Large-scale engineering design is characterized by large amounts of documentation. We have investigated how engineering designers in two offshore development projects perceive and cope with this situation. Experienced designers report of an increase in documentation over the years, and they raise questions as to how this affects the quality of the oil installations. Time pressure has increased the work load, which has led to increased documentation through the project members’ individual responses, e.g. production of general rather than specific specifications and increased circulation of documents. Other external conditions, e.g. the cooperation between multiple organizations and increased parallel work, also contribute to this situation. Following this, documentation as an information processing mechanism has partially failed, mainly because of information overload combined with time pressure. In addition to information processing, documentation also serves the purpose of redistributing work and responsibility among project members. This phenomenon is labelled defensive documentation. Our model of documentation in engineering shows that changes in external conditions, e.g. time pressure and incentive mechanisms, which influence the individual response, are needed to amend to the situation. Relevance to industry Information processing is a principal activity in all organizations, which must be properly dealt with to ensure efficiency. Further, since documentation seems to be the preferred mechanism to force compliance to ergonomic requirements, it is important to know how documentation functions.
International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2000
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