Document coding system

Rob_Kellock

Involved In Discussions
These are excellent questions. Experience shows that numbers/coding is a meaningless dinosaur from the early days of ISO implementations
I don't disagree that there is not really any need for document numbering these days (in fact I wrote an article on this exact topic 11 years ago - it's on my website), but I have found people like and expect their documents to be numbered. As such, I've gone back to numbering them. It's probably just a legacy thing, but it does help with sequential ordering documents in a system.
 

Tidge

Trusted Information Resource
I feel that a numbering system is important, but primarily for referencing/retrieving/searching for documents.

I have a slight allergy to trying to implement metadata schemes within an archival numbering scheme. I understand the temptations/rationalizations for doing that, it's just that I've never found two people who agree on the scale and scope of which metadata ought to be encoded in a numbering scheme... and (again, my experience) it doesn't take long before it any metadata naming scheme reveals itself to be obviously deficient for one or more circumstances.
 

Bev D

Heretical Statistician
Leader
Super Moderator
I don't disagree that there is not really any need for document numbering these days (in fact I wrote an article on this exact topic 11 years ago - it's on my website), but I have found people like and expect their documents to be numbered. As such, I've gone back to numbering them. It's probably just a legacy thing, but it does help with sequential ordering documents in a system.
Which people? Doc control people or the actual users of the documents? In my 40 years of experience as a Quality engineer, manager and executive and as an actual user I have heard no one say they liked an alpha numerical coding or numbering system for SOPs, work instructions or forms. Only Document control people - who for the most part had very little knowledge of the documented processes or how documents were used, found, etc. They only cared about how easy it was for them to file the documents.

Sequential numbers? By use or by creation? Creation makes zero sense to the user…and ‘by use’ is gonna change over time so you’d need to add the complication of ‘missing numbers (like street addresses) to allow for growth and change in processes.

‘Linking’ is a logical process related to how the processes are related - this isn’t very linear except in in the local sense of a form for a work instruction or SOP and the sequential nature of the processes. This requires human knowledge and understanding of the processes that is better captured in words than in numbers…

Here is an example. In one organization doc control used an alpha numerical system: first was the high level product line or function, then the type of doc and then a sequential number. So INS-Wi-001 was the first written document for an instrument work instruction and INS-Wi-002 was the second written work instruction for the instrument line. What process was 001 and what process was 002? Since the number went to 108 which was which? You had to open each document to see which process it covered. And there was no key word system and the search engine was pathetic so it couldn’t be relied on.

Actual users look for documents by the human language words in the title and key words that describe the activity covered. Documents can be filed and grouped by the topic they cover using their titles…although that requires the doc control person to have some understanding of processes :unsure: but numbers are just non-sensical to the user…

Even drawings that are numbered by the part number they are for have human language words for the title that describe the part. And I’ve seen some pretty random numbering systems that make teh logical linking of the top level drawing to the sub system, component and part level drawings nonsensical as well. Engineers that deal with only a small number of drawings can remember the numbers but those that deal with a large number of parts can’t. They use the words in the title…

And if your document control person can’t deal with words then use BOTH.
 

Ed Panek

QA RA Small Med Dev Company
Leader
Super Moderator
Document numbering lettering systems add a layer of obscurity to the material. If I had a shipping system different for UPS, DHL and Fed Ex, I could call them
BUS_SOP 1 Rev 01
BUS_SOP 2 Rev 01
BUS_SOP 3 Rev 01

Or I could call them
SHIPPING FEDEX Rev 01
SHIPPING UPS Rev 01
SHIPPING DHL Rev 01

I'd prefer the second for clarity. I can't count how many times I've heard questions in meetings like "What is the SOP number for FED Ex Shipping?" Those details are hypothetical but the implications are the same
 

Rob_Kellock

Involved In Discussions
Which people? Doc control people or the actual users of the documents? In my 40 years of experience as a Quality engineer, manager and executive and as an actual user I have heard no one say they liked an alpha numerical coding or numbering system for SOPs, work instructions or forms. Only Document control people - who for the most part had very little knowledge of the documented processes or how documents were used, found, etc. They only cared about how easy it was for them to file the documents.

Sequential numbers? By use or by creation? Creation makes zero sense to the user…and ‘by use’ is gonna change over time so you’d need to add the complication of ‘missing numbers (like street addresses) to allow for growth and change in processes.

‘Linking’ is a logical process related to how the processes are related - this isn’t very linear except in in the local sense of a form for a work instruction or SOP and the sequential nature of the processes. This requires human knowledge and understanding of the processes that is better captured in words than in numbers…

Here is an example. In one organization doc control used an alpha numerical system: first was the high level product line or function, then the type of doc and then a sequential number. So INS-Wi-001 was the first written document for an instrument work instruction and INS-Wi-002 was the second written work instruction for the instrument line. What process was 001 and what process was 002? Since the number went to 108 which was which? You had to open each document to see which process it covered. And there was no key word system and the search engine was pathetic so it couldn’t be relied on.

Actual users look for documents by the human language words in the title and key words that describe the activity covered. Documents can be filed and grouped by the topic they cover using their titles…although that requires the doc control person to have some understanding of processes :unsure: but numbers are just non-sensical to the user…

Even drawings that are numbered by the part number they are for have human language words for the title that describe the part. And I’ve seen some pretty random numbering systems that make teh logical linking of the top level drawing to the sub system, component and part level drawings nonsensical as well. Engineers that deal with only a small number of drawings can remember the numbers but those that deal with a large number of parts can’t. They use the words in the title…

And if your document control person can’t deal with words then use BOTH.
My clients were the people I was referring to. I've built management systems for many of my customers over the last 16 years and worked on many more systems. I have attempted to deliver a document system without numbering several times only to be questioned by the customer - they thought system documents had to be numbered. :)

Almost all of the existing systems I have worked on had document numbering. Different systems relied on the numbering to different degrees. The document numbers allow the logical sequential presentation of the documents by use. The use of Metadata provides a much more flexible method of ordering documents which I prefer as it allows the sequential presentation of documents by anything you like.

A manual numbering system does not need to be complex to allow the insertion of documents between documents. It just needs to be flexible.

I'd never suggest that document numbers be used instead of titles, only in addition to and I completely support the ability to search system documents by number, title or content. How else can you adequately maintain a system which appropriately cross-references documents.
 
All documents need titles, but here are some logical reasons to have document codes. Namely, you can define the retention time, approval requirements, and repository for each document category. Document codes also allow you to change the title while maintaining access to the revision history of the document. Simplest way to implement this is to have a short document number prefix that means something followed by a unique number (specific to that document). Supposed "smart numbering" will always break down or will create future complications. By using a meaningful prefix, unique number, and descriptive title, documents are easily found, approved by the right people, kept for the appropriate amount of time, and stored in the right location. When done correctly, QA and doc control love it, other employees are fine with it, and auditors appreciate it.
 

Rob_Kellock

Involved In Discussions
All documents need titles, but here are some logical reasons to have document codes. Namely, you can define the retention time, approval requirements, and repository for each document category. Document codes also allow you to change the title while maintaining access to the revision history of the document. Simplest way to implement this is to have a short document number prefix that means something followed by a unique number (specific to that document). Supposed "smart numbering" will always break down or will create future complications. By using a meaningful prefix, unique number, and descriptive title, documents are easily found, approved by the right people, kept for the appropriate amount of time, and stored in the right location. When done correctly, QA and doc control love it, other employees are fine with it, and auditors appreciate it.
With document metadata in document management systems these days you don't need to rely on the document number to determine retention times, storage locations or the approval process. You could, but a coded message is always much harder to read than something that says Approval: Director, Retention: 2 years, Document Type: Policy.
 
You could, but a coded message
Can you tell me what you mean by "coded message"? I come from a medical device perspective. You might be in a different industry. Many companies do not have the resources to implement and validate a document management system with complex metadata. If you have an electronic system that categorizes documents, and defines document controls based on that categorization, it is achieving the same intent as categorization through a document code. However, I'm wondering how that metadata is identified when the document is printed? Maybe its not?
 
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