I'm a project engineer for a small/medium Communications company operating in the oil and gas sector. Over the last year we've undergone fairly rapid growth and the size and complexity of the projects we're delivering has increased.

Currently much of the documentation and drawings we provide involve manual mark-up of existing similar drawings, intensive cut, copy and pasting of information from multiple inter-related data sources such as MS word documents, excel spreadsheets and PDF documents etc.

It has always struck me that a database structure could greatly benefit our productivity but I'm clueless on what is possible with database packages and how best to proceed.

Our main starting point for the majority of projets is the Vendor Document Register (VDR - a list of all submissible documents and drawings to be provided as part of the project). Each document and drawing has a unique document/drawing number, title and revision number etc which would seem sutiable for database records. Currently the information from the VDR would be copied and manually inserted into document and drawing templates.

Question 1 - Ideally time could be saved if all of the document/drawing templates could be automatically generated from the database is this possible and what is the best way to achieve this?

Additionally documents in the VDR are also grouped together, generally by system or type (e.g. general arrangement drawings, termination drawings, block diagrams etc) and these are then referenced in documents such as the functional design specification and detailed design specification.

Question 2 - Would it be possible to automatically populate reference tables in documents directly from database queries etc?

We also have to provide datasheets for the equipment we are providing and much of the equipment is common across the majority of projects we deliver, it would make sense to catalogue the datasheets in a database and automatically generate the datasheet documents for each of the systems.

Question 3 - Is it possible to automatically compile PDF source files into a single document from a database structure?

Every item of field equipment is normally tagged with a unique tag number, similarly the power/data cables required to power / communicate with the field equipment will be tagged with a unique cable tag. The equipment tag numbers and cable tag numbers will be repeated in many of the documents and drawings. Currently if a tag number was to change it would be incumbent on the engineer to establish all documents/drawings the tag number appears in, clearly this is an undesirable situation. Ideally these tag numbers could be inserted into AutoCAD and MS office documents as some kind of reference to the database value and for instances where the tag number needs to be changed you change it in the database which would then automatically update and flag all documents which have been affected.

Question 4 - Would the above be possible?

I believe the possibilities are vast, and mostly I'd like some feedback on which database software would provide the greatest flexibility and easiest user interface to achieve the type of goals detailed above.

I'd greatly appreciate any advice on the possibilities of acheving the above and how may be the best way to progress these ideas.

Many thanks,