associate documents, pictures, and diagrams with processes plotted in York's SAP enterprise-resource-planning software.

Documentum's new products are its attempt to stay a step ahead of competitors. The company, which EMC acquired last year, sells to companies such as Bayer Group, Ford, and McDonald's. Earlier this month, it released software that lets companies model workflow requirements and ties its document-organizing software more closely to applications from SAP and other business-software manufacturers. Also earlier this month, Documentum added to the basic business-process automation in its content-management platform with Business Process Services, an integration suite. The software will link Documentum's content-management system to ERP apps.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's Office 2003, released last fall, contains a new app called InfoPath that lets users pull information out of Office documents into forms using XML. Office 2003's capabilities are creeping up on what document-management companies can do in terms of tracking versions of documents and their content, says Jim Murphy, an analyst at AMR Research. Adobe Systems Inc. also is working with SAP and others to build markets for server-side software that can route PDF forms around and between companies.

"The content-management vendors figured they should own this space," Murphy says. Now Microsoft is encroaching on the market. InfoPath can track versions of XML forms, supply digital signatures, and impose security restrictions, such as who has authorization to see or print the document. Documentum's recent emphasis on business-process modeling and management is its effort to stay ahead of Microsoft's growing functionality, Murphy says.

At York, Fives' team is still building its central parts database and hasn't installed Documentum's business-process-modeling tools yet. But once it does, content such as pictures and diagrams can be associated with a new manufacturing process or other business processes built around SAP manufacturing applications. "The rich content can then be exposed to users of SAP applications," he says.

Fives' ultimate goal: "We can combine parts data and documents with SAP applications and better streamline business processes."

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