How USPS tracks drawings
The Postal Service's Engineering Department relies on a document management system to
keep more than 200,000 drawing documents up to date for users at 27 locations.
Since 1993, the engineers have used FileNet Mezzanine and Saros Document Manager from
FileNet Corp. of Costa Mesa, Calif., to manage mixed formats including those of Microsoft
Excel and Microsoft Word, Adobe Systems Inc.'s Portable Document Format, and Autodesk
Inc.'s AutoCAD .dwg and .tif.
The department's 500 engineers design components of machines that collect, process or
distribute mail. They also approve the safety and reliability of other products used in
30,000 post offices, processing plants and bulk mail centers.
Engineers used to wait for two or three days as staff members conducted hard-copy
searches and routed items to them through interoffice mail. Keeping thousands of drawings
up to date on keypunched aperture cards took a lot of effort and storage space.
The agency chose FileNet mainly for its security features, said Lon Wilson, a computer
systems analyst with the Postal Service's Configuration Management Group in Merrifield,
Va. FileNet Mezzanine is a server-based document storage engine that users access through
Saros Document Manager, a client application and user interface.
The engineers couldn't break into Saros with standard tools such as Symantec Corp.'s
Norton Utilities, Wilson said, but that was not the case with other document management
systems the agency considered. Users make Structured Query Language calls to the database
in Saros, which makes calls back to the client without users ever touching the data.
FileNet administrators can grant users a range of access privileges, from author or
owner rights to view or print to no rights at all.
"When you make a change, it makes a copy to your local hard drive, the network
drive or whatever drive you selected," Wilson said. The system records who made the
changes and the date and time.
The FileNet document management system runs under Microsoft Windows NT Server 3.51 on
two Digital Equipment Corp. Prioris XL Pentium servers with 128M of RAM and redundant disk
storage. One server has 20G of disk space and the other has 90G, Wilson said. Most of the
desktop systems run Windows 95.
After migrating from a Novell NetWare LAN to NT 3.51, the Configuration Management
Group opened up TCP/IP WAN access to Saros last January, Wilson said. Some remote users
still dial up to the FileNet system, but the engineers in Merrifield access it through the
The agency bought the FileNet products through a contract with General Technology Inc.
of Newport Beach, Calif. It paid $435 per seat for 600 licenses in 27 locations, plus an
annual software maintenance fee.
The FileNet software is fairly intuitive, but users took a three-hour training class,
Wilson said. One temporary employee taught herself without going to a class, he said, and
he trained a secretary in an hour.