The automotive industry does a fantastic job of managing configurations. You can walk into pretty much any dealership, ask the parts manager to type in your car’s VIN, and the dealer will tell you exactly what parts are on your car.
What’s somewhat puzzling to me is that many auto manufacturers don’t have configuration-specific owner’s manuals, repair manuals, and other service documentation. Thankfully, there’s a way to rectify this situation.
All tech pubs teams need to do is use the same sales configuration codes those in the manufacturing side of the business use to tag parts in the bills of materials (BOM). However, instead of using the sales configuration codes to tag parts within a product’s BOM, they can use those codes to tag specific topics.
For example, let’s say an auto manufacturer is releasing a new line of sedans, the Model A, of which there are six possible configurations. Each configuration uses a different stereo system.
This is where topic-based authoring comes into play. Say Model A-145 contains Car Stereo B. Model A-145 has its own sales configuration number. If a writer creates an instruction set on how to connect your phone to Car Stereo B’s Bluetooth, he or she can just tag that topic with Model A-145’s sales configuration number.
The writer can apply Model A-145’s sales configuration number to whatever topic is associated with the parts within that particular configuration. That means when it comes to the assembly of the owner’s manual for Model A-145, all he or she has to do is find content tagged with that model’s configuration number.
Right now, many manufacturers release owner’s manuals and service documentation containing content applicable to every possible product configuration they offer. But customers don’t want to flip through pages of instructions on how to use components that aren’t installed on the products they’re using. They just want content that’s applicable to them.
Technical documentation is great now, but it will be even better when tech pubs teams author content in a way that allows them to quickly pull in topics relevant to specific configurations.
If you want more information on how to deliver configuration-specific technical documentation, check out our checklist on service information management capabilities:
Robert Bannerman is an executive within PTC’s SLM Business Development function, possessing more than 20 years of experience in CAD/CAM, product lifecycle management (PLM), reverse engineering, and service within the automotive and aerospace sectors. He also has experience developing PLM, sales, and go-to-market strategies, as well as professional services. Rob continues to play men’s hockey and outdoor sports like scuba diving while spending time with his wife and his teenage kids.