Review and Forecast: Ten years of Kärcher and TIM

For ten years Kärcher has been creating its technical documents with the content management system TIM

The family-owned company Kärcher is the leading provider of cleaning systems and offers innovative solutions like high pressure cleaners, vacuum cleaners und steam cleaners, pumps for home and garden, sweepers and scrubber dryers, vehicle washes, cleaning agents, dry ice blasters and drinking water and waste treatment plants as well as water dispensers. The range includes perfectly matched products, cleaning agents and accessories along with consulting and services.

Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG employs more than 10,600 employees in 60 countries in 100 corporations. More than 50,000 service points in all countries ensure continuous and comprehensive supplies to customers all over the world. Innovation is one of the most important growth factor. About 90 % of all products are not more than five years old. Over 900 engineers and technicians are employed in designing new problem solutions at the cleaning equipment manufacturer‘s development centers.

Automated processes with TIM

To create the documentation for the many and widely differing products consistently and in compliance with the high quality requirements - is the challenge facing the employees of the Technical Documentation Department at Kärcher day by day. Kärcher cooperates hereby with the software company Fischer Computertechnik FCT AG (FCT) and since 2004 Kärcher has decided to use their solution TIM as a content management system and FrameMaker as editor as well as a translation memory system to safeguard now the worldwide translation of up to 38 languages. The department is not only responsible for creation of operating instructions but also other types of documents such as assembly instructions, service documents, inspection checklists as well as declarations of conformity.

As the numerous texts of the technical documentation are often reused in a frequent manner, a large number of documents have to be preferably managed in automated processes using a content management system. Prior to the implementation of the system, there was no unique process: A German document was created, exported in every language and individually re-imported after the translation - this was extremely time-consuming. Today the technical writers create a German document and all further processes run almost automatically and are centrally controlled.

Ten years of Kärcher and TIM

Continuous adaptation of the system

Together with FCT, Kärcher optimized continuously the configuration of the processes: For example the workflow for translations was generally revised. First of all the translation export in all languages simultaneously at the same time was developed, then the import was the next challenge. FCT offered the export possibility with post process, whereas the desired versions in the foreign languages are generated automatically from a proven German document, provided that all translations are available in the system. If translations are missing only those languages are exported and transferred to the translator. Therefore, a rethinking when creating documents was required, every text to be translated has now to be created as a module so that the thoroughly structured processes work.

Reduced translation costs in 38 languages

Even after this optimization translated XML-files had to be imported individually and manually which required considerable resources. Meanwhile a solution was found. The workflow-tool of TIM processes delivered translations on an independent workstation up to the generation of the document in the foreign language. Of course, that is not possible without any manual intervention for example in case of conflict messages from the system. However, the administrative effort could be bundled and covered at one place and the editors are able to concentrate on their core business. Today, the structured working with modules in TIM together with the automated translation process help to save translation costs.

Kärcher uses the function for the automatic PDF creation in TIM for the declaration of conformity as there is no need for the post processing of the layout. The final German document is then exported via the post process in all languages, at the same time all foreign languages documents are stored as a PDF and set under the status “Proofreading“, so that the single PDF documents can be stuck together as a book with the PDF tool of TIM.

Continuous adaptation of the system

Chinese and Arabic documents

Initially, Kärcher has covered the documentation with the European standard languages, new markets increased and therefore new language requirements came along. Chinese was relatively easy to implement but for Arabic, an own publication tool was necessary, as FrameMaker has problems with the display of Arabic language features. Now, all Arabic translations are centrally managed in TIM as well as all other languages and on request a XML file could be generated that will be published via WordML and by the help of a specific style sheet in Word. In addition a manual rework and appropriate knowledge is necessary or possible but it was the decisive step to publish Arabic documents in-house promptly and independently.

Inspection checklists for service technicians worldwide

Another common joint development of Kärcher and FCT are the inspection checklists provided to service technicians around the world as a PDF which can be completed electronically onsite. Therefore, fields with different post script codes are defined in the FrameMaker document and for the creation of PDF files these will be converted to fillable form fields. Here again, there were a few obstacles to overcome, however, in the meantime this process runs smoothly and the technicians of Kärcher have no longer to handle with printouts.

Plans for the future

In future, Kärcher has much to do in responding to customers‘ needs and to meet the requirements of the individual target groups. Thereby, the possibilities of the latest TIM 4.0 version are validated and balanced to consider whether there are further development opportunities. Furthermore, the creation of documents in the HTML-format for the web is planned. The first attempts in this direction have already been made, some functions as the direct linkage with the existing electronic parts catalogue has to be defined more precisely and integrated. Due to the increasing numbers of writers the topic of authoring assistance will become more important.

Plans for the future