Creating project-specific documents on a daily basis, based on a master document with a stored variant filter is really quite effective, as compared with compiling content manually. But, if just under 20 language variants are added (and the trend is increasing), then even setting the appropriate variant filters and adding order-specific data on the cover page is an effort that shouldn't be underestimated.
Together with the Technical Editors at Aerzener Maschinenfabrik we considered how we could reduce these considerable efforts.
We actually had everything we needed: a project-specific product configuration including order data in SAP and a complete master document for standard products in the Content Management System. What we were missing was communication between the two systems.
The biggest challenge was to first properly specify the interface. Over the course of numerous workshops, online meetings and teleconferences, we first collected the ideas and proposals of the Technical Editing staff, the Aerzener Maschinenfabrik IT department (the people responsible for SAP), as well as the kothes Software Development department, in order to develop a common specification. After this, it progressed in short sprints to the actual implementation, of course with regular exchanges between the joint Software Development and Technical Editing teams of Aerzener Maschinenfabrik and kothes. Since then, the documentation for Aerzener Maschinenfabrik's standard products is created completely automatically by using the newly developed interface.
In addition to standard products, as with most machine and plant manufacturers, there are also customer-specific and custom-fabricated products. These manuals cannot be created completely automatically. Guided by the order type in SAP, these manuals are stored in a specific folder within the CMS for manual processing, after their automatic creation.
This allows the Technical Editing staff to concentrate on handling these special cases and finally have more time to take care of the really important areas specific to their department.