Fronius: TIM bundles the energies in the technical documentation

Technical sophisticated products have to be easy to use - this is the credo of Fronius International. Therefore, the global manufacturer of battery charging systems, welding technology and solar electronics sets a high value in an ergonomic product design and a comprehensible documentation. Thanks to the content-management-system TIM the effort for the creation of multilingual operating, installation and assembly instructions has been reduced significantly.

For more than 60 years Fronius International GmbH has developed innovative technologies and solutions for the control and the management of energy: battery charging systems, welding technology and solar electronics are the three pillars of the Austrian family-owned company, that is global market leader in the field of robot welding. The youngest division is the solar electronics sector which complements the product range by innovative inverters for the conversion of direct current generated by photovoltaic modules into alternating current. Fronius is based in Pettenbach and is represented in 17 countries by sales offices. The company employs 3.250 people worldwide, the export rate is over 90 per cent.

Fronius produces medium sized series, whereby the welding systems are available with many additional options and therefore, they are individually configured. A decisive factor for the market success of the products is not only their functionality but also their intuitive operation guidance. The Product Design Team invests immense energy in the design of housings, user interfaces and technical illustration. In order to simplify the handling of equipment, online-help and technical documentation in user language are included. That means, that according to the product or markets for which the product is supposed to, publications are translated in up to 14 languages simultaneously.

Fronius International - global manufacturer of battery charging systems, welding technology and solar electronics

All requirements have been met

Due to the increasing number of products and target markets the technical documentation department has to create, localize and manage more and more documents. This was not to manage any more by traditional methods of Desktop Publishing or alternatively additional staff would have been necessary. Fronius decided for the implementation of an XML based content-management system in order to prepare the documentation faster and to reuse the created or translated contents more easily. A major criterion was the possibility to connect the software to the ERP-solution by which the product master data and the order data are managed.

"We chose TIM, because Fischer Computertechnik was the only company that could virtually meet all the requirements", says Andreas Murauer, group leader Product Design & Technical Communication at Fronius and also responsible for the creation of the documentation:
"And not just on paper, but on basis of many customer references where the solution is actively used." The determining factor was besides the integration capability and the configurability of the software also the producer's solution competence who could guarantee a fast implementation.

The editors work with FrameMaker as editor whichhas the advantage that they did not have to change their accustomed way of working completely. The changeover to the module-based method was also facilitated by the fact that they already structured the content according to the Information Mapping Method in blocks. This structure was simulated in TIM in order to reuse content from existing documents. However, with the difference that they are now separated from layout and formatting and stored in a database, which facilitates the maintenance of technical documentation enormously. If the users change a text block used in several documents, they can update them with the auto updater in TIM almost by just pressing a button.

Time and cost savings

With the content management system not only the text blocks in source language are managed and versioned but also the respective language versions. The employees responsible for the localization do not send complete documents to the translation service but only individual text blocks in XML format, which saves time and money. Therefore, new or changed content can be translated before the completion of whole documentation. "By the use of TIM the effort for the publication in the various languages reduced by more than a third," says Murauer. "We are now able to create our documentation in more languages than ever before at the same time."

In the database of the content management system technical illustrations as EPS graphics as well as the exploded diagrams for spare parts lists as SVG graphics are stored. Instead of item numbers these exploded diagrams contain the part numbers of the spare parts. TIM takes the corresponding article names in the respective languages during the publication of the spare parts lists via the interface to the ERP system, so that there is no manual effort required for the localization of spare parts lists.

The instructions are usually published in PDF format, both in print as well as in electronic version. Depending on the extent of the documentation, the required language versions are combined in a PDF document or separately issued. In future, the online help files shall also be created consistently with TIM - the software offers the ability to output content in chm format. The output as a Word document will still be supported so that retailers can easily process the contents further.

Contract-related printout

Fischer Computertechnik created various layout templates for Fronius, including a compact layout for a six column paper-saving printing of multilingual assembly instructions. The company prints a large part of the documentation in-house, so they do not have to be produced in advance. The staff of the in-house printing sector access to the documentation directly via a TIM client and find in the data records besides the item number also instructions for application which have been deposited there by the technical editors. The content management system is also connected to the web content management system Livelink so that upon release the electronic version of the documentations will be published by pressing a button on the intranet and / or Internet.

TIM has been in productive use since autumn 2009 and is still extended steadily ever since. Fischer Computertechnik recently adapted the documentation's covers to the new corporate design of the company and made it possible to print them with a data matrix code. It is due to be scanned during the packaging in order to be able to reconstruct later, with which level of documentation and in which language version the product was delivered. One of the next major objects is to connect the product configurator in order to create complete documentation on the basis of the customer-specific configurations of the welding systems. Currently, the customers still receive separate documentation for each system component ordered.

The change to the module-based editorial process does not only reduce the effort for the creation of different language versions, as Murauer finally emphasizes: "TIM also improves the quality of our technical documentation by an integrative organization regarding corporate identity and ensures that it is always up to date."

Text: Michael Wendenburg, Sevilla (www.wendenburg.net)