In February 2018, the same bodies which are also responsible for the well-known DIN EN ISO 12100, with the mandate to centralise and specify the requirements for operating manuals for machines, developed and published DIN EN ISO 20607 (a new Type-B standard) as a Draft.
So it is not surprising that with this Draft Standard, the criteria of the 12100-1 were acted on and supplemented – by a number of editorial requirements. For the latter, it was again mainly the 82079-1 used as a basis.
In general, any set of rules that concretises the demands of other publications and seeks to dispel myths provides real guidance to those who it addresses, and thus helps to make user information better. In addition to all the inevitable overlaps to the content of existing standards and guidelines, the Draft actually sets forth some welcome, even refreshing inspiration. Of these, I would like to highlight five:
Approach 1 "A More Practical Structure"
Not only does the standard recommend a kind of standard structure, which should be enthusiastically seized in many places, it also offers two-or-three content-related aspects within this outline proposal:
- "Machine Overviews" suggest that the content of the description chapter, which until now has often been the "Wasteland" or a "Diploma Thesis", should be less about the full praise of the engineering masterpiece than about the related parts ("clear" or "via Overviews") to lay the foundations of understanding for the subsequent action chapters.
- Additional suggestions for main chapters, such as "Factory Settings" (freely translated) or "Review and Testing" highlight a welcome a more practical and user-focused orientation.
Approach 2 "More In-Depth Target Group Analysis"
The Draft Standard again gives a clear rejection to general Target Group considerations, and the all-too-popular practice of characterising them as meaningless "specialised personnel". Instead, it calls for the differentiation of the Target Groups and provides implementation recommendations. For example, the creators of the standard start with a minimum of four target groups and, at the same time, quite sensibly demand that the characterisation of them should also be based on the tasks entrusted to them.
Approach 3 "More Relevant Security Information"
The standard outlines too general and basic safety information: "General statements on residual risks must be avoided". Anyone can clearly imagine that this, with consistent implementation, will result in more concrete safety instructions and chapters, which will thus brighten rather than tire. Another "thumbs up" for the standard’s authors!
Approach 4 "More User-Friendly Troubleshooting"
Also interesting: The standard recommends a five-column troubleshooting table. This highly meaningful plus in explicitness and orientation should provide more clarity in one of the most important chapters of a manual.
Approach 5 "More Up-To-Date Publication Media"
Last but not least, the authors surprise us in the point "7 Forms of Publication" by their statements on the trend topic "Print and/or Electronic Delivery", while first referring to the respective national legislation (which, as we know, is not sufficiently regulated) and admit that, if these do not exist, then the agreement with the customer is sufficient. It is then further defined that the user information must be available "in one or more of the following forms":
- "Print" or
- "As electronic data carrier provided with the machine"
Even if the stated "electronic data carrier" is no longer quite up-to-date, the standard does provide equal juxtaposition with print and electronic provision. Up until now, this has only been possible with medical devices. Assuming that in the comments phase the "electronic data carrier" may be expanded to include "digital provision via the Internet", there are numerous possibilities to make user information available precisely via machine displays, PCs, or mobile devices.
Independent from the highlighted details: The new standard will only refer to the “acceptance vacuum”, which was left by the basic standard DIN EN 82079-1, as the 82079 is still not harmonised under the Product Safety Act or under the Machinery Directive. On the other hand, this privilege is likely to be granted to the 20607 very soon.
The standard already represents the hitherto most comprehensive approach of a set of rules in this area, in that both safety-related and content-related requirements from mechanical engineering, as well as technical editorial requirements are equally considered. And, at least with the focus of a mechanical engineering standard, the technical editorial topics are illuminated in unprecedented depth. In my opinion, despite the undoubtedly good approaches, a great opportunity has been thrown away: the relevant requirements of Machinery Directive, DIN EN ISO 12100-1, DIN EN 82079-1 and ANSI Z535.6 systematic, to consolidate, to logically organise for the first time and to present it in an easily comprehensible way. But what is not, can still come with the full version or successive version.
Until then, experts who are aware of all the rules will still be required to interpret grey areas and eliminate weaknesses or inconsistencies through better solutions. One thing has not changed with the appearance of this draft standard: one can always be better than the standard!