Tag Database Publishing

Tag Database Publishing

4 Manufacturers Getting The Most ROI Out Of Electronic Parts Catalogs

August 10, 2017 Tags: , , , , , ,
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Every manufacturing company should have a digitization strategy, click but some sectors are more suited than others for electronic parts catalogs.

We keep hammering home this point, but it’s true—the future of manufacturing is digital. Gone are the days where your technical publishing wants to update a single part in dozens of parts books. We’ve passed a time where customers want to make a call or send a fax to place an order.

But, is it worth it to put in the time and resources to make the switch to electronic parts catalog (EPCs)s? Based on the results of our customers, we’d say yes. The ROI has been enormous—from the decrease in time to publish changes, to the increase in revenue from online parts sales.

Let’s take a look at four types of companies that can gain the most ROI benefit from electronic parts catalogs and parts information in a relational database in the cloud.

1. LA Metro (Transit Agencies)

It may come as a surprise, but transit agencies that have a lot of parts they need to move for repairs and maintenance are the perfect candidates for electronic parts catalogs.

LA Metro BusWhen you have thousands of buses and hundreds of rail cars that are used to transport millions of people annually, keeping those vehicles in service is not only a priority for moving customers, but also a part of keeping in line with federal regulations for state of good repair. In addition, they are also looking for solutions that will increase productivity and keep costs low.

Time spent in the shop for maintenance might mean missed routes and angry customers. For repairs, maintenance teams need to be able to find parts and order them from their supplier or internal warehouse. When the parts look up ordering system is slow and the information is outdated, mechanics lose valuable time that could be spent on repair tasks.

Electronic parts catalogs solve many of these issues. Administrators can update part information with an integrated set of tools, and make updates instantaneously. Mechanics can log in to a computer, use the search capabilities to find parts and request them through the system. With a guarantee that the information is correct, mechanics no longer worry about retrieving the wrong part and spend less time searching.

A perfect example of transit using EPCs successfully is LA Metro. Since implementing Documoto, they now have 99.9%  order accuracy and an increase in mechanic productivity. Metro is one of a half dozen major U.S. transit systems who have successfully adopted Documoto to modernize service operations.

Read the full case study here. 

2. Atlas Copco (Construction Equipment)

atlas copco machineryWhen you’re a construction equipment company with a large customer base spread around the globe, having accurate parts books is necessary to keep your users happy. For these equipment users, having a machine that is down while waiting for a part means they’re losing money every day. If they’re in a remote location that takes additional time to ship to, getting the order right the first time is crucial. Because these customers are in different time zones, another hurdle is making it easy for them to order parts in the first place.

Using a relational database to create EPCs allows technical publishers to make changes and have that information update to the electronic parts catalogs in real-time. When users look up parts, they know that the information is accurate. By integrating the digital catalogs with an ERP system, a storefront can be created for customers to purchase their parts.

Thanks to this simplified parts lookup and order process, dealers and equipment owners can buy parts online, 24/7, with no backlog to fulfill orders. Not only does this cut down on fulfillment time, but it also creates satisfied customers.

Companies like Atlas Copco are using EPCs and a digital storefront to sell parts online and are seeing a direct impact on their bottom line. In just over a year, they’ve had a 64% increase in online sales, and a 4% increase in overall parts revenue. For a company that see billions of dollars a year in profits, that is a huge monetary increase, from something as simple as offering online ordering and accurate parts data.

Read the full case study here.

3. Hiperbaric (Food Processing Equipment)

If your company’s reputation relies on providing after-sales support to make hiperbaricsure your equipment is running smoothly and safely, having assistance readily available to customers and dealers is paramount. Many companies spend a lot of resources staffing support desks so they can respond to questions, create service requests and order parts for customers. The problem is that many companies only provide this support to customers during regular business hours, and those employee’s time isn’t always used efficiently. Time is wasted looking up information or answering questions that could be used filling more requests.

Having a software solution that not only can create interactive parts catalogs, but also store support documentation and connect to an existing ERP system can be the difference between providing mediocre service and outstanding service for customers.

Through an online portal, customers and field service technicians can log in, view service information and look up parts for only the equipment that the company has designated. Instead of having to call to ask questions, the most current information is readily available at any time. This cuts down on the time the support desk spends on the phone and answering emails as well as the time technicians need to spend looking up information when they are out doing repairs.

With EPCs and online libraries for parts documents, Hiperbaric saw a 25% increase in help desk efficiency and a 25% time savings for technicians. And in just 11 working days, they were able to recover the cost of the digital parts catalog creator subscription.

Read the case study here.

4. Viking Range (Consumer Appliances)

Technical publishing and engineering teams are already stretched thin, especially for manufacturers with dozens of product lines and hundreds of pieces of equipment. Old processes for creating and updating parts catalogs require publishers to make updates to each individual parts book, creating the book in the first place would take nearly a week to complete, and the time delay between updating the books and getting the information online could be extensive.

EPC software makes those problems a distant memory. Using templates, creating the parts books takes a fraction of the time. Thanks to the relational database architecture of EPCs, when one piece of information is updated in the database, it updates every parts catalog where the data is found, saving hours of time for publishers.

Viking Range has the data to prove the benefits. Since using EPC software, they’ve had a 73% reduction in parts book creation time and a 99% reduction in system update time.

Read the full case study here. 

5 Steps For Easy Content Migration

July 26, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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For manufacturing companies, centralizing parts data from disconnected sources into a single Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC) system continues to gain popularity. Moving to an EPC system enables efficient content reuse, greater control and the easy creation of both online catalogs and exportable/printable parts books.

There are some clear benefits for companies who make the switch to EPCs. However, implementing a new solution is a major investment in both time and resources for a company.  And migrating technical documentation and parts information has a reputation for being painful and frustrating.

Content migration doesn’t have to be like that. After helping our customers transfer hundreds of thousands of pages of parts information, we’ve distinguished some best practices along the way.

Here are five steps you can take to make your content and data migration process successful.

1. Set The Stage

Make sure you have the right team in place.

A project can’t get off the ground, unless you have identified the people who are going to be doing the work. Most importantly, have a project owner who is managing the process from a business perspective and can give clear guidance to the other members of the team.

Get access to all of the data/content you want to migrate.

Take the time to understand the “where” and the “how” of the data you need to have migrated. Do you need special permissions to access certain data? Do the people with access to the data work on different time zones? Will it take weeks for approval to migrate content? Think about this before you start so that you can create a reasonable timeline of expectations and avoid delays down the line.

Get your target system ready to receive data.

We recommend choosing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, because it makes the SaaS provider responsible for being ready and accessible for you on time. Work with your content migration team to make sure they understand what is expected. Set up trainings and provide learning materials so that the team knows how to use the system.

2. Start With An End Goal In Mind

Major content migration projects aren’t something you can jump right into and hope for success. They need to be planned out so that the project doesn’t go off track or end up being unmanageable.

What do you want to accomplish?

Hold planning sessions with your team to define the goal you want to achieve and to decide on the scope of the data/content to migrate.

Determine how the new system will be used.

A content migration project for items that will only be used as reference will look very difference from a content migration project for data that will be used for placing orders. Decide what the goal will be for the content/data once it’s in place. When determining goals, use your available resources. In particular, talk with your current channel users. Ask them what they want, how they’d use it, and then consider if their preferences line up with your business goals.

Consider what is unique about the content.

What defines each piece of data/content you want to migrate? These answers will impact on how you migrate the information. The goal should be to have a clean and manageable data set at the end.

3. Get Organized

Once you’ve got the right team in place and you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish, it’s time to get organized and make sure you’re migrating the right data and content.

Pick the essentials that you want to display to end users of the new target system and pinpoint a “golden version” of all Bill of Materials, drawings and catalogs. Avoid having redundant versions and migrating unnecessary content/data.

For example, is migrating a rarely-used, 30-year old operations manual necessary? Or can you just migrate the newest version? Consider these things when organizing your content.

4. Take Things One Step At A Time

Migrating content doesn’t have to be done all at once. Think it through as you plan the order and choose a timeline that makes the most sense.

  • Migrate the bestsellers first.
  • Migrate a product line for a specific range of model years.
  • Migrate current PDFs and other static content first, then move on to more robust data/content.
  • Migrate most-used data for a beta group of users. Watch and see how they use it before migrating the rest.

5. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Some people think that success for migration means moving all of the parts catalogs and other content in your current database over to the new one. However, if some of the content/data is of bad quality, it will not prove very useful in your EPC.

Take ownership and care, and validate content early and often throughout the migration. One of the biggest pain points and failures we see is when a project team makes a plan, gets going, and then waits until the end to validate if the data is correct and high quality. At that point, the ship has sailed and it’s another massive project to get it fixed. We advocate for validating information little by little as you go.

By following these steps, you can create a thoughtful, structured rollout that will lead to a successful completed project.

 

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What Comes After ECM?

July 19, 2017 Tags: , , , , , ,
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In January of 2017, research firm Gartner announced that the term “enterprise content management” (ECM) is headed for an early retirement. The new market category to describe how large businesses capture, store and distribute information will now be called, at least by Gartner, “content services.”

Sorry, that doesn’t mean Sharepoint is being decommissioned as of 2017! However, it does signal a shift in high-level business thinking that reflects the realities and experiences of information workers over the past 20 years.

What Gartner is saying in its report isn’t that enterprise content is going away, or that we’re not going to manage it any longer. But that enterprise-class, complicated platforms intended to capture all a large company’s various types of content are evolving and being replaced with a new class of solutions.

Part of the problem is the complexity required of systems that are intended to manage all types of content for all types of workers. This complexity, along with a lack of user training, leads to reduced adoption and ineffectiveness.

Complex enterprise content management system

One of the goals of the traditional ECM is to eliminate the negative consequences of information silos. Silos occur when two or more business units within one company both create, use and/or maintain different versions of the same information.

However, providing access to a platform where all users could view the same documents did not magically solve the silo problem. That’s because the real problems of managing content originate from cultural and business process challenges.

So, if ECM is dead, what exactly is different about “content services”?

According to a report from the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), The Next Wave: Moving from ECM to Intelligent Information Management, in the future we’ll be managing information with distributed applications whose functionality is more closely aligned to a particular business use case.

With modern cloud and SaaS applications, integrations can make it much easier to share data using APIs, web services and application endpoints. So, even if every department uses its own hand-picked application to manage critical data, that data can be shared and re-used within software systems used by other departments. Application silos are okay, but no information silos allowed when optimizing business processes!

So, instead of trying to accommodate every user need or force organizations to commit significant resources on customization, business users are moving toward applications that excel in one major functional area. This modular approach fits with the agile mentality in place at many modern technology firms, as it enables faster implementation, easier adoption and less customization on the path to providing value.

Is Your Business Winning or Losing? Employee Feedback Might Be the Key to the Answer

May 17, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Are You Winning or Losing?

Instead of looking at data or metrics for the answer, ask your team

If someone came up to you and asked, “Is your business winning or losing today?” how would you answer? More importantly, how would you come to that conclusion? Would it be looking at sales numbers? Safety ratings? Number of products made?

These numbers and metrics are obviously very important. But I challenge you to look at winning and losing a different way. Instead of crunching numbers, ask your employees who are taking care of the daily activities on the floor.

What insights they have might surprise you, and if you can identify trends and issues, it could lead to beneficial changes to your operations.

The value of hearing from people on the floor

team meeting on factory floorWe all have unique skill sets that allow us to excel at our jobs. For senior leadership teams, this is usually focusing on the bigger picture and long-term strategies for the company. But, this can lead to a disconnect from the day-to-day operations. To gain back that perspective, talk with your employees in different positions and departments. Ask them the question “Are we winning or losing today? Why?”

How ever they answer, ask a few follow up questions to find out the cause. If they’re feeling like they’re losing, why is that? Was a machine broken that day that slowed down production? Does your customer service team feel inundated with phone calls and it takes too long to respond?

The feedback can be useful to see if there are reoccurring problems or themes. If employees bring up issues, ask them if they have ideas for solutions. They’re the experts at their role, and their suggestions might be something that is easily implemented. Or, they might have proposals for operational changes to make everyone more successful.

Here’s a few examples of what questions to ask to elicit valuable feedback.

At the end of the conversation, Don’t forget to thank them. Most importantly, follow up. This will keep an open chain of communication and reminds people they are appreciated and valued.

Find the tools to solve your problem instead of seeking out a problem for your tools to solve

How many times have you been pitched a cool new tool that will “revolutionize your business”? And how many times have you bought it, told your team to use it and been frustrated when the results aren’t as promised?

This is due to finding a solution and then looking for a problem to solve. If you’re looking for ways to use a product, or you don’t have a reason to use it right away, it’s not valuable.

Instead, once you’ve identified areas that need improvement via your internal conversations,  start looking for a product to solve the problem. Keep your employees engaged by having them participate in choosing a solution. Not only will they have a better idea of what they need it to do, but it creates buy-in early on, and employees will be more likely to use it when it’s in place. Take the time to train employees on the new tool, so that they can be successful.

This method works.

We had a customer that followed a model like this. Viking Range produces high-end residential ranges and appliances and is one of the leading American brands in that vertical.

Senior leadership identified a need to increase their efficiencies in their publishing department. They system relied on an outside vendor to update their content via static PDFs and spreadsheets. Because everything had to be updated individually, if a part was changed and used in dozens of different pieces of equipment, it took even more staff time to make all of the updates. In total, it was taking TWO WEEKS to create a single parts book because of the processes that were set up. The technical publishers knew they needed a better way to execute revisions. Senior leadership listened, took into account the suggestions from employees, and researched and evaluated products that could fix this cumbersome process.

They chose Documoto, because the cloud-based relational database allowed technical publishers to update a part once and have it populate across any materials that part was found, solving one of the biggest frustrations.

Viking’s technical writers and illustrators started using the software right away, and the results were immediate. It only takes the publishing team 30 minutes to make changes and distribute. It has also given control over the whole process to the publishing team, instead of having to rely on outside vendors. This accurate and immediate information distribution has had a ripple effect and had a positive impact throughout the business. (You can read the full story here).

Viking’s story is just one example of how this approach can revolutionize your business using employee feedback and finding solutions to problems (instead of looking for problems for your solution). Once you’ve taken these steps, ask yourself the question again: “Is my business winning or losing?”

This time, the answer should be, “Winning. I’ve worked with employees to help solve our operational issues, leaving them happier and more productive,  and our numbers and data reflect that.”

man choosing win button

Digitize to Win: How Technology Can Give Manufacturers a Competitive Edge

April 18, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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The manufacturing industry is going through a revolution, and companies that don’t modernize their business practices are going to be left behind.

It’s been several decades since manufacturing companies began adopting software and tools to make internal processes more efficient: CAD for engineers, desktop publishing and graphics programs for writers and designers, and accounting software for bookkeepers, for example.

But the digital impact on our world and economy has changed how customers expect to do business. Now companies are feeling pressure to extend the benefits of technology and information sharing to their customer base, in the form of greater support and improved service.

With websites open and operating 24-hours-a-day, customers have come to assume a higher standard when it comes to accessing product information, from technical specifications to operating instructions to video tutorials.

That same expectation is also driving companies to invest in more robust eCommerce technology. No one wants to spend two hours on the phone trying to look up and order the right parts. Mechanics can’t wait a week to repair a machine that costs its owner thousands a day in downtime.

Technology allows employees to work smarter, not harder. And modernizing distribution channels to effectively sell parts and other products online can be a game changer for OEMs.

According to an article in Chief Executive, 80% of manufacturing executives know that digitizing their enterprises is a critical driver to stay competitive. However, only 37% have a strategy in place, and only 13% of organizations have digital manufacturing capabilities today.

As these numbers show, there is a huge opportunity for companies who embrace technology and get a comprehensive strategy in place as soon as possible. Those that do will be the industry leaders in the coming decade.

How much time do your employees spend looking for information in a day? Once they find it, how accurate is it?

Register for our webinar, Digitize to Win: 3 Strategies for Manufacturers to Gain a Competitive Edge. Digabit Founder and CEO, Alan Sage, will discuss how manufacturers can capture more revenues from existing customers, improve internal efficiencies and provide better customer service using cloud-based technologies.

Key insights in this free webinar include:

  • Leveraging digitization to optimize operations
  • Expanding revenue streams from new channels
  • Boosting customer engagement and satisfaction
  • Real-world examples of Documoto in action

Click here to save your seat.

Rethinking the Relationship Between Tech Pubs and Engineering

February 9, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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NOTE: This article was originally published in the Center for Information-Development Management’s (CIDM) Best Practices newsletter in February 2017. The author is Richard Ackerman, Digabit’s Senior Director of Solutions Engineering.

Information developers in manufacturing environments have a natural desire to use engineering output to create product manuals, parts book content, and other technical support materials. The goal in reusing engineering content is to save time and effort. However, the negative impacts on user experience can lead to the opposite result for functions related to customer support, spare part sales, and service.

There are many reasons why exporting engineering content for customer-facing documentation is ineffective. Most of these reasons stem from the fact that engineers develop their content for different purposes, and with different requirements, than the technical information developers who are tasked with creating customer-support documents.

Let’s unpack and investigate a few of the reasons why information developers and engineers may be better off with an amicable break up.

Engineering’s role, in a nut shell, is to define what the final product is

Engineering output is in the form of bills of materials (BOMs), CAD models and drawings, specifications, and other data. Typically, engineers create BOMs to the extent necessary that parts can be purchased (from a third-party supplier) or built. Engineering references a purchased item by a single part number, and thus all the details for service items within the purchased component are not typically captured by engineering. Even if they are, service items do not necessarily appear in the BOM and certainly don’t appear in the CAD drawing.

Engineering departments usually follow industry standards regarding CAD models and drawings. These standards, such as ASME Y14.5, are designed specifically to achieve uniformity in drawing specifications and interpretation, and they lead to desirable outcomes throughout the manufacturing process — improved quality, reduced costs, and quicker deliveries. These standards result in familiar views of an assembly, such as top view, side view, front view, and so on. Internal details are shown by cross-sectional views.

While this information is an acceptable solution for manufacturers, customers who need to repair and maintain their machines are not necessarily versed in reading engineering diagrams. Customers are better served with a more intuitive, easier to understand visual presentation.

Engineering naming conventions and information hierarchies are not “user friendly”

A bill of material structure, or hierarchy, that is useful for engineering purposes does not necessarily reflect the way an end user would “think” of their equipment. For instance, if users need a component on a control panel, they might like to view a representation of the entire control panel so they can quickly find what they need.

Typical CAD design engineering drawing

Figure 1 – Typical CAD Output from Engineering

However, if there are various functions that each have components that live in the control panel, the engineering definition of the control panel may be split up into many different assembly BOMs. While this works fine for the manufacturing process, it certainly is not logical or efficient for an equipment owner or service technician. It is common for savvy information-development teams to rearrange a machine’s hierarchy (for example, in a parts book Table of Contents) to ease search tasks and provide a better user experience.

Engineering descriptions may not make sense to external users. Parts are commonly described with a nomenclature system similar to the following: noun, qualifier 1, qualifier 2, and so on. Additionally, engineers tend to abbreviate part descriptions so the key descriptors fit into the space-limited fields available.

Thus, you may have something like this from engineering: MTR, AC, 3PH, 5HP. This code is appropriate for internal use, but unfriendly for less technically capable end users. Sophisticated information developers take the time to translate this code into ordinary language such as, “5HP 3-PHASE AC MOTOR.” Not only is the terminology more readable, “motor” is the most likely search term entered by a customer in an electronic environment. We have another example of engineering output that detracts from a positive user interaction.

Engineering CAD drawings are not optimized for part sales or service

Figure 2 – Exploded Assembly Created from CAD Source

One of the greatest demands on information developers is the translation of engineering output into parts-book ready content. Figure 1 above shows a gearbox assembly drawing with individual parts identified by item numbers. Figure 2 is an illustration of the gearbox that has been “translated” with a graphic design application for better usability. You can see how 2D views are moved to exploded 3D. There are also item numbers added to the exploded view to show service items not captured in the engineering output. Which of these assembly illustrations is more useful to a customer or mechanic?

Can we automate publishing or modify engineering processes?

Companies have tried different approaches to solve the problems posed by using engineering output for information development. These include using various methods to automate information development, as well as trying to alter the methods by which engineering produces content. Both of these approaches can be very challenging.

Engineering resources are expensive

There are significant opportunity costs incurred when assigning engineers to create clean exploded views with service items added. Labor costs for engineers are generally higher than for publishers and illustrators, and they may not be as efficient as workers who are exclusively dedicated to information development tasks. Most manufacturers allocate engineering resources to create new equipment designs or to fix product flaws. The vast majority of manufacturers consciously decide not to use high-value engineering labor to build user-friendly content.

Automated integrations aren’t intelligent enough

Imagine that an off-the-shelf or custom-built system allowed a manufacturer to export and convert CAD data, and hypothetically build a parts book automatically. Without some intelligent (human, for instance) intervention, it’s nearly impossible to address issues related to service items, BOMs, and the other factors described above. Artificial intelligence may someday provide a better answer, but there’s a great deal of development to be done first.

Accurate parts lookup efficient maintenance

The path toward a modern solution

For the reasons provided here, it’s time to move on from the dysfunction caused by incompatible content. Engineering and information development aren’t the perfect partners that they might like to be, but there is hope! Using easily available, appropriate technology allows information developers to work alongside engineering, while avoiding the limitations and drawbacks of being tied to unaltered native content. Here are some high-level steps:

  1. Once parts-book-ready content is created, it should be tied to the engineering output via metadata or “tags.” Thus, the improved illustration is identified by the assembly number, revision, product family, status, or any other relevant information.
  2. Software should be deployed that provides optimized content to end users in a searchable online library that is built on a relational database. Then, when parts are revised, information developers can navigate to the appropriate data at the part or assembly level and make the modifications as needed ONE TIME. As a result, all documents containing that shared source information are updated simultaneously.
  3. The relational database should be able to manage alternate descriptions to accommodate internal and external users.
  4. The software should understand the hierarchy of the machine and most importantly provide a clean user interface so that an information developer can effortlessly rearrange content to better accommodate the customer.

With the right tools and methodology, information developers can provide truly useful documentation

The key is not to fight with engineering but to accept the translation process necessary to achieve superior documentation. Some manufacturers may view this as extra work; the truth is actually to the contrary. How much time and money is wasted when the wrong parts are ordered due to confusing documentation? How many customers lose confidence in the manufacturer when this unfortunate (yet common) event occurs?

Using modern practices and technology in information development can increase efficiency by 10X or more. Consequently, the initial effort to set up and implement such a solution becomes an easy investment to justify. Even the most overtaxed and resource-constrained information-development teams can deliver polished, comprehensive documentation in a world class manner.

Publishing Tools and Documoto: A Match Made in Parts Book Heaven

January 31, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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If you use SOLIDWORKS Composer or similar publishing tools to transform CAD data into technical documentation, you already understand the importance of providing clear and detailed illustrations in materials for customers.

Which is why it’s surprising that so many manufacturers invest in tools like Composer, but then take the valuable images they produce and export them as standalone PDFs. If you’re creating technical illustrations and parts info from a data-rich environment and then importing it into a desktop tool like FrameMaker or InDesign, your company is throwing away a large part of their investment and making employee’s jobs harder down the line.

By creating standalone PDFs, the amount of labor required to create the parts catalogs and more importantly, to maintain them, is unsustainable– leaving publications staff with the constant feeling they are drowning in their work.  In addition, you lose valuable data, interactivity, and the efficiency of publishing in a cloud environment.

But, by adding Documoto to your publishing workflow, you can harness the power of a relational database specifically designed to create and manage parts book content for complex equipment.

Why add Documoto to your publishing workflow?

  • Easily translate images and bills of materials (BOMs) from Composer into XML, the first step in creating a structured data environment.
  • Re-use parts and assembly information in an unlimited number of documents.
  • Keep up with engineering changes by simply updating parts and assemblies in one location – Documoto automatically updates other books that refer to those components.
  • Automate content creation and updates with ERP integrations, APIs and web services.

Join us at SOLIDWORKS World 2017

Solidworks World 2017 logoIf you’d like to see Documoto in action and learn how it can be a benefit to you, come visit us in the Partner Pavilion
at SOLIDWORKS World 2017, taking place Feb. 5-8 at the Los Angeles Convention Center!

And, you can get in to the Partner Pavilion for FREE using code SWW17EOEX. Register here: https://events.itnint.com/sww17/online/RegLogin.aspx.

More information about the conference is available here.

Join Digabit at SolidWorks World 2017 on February 5-8

January 31, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Come see us at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 from Feb. 5-8 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We’ll be onsite in the Partner Pavilion providing live demonstrations of Documoto, and our team will be available to answer your questions.

SOLIDWORKS World is a 3-day conference where attendees can learn about the latest technologies and select from more than 200 breakout sessions on topics ranging from design automation and electrical design to simulation and product data management.

Stop by Digabit’s booth (#200) in the Partner Pavilion and learn how to:

  • Streamline publishing with SOLIDWORKS – Composer – PDM – Documoto
  • Convert BOMs and illustrations into structured data for search and re-use
  • Enable online sales using Documoto Cloud Storefront

See the exhibit floorplan

If you are attending and would like to meet to see how Documoto can optimize your business operations, please email Jeremy Park at Jeremy.park@digabit.com.

Expo Invitation Code:

Use code: SWW17EOEX to get a FREE pass to the SOLIDWORKS World Partner Pavilion. Register Here.

Partner Pavilion Hours:

Sunday, Feb. 5
4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m

Monday, Feb. 6
11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 7
11:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. 

Wednesday, Feb. 8
10 a.m.– 2:30 p.m.

More information:

http://www.solidworks.com/sww

Venue:

Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 S. Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Should You Update Parts Catalog Content? Do the Math!

November 8, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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With over 20,000 registered users, Digabit’s Documoto platform has generated enough data for us to estimate the return on investment (ROI) for various scenarios at manufacturing companies.

Here is one common dilemma: While it’s a given to create electronic parts catalogs for new and current models, some of our customers have decades’ worth of older models that are still in operation and require ongoing service and maintenance. Older units tend to generate more parts orders, so it may prove worthwhile to convert older parts catalog content into an interactive online format to help capture more of those revenues.

In a traditional desktop publishing environment, where the end product is often a paper copy and/or PDF, the process of converting and migrating older files and data into an acceptable format is so time-intensive that most companies cannot justify the labor and expense to update past technical documentation.

However, Documoto’s publishing platform automates or eliminates many manual tasks, like copy-and-paste and other layout chores, once a company has loaded its product data into the database.

So, how do you determine whether it’s worth the time and trouble to move older product info into Documoto?

Let’s assume a manufacturer has eight extremely popular models of earth-moving machines for which they want to update support documentation. Using desktop tools, Digabit customers have reported taking three weeks or longer per model for the publications department to convert older data and publish high-quality PDFs. That equates to a 24-week backlog of work to update eight parts catalogs.

We’ll conservatively estimate that the average publications employee compensation equals $50,000 a year. That means the cost of creating updated parts catalogs is roughly $23,000 for labor alone. And six months’ worth of labor during which those employees aren’t accomplishing anything else of value.

Imagine that you had a publishing system in which you could create electronic, print and PDF catalogs in three days versus three weeks?

Now you’re looking at around $4,600 in labor to update your legacy catalogs. Similar savings can be achieved every time a revenue-generating parts catalog needs updating. And it doesn’t take many returned parts, hours of phone support, or lost part sales to add up to the cost of transforming legacy to digital.

What would a modern publishing system like that cost, you ask? Digabit’s Documoto Authoring Essentials starts at $1650 a month, or less than $20K per year. Just about the cost difference between the old and new ways of doing things.

What are we not factoring in? The huge opportunities afforded by freeing up five months of publishing labor. And the potential boost in aftermarket sales provided by having up-to-date parts information in Documoto’s Cloud Storefront (with additional subscription costs). Customers have proven their willingness to pay for the convenience of buying online, especially when they know they’re getting the right, high-quality OEM parts!

The 3 Deadly Sins of Online OEM Part Sales

October 20, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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How do manufacturers of heavy equipment and machinery typically sell parts for repairs and ongoing maintenance? Most would not be very successful running print ads like the one from the Pullford Co. at the top of this post. However, some companies still employ similar tactics to sell to online prospects.

Print ad circa 1910 from C. L. Best, precursor to today’s Caterpillar. Note the instruction to “Write for catalogues, terms, etc.” How times have changed…or not, in some cases.

Print ad circa 1910 from C. L. Best, precursor to today’s Caterpillar. Note the instruction to “Write for catalogues, terms, etc.” How times have changed…or not, in some cases.

In this era of transition from legacy processes to increasing digitization of everything, how are manufacturers doing at creating easy-to-use online experiences for buying OEM parts?

The results are mixed. At the upper end of the spectrum, many advanced manufacturers have dedicated dealer/customer portals with secured log ins and some eCommerce functionality.

However, there are still plenty of profitable, successful companies who offer poor customer experiences when it comes to parts lookup and ordering. Let’s look at examples of just three of the deadliest sins committed by manufacturers in the online sales arena.

Sin #1: Generic Web Form

mfr-web-form-parts-sales-aftermarket

The screenshot at left is from the site of a $6-billion manufacturer of heavy construction equipment. Users can select a type of machine and model number, then enter text into an input field simply labeled: “description of parts needed.” The instructions at the top of the form state, “Your request will be directed to your local dealer who is equipped to give you the accurate answers to your needs.”

Okay. I get that this company is beholden to their dealer channel. If I absolutely must order through a dealer, why even bother offering this form? After submitting the form, then what? Wait for the local dealer to email or call back. When will that be? Who knows?

Sin #2: Static PDF Catalog

The number of manufacturers who generate over $1 billion in annual revenues and still offer PDF downloads of parts catalogs is simply astounding. This is likely the most common sin regarding online user experience. We won’t highlight any particular example here, in the interest of not embarrassing the worst offenders. If you’re curious, take a look at the Fortune 1000 and visit some of the manufacturing companies’ websites. It won’t take long to discover your own examples.

The quality of online PDF parts catalogs varies greatly. Some show long lists of part numbers and names with no illustrations. Others display crude drawings with part names but no numbers. Is it really helpful to display a photo of an assembly and list the part numbers underneath with no exploded views? Not so much. Grab a cup of coffee and prepare for a long phone call….

Sin #3: Generic Web Page with No Clear Direction

Most larger companies are more sophisticated than this, but the screen shot shows a corporate web page of a manufacturer that generates between $20-50 million in sales. There is a street address and several contact numbers listed on the page, so I guess the user is supposed to pick up the phone or write a letter to inquire about buying parts or getting equipment serviced. The company’s not giving you any more clues than that.

What do I do? Call someone, I guess.

What do I do? Call someone, I guess. Just like 1918 (see top image).

How to Avoid 3 Tempting Pitfalls of Structured Data

October 12, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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NOTE: This article was originally published in the Center for Information-Development Management’s (CIDM) Best Practices newsletter in October 2016. The article was contributed by Richard Ackerman, Digabit’s Senior Director of Technical Sales.

The technical publishing world has increasingly gravitated toward structured data concepts and tools over the past decade. From XML to DITA to component content management systems (CCMSs), the evolution continues thanks to savings in labor, improved accuracy, and optimized workflows afforded by structured data methodologies.

While using structured data to publish technical documentation offers significant efficiencies, it is quite common to find publishers who impose unnecessary challenges upon themselves. This article addresses the top three traps publishers should recognize and avoid.

Stop Putting Intelligence in File Names!

What is the purpose of a file name?

From a software perspective, often the only limiting parameter for a file name is a unique string of accepted characters. However, it is extremely common in practice for individuals saving files to include information associated with the file, or “intelligence.”

While it is important to capture metadata, the file name is typically the worst place to include attributes of the content.
As a hypothetical exercise, let’s pretend the file name for a particular manufactured assembly includes the model number of the product where the assembly is used. If engineering decides to use the same assembly on a related model (with a different model number), will the publications department update the file name accordingly? Probably not.

While this is a simplistic example, using intelligence in a file name, whether to facilitate search or for some other well-meaning objective, inevitably results in conflict, confusion, or unnecessary work to maintain.

It is much easier to set up a system where the file name simply uses the next available number or some other arbitrary convention. This system allows all respective attributes to be applied as metadata.

There will never be confusion in the case of a one-to-many relationship if you are diligent in keeping intelligence separate from file names. And you will avoid the unnecessary work of maintaining file naming conventions that are based on some descriptive aspect of the content.

Best practices for structured data suggest that you should leverage software to manage the attributes of a file or data element. Consider the file name to be the equivalent to a “key” in a database. A file name in structured publishing should simply be a unique identifier. Don’t be lured by the appeal of making it mean something more.

Choose Your Storage Wisely!

Most companies have a huge assortment of software tools, databases, server locations, and so on, which offers multiple feasible locations to store important information. Depending on the type of information, there are clear advantages in storing the data in a specific location.

Let’s consider a scenario in which text-based data is stored within an engineering drawing. Maintaining this information in CAD is significantly more expensive than managing the same data in text-based databases. Revising data in CAD requires skilled, highly compensated resources (usually in short supply), and also involves more demanding workflows to implement changes.

Obviously, high-quality models and drawings require CAD; however, text-based information is better suited for storage in other applications.

One example occurs when OEMs place vendor information on a drawing. This practice is not suggested, even if a part or assembly is sole sourced. Instead, vendor data can be captured in an ERP system, and then programmatically applied to a related purchase order. If a new vendor is eventually contracted to supply the part in question, the time difference in maintenance is profound.

With regard to electronic parts catalogs, including text-based information in an illustration is similarly detrimental. Use software that has appropriate places to capture text-based data. It is always easier to update a text field than an illustration. This ideal is readily apparent if the text field has many instances of re-use.

Furthermore, combining data elements such as the illustration and text attributes limits the functionality of relational database behavior if changes need to be made on one element rather than both elements simultaneously. Combining elements like this negates one of the major benefits of implementing a database publishing system.

Don’t Combine Data Elements!

Manufacturers employ a number of common strategies to increase publishing efficiency. Some of these strategies endure, even though they were born in an unstructured world.

For instance, consider a parts list matrix within a parts book that shows what the corresponding part is for each model. In other words, one page is detailing all of the parts within the machine assembly for all models. While this was extremely effective when creating standalone PDF-type documents, it is incredibly constraining in a structured publishing environment.

With structured database publishing software, tying multiple data elements into a rigid form severely limits the ability for the relational database to manage the data. Each data element needs to be distinct.

This rule of thumb also applies to our earlier example of placing text-based information within an illustration. Another common error of this type is placing metadata (or information that can be captured in metadata) within a description field.

It is incredible how many unique strategies creative publishers have invented in order to save time. While these approaches may have been advantageous in the past, and may still offer short-term benefits, these “benefits” eventually add up to an opportunity cost that manufacturers cannot afford. Continuing legacy practices that are incompatible with new technologies is guaranteed to create havoc when a modern system is inevitably adopted.

It may be time to pause and sharpen your axe before swinging at the trees. Are the “keys” to your relational database unintelligent? Are you using the most efficient location to store corresponding data? Are all of your data elements discrete? If you answer, “No,” to any of these questions, you have great opportunities to maximize efficiency in your current—and future—publishing tools.

What’s a Component Content Management System?

September 8, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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According to Wikipedia, “A component content management system (CCMS) is a content management system that manages content at a granular level (component) rather than at the document level. Each component represents a single topic, concept or asset (for example an image, table, product description, or procedure).

“The CCMS must be able to track ‘…relationships among topics, graphics, maps, publications, and deliverables.’ More often than not, the CCMS also contains the publishing engine to create the final outputs for print, web and e-readers.”

The most significant word here is “component,” which distinguishes a CCMS from the more commonly known CMS, or content management system. The most popular CMS is the web content management platform WordPress, which is not considered a CCMS because it manages content at the post or page level.

If we substitute “part” for “topic” in the definition above, the definition of a CCMS essentially describes the functionality of Digabit’s Documoto platform. Documoto manages the information that goes into a parts catalog using parts, assemblies and pages as components that can be arranged and organized to create a highly specific document.

So, for a complex, customized machine that is completely unique, a publisher can quickly generate a parts book that is 100% accurate and identified by the serial number of that individual machine. Or a publisher could produce parts catalogs for 10 different models that share 50% of their parts, without cutting and pasting. That level of detail and accuracy is virtually impossible using traditional methods of content management and desktop publishing to author parts catalogs.

The major benefits of using a CCMS to manage parts information are:

  • Greatly reduces time and effort spent maintaining content due to data re-usability
  • Change management – revise a part or assembly once and all relevant docs are updated
  • Highly modular in nature, enabling connectivity with other data systems
  • Potential to automate data entry through integrations and bulk loading processes

When you examine the features and benefits of a CCMS, Documoto checks all the boxes. If you’re a manufacturer thinking about how to upgrade your parts information management and publishing processes, you should give Documoto a try!

4 Ways Documoto’s Web Architecture Helps You Sell More Parts

October 2, 2015 Tags: , , , ,
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Technology matters. For large-scale manufacturers, picking the right software system can mean the difference between a huge return on investment and a huge tax write off. Modern enterprise systems must be secure, reliable, and scalable.

Just as important, today’s systems need to communicate to share and re-use critical data, with real-time synchronization so everyone in the organization stays on the same page. And one increasingly important characteristic of many enterprise applications is the ability to operate anywhere a user has a web browser and Internet connection – one main reason cloud software is now the norm.

When it comes to parts catalog software, only one solution truly fits the description: Documoto by Digabit. Documoto’s collection of web-based technologies not only checks all the boxes for large-scale software deployment, it translates into real-world improvements in efficiency, aftermarket sales, and subsequent profits.

Here’s how it works.

1. Increases your publishing team’s efficiency

With Documoto, all of a manufacturer’s parts data is stored in the world’s most powerful and extensible database system, MySQL. And one of the best tools for Web-based applications, the Java programming language, defines the business logic to intelligently manipulate and manage that data.

Parts Catalog SoftwareThis sophisticated business logic understands how machines are constructed within a hierarchy of parts, components, and assemblies. Change a part number or other information and the new data will propagate to all related documents and machines…unless you don’t want it to. The underlying code allows for creation of custom business rules to control the revision process, changing only the documents you want.

Every Digabit customer has reported at least a 30% reduction in the total time and labor it takes to create a parts catalog. For most, the savings is over 50%, and for some processes such as updating part information we have seen 90%+ time savings.

2. Integrates with manufacturer’s other enterprise systems

Most manufacturers have made large investments in enterprise systems like PLM, ERP, EAM, and the like. Documoto leverages those past investments through its ability to re-use existing data in the publishing process with little manual intervention. Import CAD drawings and Bills of Materials during publishing, and pull real-time part numbers, pricing and availability dynamically during the order process—right when customers need it.

Providing secured access to well-defined elements of enterprise data eliminates many potential areas of redundancy in a manufacturer’s support chain.

Sell Online Parts - Parts Catalog Software

3. Powerful search tools in a flexible, familiar interface

HTML5, the latest HTML standard, introduced greatly improved interactivity to browser-based applications, with powerful APIs that promise a better user experience. Documoto’s presentation layer (the interface seen by end users) is built upon HTML5, increasing responsiveness and reliability within modern web browsers on desktop or mobile. HTML5 allows for easier data exchange, enhanced media presentation, and the greatest potential for integrating Documoto seamlessly into other portals and platforms.

Another component that adds value for end users is the SOLR search engine, an enterprise search platform that is highly dependable and lightning fast. Large volume, complex queries return results in seconds, so no more thumbing through parts books or waiting on hold while customer support looks up your superseded part number.

4. Encourages cross- and up-selling behavior

Documoto’s flexible Java code structure lets manufacturers group parts into kits or assemblies, so they control how parts are sold. Customers are happier when they get all the parts they need to do the job without making two trips to the dealer or distributor. Manufacturers can also offer special pricing to different classes of external customers, offer sales and promotions, and create suggestive selling opportunities for related parts, consumables and accessories.

Web services provide the magic that connects manufacturers’ enterprise data to the Documoto technology platform. Open web standards like SOAP and REST work to make sure that end users get the most relevant data available, from current pricing to inventory to accurate part numbers. Dealers and distributors sell more parts and have fewer returns (and shipping costs!) when they have the right information at their fingertips.

[Webinar] From Chaos to Profits: Breaking Down Silos with Documoto

August 26, 2015 Tags: , ,
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For most manufacturers of complex machinery and heavy equipment, technical publishing is still a highly disjointed, labor-intensive process. Different functional areas use different tools to create files, generating incompatible formats and static, inflexible documentation.

But it’s not just the publishing process that is inefficient. Duplication of efforts and time wasted searching for documents trickles all the way down to your service and support organization. And are they even looking at the most up-to-date documentation?

We invite you to join us on September 22, 2015, for a Webinar led by Richard Ackerman, a former engineering standards manager at Schramm, Inc. You’ll hear about real-world examples from large-scale manufacturers, and how improving the technical publishing process can lead to improvements throughout a company’s bottom line.

You’ll learn:

  • The differences between traditional technical publishing processes vs. publishing with a relational database engine, from a manufacturer’s perspective
  • How Digabit’s Documoto Authoring Suite can be used to implement change
  • What the “Bill of Information” concept is, and how it can transform manufacturing

Duration: 30 minutes
Presenter: Richard Ackerman, former standards engineer at Schramm, Inc.
Date: Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Time: 8:30am MDT (10:30am EDT)

The live event date has passed, but you can still view a recording of this webinar.

View the Recording


5 Tips to Make Your Parts Catalogs More User Friendly

February 4, 2015 Tags: , ,
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Here are five simple tips to improve your parts catalogs’ usability, so that dealers can get the most value from your publishing efforts:

1. Tweak Part Descriptions

The part descriptions provided by engineering aren’t always readily understandable or helpful to dealers. Editing these during the publishing process can save time and money in the long run. Not only will better parts descriptions enable dealers to quickly identify the right part without confusion, but it will also help prevent erroneous parts orders. If you haven’t already, consider creating a standard format convention for descriptions (e.g., “part type/size/material/finish”).

2. Use Consistent Formatting Across Catalogs

Using the same fonts, table styles, and header/footer format in all of your parts books can go a long way toward making them more user friendly, especially for dealers that sell multiple model types or product configurations. Consistent formatting allows dealers to become familiar with the basic layout of your catalogs, so that they can rapidly navigate the content, and find parts information with ease.

If you’re an InDesign user, make use of master pages, character styles, and paragraph styles to get the ball rolling. For DocuStudio users, achieving consistent formatting is even more straightforward, because parts books are created via automated processes that are based on the preferences that you’ve established.

3. Optimize Catalogs for Multiple Formats

Providing anytime, anywhere access to parts information can help reduce equipment downtime. While sending a hard copy catalog to your dealers and making an identical PDF available online is a great start, optimizing the catalogs for their intended medium will make them more efficient and convenient for parts lookup.

Interactive electronic parts books go far beyond PDFs, by offering better search functionality and letting users drill down through assemblies to find needed parts, thus expediting repairs. In this digital age, it’s best to cover all of your bases by creating versions for smartphones, tablets, and PCs, in addition to printed catalogs.

4. Create Part Kits for Common Repairs

Imagine this scenario: a dealer orders an individual part for a specific repair, and, once it arrives, they discover that they also need one or more other parts to finish the job. Has this ever happened to you?

One thing that we’ve noticed our customers doing more and more is packaging related parts into kits, so that their dealers have everything they need for specific maintenance and repair tasks. This has a dual benefit: boosting parts sales, and getting equipment up and running faster (which makes dealers happy).

5. Integrate with EAP, ERM, and eCommerce Systems

Integration with other systems makes your electronic parts catalogs exponentially more useful to dealers. Linking to your EAP/ERM data gives dealers access to parts availability and pricing information, without their having to call customer service.

Documoto customers can take integration a step further, by offering dealers an easy way to request a quote, or to add items directly to shopping carts. As found by Takeuchi U.S., which now processes 98% of its orders online using Documoto, the right integration solution can greatly increase parts sales.

Do you want more ideas for better parts books? Subscribe to our newsletter by filling out the form in the top right.

 Watch the video to learn a faster way to create parts catalogs

Benefits Received from Digabit’s Electronic Parts Catalog, Documoto

November 3, 2014 Tags: , ,
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One of the most rewarding parts of my job is hearing directly from customers about how they benefit from our online parts catalog and publishing software, Documoto and Docustudio. I recently had the privilege to speak with several current customers about their integration of Documoto, as well as our database electronic parts book publishing tool, Docustudio.

New efficiency gains with Documoto

Several interesting points from my conversations included:

  • Takeuchi US now processes 98% of parts orders online using Documoto.
  • Arctic Cat is now able to produce two electronic parts books in a day using Docustudio—compared to the full week it took to finish an electronic parts book using their previous methods.
  • With the 80/20 rule in effect, around 80% of Excel Industries dealers use Documoto re-branded as Interactive Parts Solution (IPS).
  • Atlas Copco anticipates a 50% reduction in efforts to publish and maintain parts books using Docustudio moving forward.

While it is great to hear about customer success stories, we continue to keep our eyes focused forward towards future developments and improvements. Expect further refined versions of Documoto and Docustudio that will provide even more benefits to our current and future customers.

Learn more about Documoto and Docustudio here.

We are always interested in hearing from you. What would help you the most in sales after service or aftermarket support? What features would make it even easier to publish and maintain electronic parts books? Please share your comments.

 Watch the video to learn a faster way to create parts catalogs

Trouble Keeping Illustrated Parts Lists Up-to-Date?

October 13, 2014 Tags: , ,
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I’ve traveled the country talking to several equipment manufacturers. They usually tell me the same thing—managing and updating parts information in Illustrated Parts Lists and Electronic Parts Catalogs is a constant challenge. Manufacturers commonly provide Illustrated Parts Catalogs for end users and service personnel to be able to identify components on large complex equipment. In order for this to provide real value, the parts information needs to be accurate.

Manufacturers tell me that it is typical for a technical illustrator to format a parts catalog in either Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign, and distribute that document as a PDF. Problem is that weeks, days, minutes or even seconds after sending it, this information may become out of date. Keeping information updated is a time consuming task. The illustrator must locate every page that contains the updated part, update each page and repeat the process for multiple books. While engineering uses top of the line technology that manages these changes automatically when changes occur at the part level, technical illustrators are usually limited to the time consuming task of making these changes one by one. On top of all of it, if the manufacturer wants an Electronic Parts Catalog, it is an additional effort to publish the catalog to that format.

The simple, timesaving way to keep illustrated parts lists current

It’s been a rewarding experience to work for a company that helps manufacturers resolve this issue by removing the tedious, inefficient, money-draining task of manually keeping parts catalogs up-to-date. We developed the Docustudio Authoring Suite—a database publishing tool specific for parts catalogs. This tool allows technical illustrators to publish both the PDF Illustrated Parts Catalog and the Electronic Parts Catalog at the same time. When part information changes, the technical illustrator makes a single change and all parts books are updated. When Documoto is integrated with ERP Systems, efficiency increase even more.

Take a look at our data sheet to learn more:

Download the Data Sheet

 

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