The client is one of India’s largest truck and commercial vehicle manufacturer.
The client had a well-defined, industry-standard format for the operations and maintenance manuals that were supplied with its trucks.
- The client had no technical writing team; it was the engineering team team that updated the documentation.
- The client had outsourced the layout and printing to a vendor who used Adobe Pagemaker to layout the content.
- For a given class of vehicles, the content and document structure was reusable with just some specifications and procedures changing. However, because the content was in Adobe Pagemaker the client team members could not update the content and had to rely on the DTP vendor to update the content and generate a PDF for review. This led to inordinate delays at times.
- Also, any content change that affected multiple vehicles would require individual manuals to be updated; another time consuming exercise.
- Each manual had content in 2 languages, English and Hindi. The client wanted to the option to publish the manuals in other Indian languages.
- With the current setup, the client could deliver only PDFs and not online versions of the documentation.
The ibruk Consulting technical writing team first analysed the existing documentation and found that:
- For a given class of vehicles, ~80% of the content was reusable. As a result, the first thought was to have a documentation solution that would help the client reuse the content where possible.
- The client also had licenses for PTC Arbortext Editor that they had not been using. Documentation was created in Microsoft Word and then set up formatting & layout to a vendor who use Adobe PageMaker to create a printable PDF.
- The client wanted the engineering team to be the owners of the documentation and have the ability to update existing documentation as well as create new documentation.
This client’s situation made DITA the obvious choice as the new documentation environment because we could:
- create content as reusable topics
- create content in Indian languages
- generate outputs in multiple formats, starting with PDF and HTML
More importantly, we could train the client’s Engineering Team quickly and easily on creating standardised, reusable content using DITA’s Concept-Task-Reference content paradigm.
Having decided on DITA, the ibruk Consulting technical writing team started by training the client’s Engineering Team on DITA. This helped them understand the content architecture as well as the practical aspects of authoring in DITA.
After the training was completed, the ibruk Consulting information architect worked with the client’s team to:
- analyse 9 manuals across 3 product lines
- identify reusable content and define a reuse strategy
- create a DITA Style Guide for the client’s Engineering Team
The ibruk Consulting team now worked with the client’s team to:
- rewrite the existing content as DITA topics with the reusability implemented at the level of the map, topic as well as small unit of content (via conref and conkeyref)
- create standard bookmaps for various manuals
In parallel, another team at ibruk Consulting created a custom PDF generation plug-in. While we started with the PDF plug-in in DITA-OT, we soon realised that it had its limitations. We then switched to Antenna House Formatter which offered greater scope and flexibility to customize the PDF output.
The end result was a DITA PDF Plug-in that flawlessly rendered:
- the complex print layout that the client needed
- Indian language content without errors
- Arbortext Editor
- Antenna House Formatter
In a 3-month period, we were able to train the client team to use DITA to:
- create and update content, including incorporating translated content
- generate outputs
The client was very happy with the solution because:
- the time to update documentation was reduced by 90%
- the time to create new documentation was reduced by 70%
- they owned the end-to-end process of creating and publishing content
- they could generate outputs quickly and easily when required
The client is now preparing to implement a content management system (CMS) that would make their documentation environment which will take their documentation system.