E-Records Management Yields Benefits in Any Industry

Lora Bentley

On Sept. 9, 2010, a 30-foot section of natural gas pipeline located in San Bruno, Calif., and maintained by Pacific Gas and Electric exploded. The blast killed eight people and destroyed nearly five times as many homes.


Since then, state regulators have asked the utility company to produce documentation regarding the pressure levels on all of its lines by March 15. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, to do that the company must "search through 1.25 million pipeline records in 20 field offices." And because many of these records are in hard copy form in boxes, the effort is proving to be more difficult and requiring more time and money than anyone thought it would.


In a letter to the public utility commission, PG&E's VP for regulatory relations, Brian Cherry, indicated the company had put together a "still growing" team of "engineers, estimators, mappers, information experts and managers"-not to mention the support of the document storage company brought in to search scores of boxes of records. Even still, the company says it will take more than six weeks to complete the task.


It's hard to believe that a company as large as PG&E is still relying on paper records in the 21st Century. I guess some industries are slower to adopt technology than others. But the fact remains that records management and e-discovery technology are becoming necessities to do business today-regardless of industry. As mechanical engineer Richard Golomb told the Chronicle:

Boy, is this going to be a lesson for the rest of the industry. Get your records in order.

Failing to do so is negligence, at best.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 4, 2011 4:53 AM Sonya Sonya  says:

Thanks for highlighting the role of proper records management in this tragedy, Lora. But the problem is not so much the format of the records (electronic vs paper), but the lack of control and organisation.

The regulator stated that all relevant records should easily fit into a single filing cabinet at most. So why does a company have millions of documents to retrieve and sort through? Duplication, disorganisation, poor version control... these kinds of problems are just as prevalent (maybe more so) and problematic for digital records as they are for hard copy.

Organisations need to put adequate resources into their information management. Indeed, people's lives can depend on good record keeping...

Feb 6, 2011 6:29 AM Stephanie Altbier Stephanie Altbier  says:

In the case of PG&E, I suspect that the company did not know the importance of records management nor does it know how to begin a records management plan.  I think the records management field needs to promote their services more in business publications and conferences to explain the value of records management to businesses.

Feb 14, 2011 6:33 AM Mary Hilliard, CRM Mary Hilliard, CRM  says:

Although you titled your article E-Records Management Yields Benefit, the same principles of good recordkeeping as described in ISO 15489 and in all good RIM programs apply regardless of the form in which the records are created and stored.

The issue for most businesses today (and for PG &E) is their failure to see that recordkeeping requires focus, should be a part of every business process and unless you utlitize resources to do the work up front, you will almost always pay a price for not doing so.


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