The life of a technical publisher at a manufacturing company presents some difficult challenges. Your job is to produce useful and engaging content for employees and customers. Content that puts the company’s products in the best light, and reflects the importance of customer support to your organization.
And when you finally go to print, or publish your latest project online, you feel a great sense of satisfaction…until you look at the final product and realize that, before even one user views the results of your hard work, there are numerous errors and inaccuracies hidden inside the text.
This is what happens to authors and editors of parts catalogs every single day. Illustrations that don’t match the as-built product. Machines that have a custom configuration of parts and assemblies, but are shipped with a “base model” parts manual. Part numbers constantly being updated, and so on.
Creating an accurate parts catalog for complex equipment is harder than most people realize. Image files, bills of materials, and other source documents arrive from multiple designers and engineers. Engineering change orders (ECOs) are issued during prototyping, testing and production, leading to superseded part numbers and modified descriptions. To add even more confusion, version control may not be universally consistent across departments and document management systems.
It’s up to the publishing staff to pull it all together and ship the documentation, as close to perfect as possible. But it’s never perfect under these conditions—nobody can keep up with all the changes, and desktop publishing platforms require a high level of effort to edit a single part number or illustration.
Often, no one outside the publications department seems to care about these difficulties.
But customers care. Machine operators and technicians care, desperate to fix the machines that their livelihoods depend upon. The dealers who want to prove themselves indispensable to their biggest accounts. And the owners of the machines certainly care, since they view downtime as a vampire-like monster siphoning away profits.
How do you bring order to this madness? Is the idea of a 100% accurate parts catalog a fantasy?
It’s not a fantasy, and it’s achievable with proven, widely available technology. Imagine being able to quickly import part illustrations, BOMs and other product data, right into your authoring tool. With automated linking and hot-pointing of drawings and part descriptions that save hours of formatting labor.
And, imagine not having to copy and reformat text within your desktop publishing system. Or revise the part number for a part shared between 20 models in 20 separate parts book documents. What if you could edit one text field in your authoring tool and know that you instantly corrected the documentation for hundreds of machines—and thousands of customers—all around the world?
If you could do that, people would start noticing. From the VP of customer service to the guy sitting behind the parts counter, they’re going to notice easier part sales and happier equipment owners. And you’ll deliver that brand new, insanely accurate parts catalog with a huge smile on your face.
This is the power of authoring and publishing with a relational database. It’s the future of technical publishing, and it’s here now. If you’d like to see how easy it is to start building world-class support documents with Documoto, check out our Quick Start Publishing package that offers fast, affordable implementation!