GE Healthcare is aiming to more than halve the time it takes to process documents by implementing a less customised version of EMC’s enterprise content management (ECM) solution Documentum.

The global medical imaging and information technologies company is initially rolling out a new version of Documentum for 2,500 users in its medical diagnostics business, which includes manufacturing sites and R&D sites where clinical studies are performed.

For internal and external auditing reasons, workers in both sites have to create a paper trail to prove that products have been produced to regulations and controls set by the company.

This paper trail has to reflect the quality of the information, track who reviewed the documents, who read them, who approved them and their e-signatures and when it was made ‘effective’. Effective is a legal term that means that a document has been passed for use in the production of products such as controlled drugs.

“That’s what we’re supporting – a controlled, auditable environment,” said Mark Toynbee, global programme manager, Documentum, at GE Healthcare, who joined the company in January and was tasked to make the system simpler and more intuitive.

“We reckon we’ve reduced the end-to-end, or what we call the ‘wing-to-wing’, time by 59 percent, from the creation of the document to having a document effective.”

Although the time it takes for a document to become effective can vary between four days to four weeks, depending on the size of the document, Toynbee said that he’s been able to reduce the wing-to-end time for a four megabytes document from four days to two days.

Another speed goal that Toynbee has is in user experience. At the moment, the system can make the user wait around 20 minutes, until the session times out, before responding.

“My aim is no action should take more than 20 seconds from when you’re clicking a button and seeing the result, anywhere in the world,” he said.

GE Healthcare uses the Documentum Compliance Management tool which comes with workflow components that mean that the company does not have to write too much of its own code.

“We’re very keen to not customise because supporting is difficult, upgrading is difficult. We wanted to keep it as much as possible out of the box,” Toynbee explained.

The company has made just two customisations to the solution, for controlled printing and autofiling, so that documents are filed away in correct directories based on a set of criteria. With the old system, GE Healthcare found 50,000 empty directories that users created, and people were creating unnecessary subdirectories. In the worst case, one file was 27 directory levels deep, Toynbee said.

With the implementation of the new solution, Documentum version 6.7, GE Healthcare has taken the opportunity to reduce the number of workflows in the document processing system from more than 20 to just three. It has also streamlined the access points so that there are just two – ‘full’ and ‘light’ users, who are either ‘information generators’ or ‘consumers’.

In order to do this, Toynbee had to get everyone from the different sites around the world to agree to align their processes.

“It was a very good functional engagement. We worked very hard so that they would be happy with a vanilla they were all happy with,” he said.

The solution is hosted in North America, and uses an Oracle database. It runs on Red Hat and the Documentum components run on Windows on virtual servers with a network-attached storage. Only GE employees can access the system via an internal MPLS network.

The go-live date for the system is scheduled for April 2012, and Toynbee expects to roll out the solution further to other parts of the business over the next few years.