On the Path towards Digital Technical Documentation

What to do when the implementation of the digitisation concept stalls?

On the Path towards Digital Technical Documentation

The scenario: Monday, the weekly Jour Fixe of the Division Managers with the company's Management is well underway. The Head of the machine and plant manufacturer is engaged in dropping an anecdote from last week: "I was standing between the old packaging lines with the Production Manager of our customer SOLU-MedTech, because of a new large order when his smartphone pushed out a message. He checked the message and then immediately started scrolling and clicking. Then he said, "There's a Sensor Error on Line 5, but Mr. Schmidt is already on it — it's not a big deal... and by the way, I'd like to see this kind of function on your new equipment as well …”

What had just happened? Via an app, the production plant reported a malfunction to a selected group of employees. The person who takes care of the malfunction pushes the status message "In Progress" to the system. All the notified people see the error message and the status of the processing. They can, if necessary, call up the suggestions for troubleshooting from the Service Manual. Required tools, materials and spare parts are also displayed, if necessary. If this isn't enough, additional topics from the technical documentation can be called up via suggested, context-sensitive search terms.

But back to the Jour Fixe. Of course, the Boss immediately wanted to know how far we had gotten with the subject. There is already a company-wide digitisation concept that also includes mobile documentation. What's the status of its implementation? When will we be able to offer our customers such a solution?

And now? Now, wishes and reality are drifting apart!

Sure, the concept is there, but there are also hurdles everywhere, and it ends in the implementation of the projects and to-dos derived from it:

  • Cross-divisional decisions have to be made. However, there is still no consensus among the people involved.
  • Tasks and responsibilities are both defined and structured, but those responsible also have other projects and tasks that they've prioritised higher. Their implementation often conflicts with the extensive digitisation concept.
  • In some areas, there are already isolated solutions whose implementation is imminent or has already been completed. The willingness to support additional projects in other areas is quite low, because the person-power for this is often lacking.
  • Not infrequently, there are also open decisions regarding the system landscape: Which software tools may need to be replaced? Which ones should stay and which tools need to be purchased additionally?

So what can be done now, in order get closer to the goal of a digital information world and thus, functioning mobile technical documentation?

Every company that is currently taking this step (or those who want to take it) is at an individual point here. So there's truly no universal truth or solution.

However, there is often a recipe for success among customers who are currently navigating this path successfully: The large digitisation concept is divided into realistic sub-projects (i.e. "chunks"), in order to focus on solutions and to-dos that can be implemented immediately or during the short-term. The resources and investments required for this remain manageable, partial goals are achieved and the company doesn't get bogged down with tasks that perhaps can't yet be solved.

Determine the current state

Answering the questions "What's our current status?" and "How far have we come and where's the sticking point?" can provide good approaches as to which sub-projects (or chunks) look promising and, above all, are actually feasible as a next step.

The core areas of consideration can be, for example:

  • Content: What information is currently available for the various user groups and how is it structured?
  • Source of information: where does this information come from, how is it generated and who creates it?
  • Systems: In which systems is the information currently generated or created?
  • Databases: Where (and in which format) is this information being stored?
  • Usage: Who is currently using this information and through which medium (PDF, HMI, mobile device, spare parts catalogue, etc.) is it being accessed?

Considering the current state should not aim to achieve the most comprehensive picture possible of all facets of these complex issues. The current state should merely provide ideas for concrete approaches that can already be implemented in the manner described above and bring you closer to the goal of digitised technical documentation. Ideally, these sub-goals already create a usable additional benefit for the target groups of the information.

The sum of all parts constitute the whole

Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, where it's a common successful strategy to concentrate on first tackling certain areas of the picture or the edges, the sum of all sub-projects also produces the overall picture over the medium-term.

Unlike a rigid puzzle, however, the result here is flexible. It can adapt to market changes, new target aspects or advanced, as well as new technical possibilities and software solutions, during its implementation.

Sub-projects that increasingly pursue the use and integration of existing content, systems and solutions (and that we frequently develop and implement together with customers) include:

  • The development and introduction of appropriate metadata concepts as the basis for structured technical documentation.
  • The conversion of chapter-oriented documentation creation to independently-usable topics. These facilitate the creation of technical documents and, above all, help users to find the information they need more quickly.
  • More efficient use of existing Content Management Systems by making optimal use of the technical possibilities.
  • Topic-oriented preparation of service information such as FAQs or How-Tos, etc.
  • The digital use of topics from technical documentation or the service area on mobile devices.
  • Exploring existing technical solutions with regard to target-oriented options for providing information in the form of topics.
  • Connecting existing systems by developing suitable interfaces, for example Content Management Systems with spare parts catalogues or service management software tools for automating technical documentation.

We’d be happy to be your guide during this process, recognising the appropriate pieces of the puzzle and working with you to successfully shape them into partial images that immediately add value.

Digitise technical documentation? Yes! Get started now, because there's never an "ideal" time!

Uwe Frank
Blog post Uwe Frank
Newsletter Abonnieren

Subscribe to Newsletter

Subscribe to our kothes newsletter and you will receive regular e-mails on current topics, events and seminars.