Tag technical publishing

Tag technical publishing

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.

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.

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!

An Equipment Owner’s Perspective on Spare Parts

June 30, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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One of Digabit’s clients is Schramm, Inc., a 115-year-old manufacturer of drilling equipment supplying the global mining, energy and water industries. Schramm builds custom rigs tailored to buyers’ specifications, which means that maintenance and repair of these unique machines requires complex coordination of the right people, with the right parts, at the right time.

Complicating matters even more, many of Schramm’s products operate in remote locales, hundreds of miles from the nearest airport or major city. Job sites like this are expensive to manage, and when equipment is idled due to a breakdown or unscheduled maintenance it can cost the equipment owner tens of thousands a day in lost productivity and labor costs.

Consider the problems posed by this scenario for a job site’s mechanics and operations manager, as they attempted to keep equipment running up to 24 hours a day:

  • Technical support materials often consisted of a generic set of manuals that did not accurately reflect the actual machinery.
  • Support documents such as illustrated parts books were delivered in print with the machine, or in PDFs on a CD, which means they were practically impossible to update when the OEM re-designed and superseded a part.
  • Depending on geography, delivery of parts could take several days and cost hundreds to thousands of dollars for express service. The consequences of ordering the wrong part were magnified manyfold, considering the immense costs related to downtime.
  • Communications with support staff in the OEM’s aftermarket organization could be difficult, making identification of the correct replacement parts a significant problem when documentation was incorrect or missing.
  • In extreme cases, the ability to rapidly deliver spare parts becomes a life-or-death affair.

This was the environment for equipment users prior to Schramm’s adoption of a digitally enhanced workflow for parts book authoring and publication.

Then Schramm adopted Documoto, a modern, relational database solution that delivers product documentation in the cloud. Documoto has unlocked massive benefits for Schramm customers:Schramm Equipment-Owner-Perspective-Spare-Parts

  • Equipment users have the ability to look up detailed diagrams of parts and assemblies, in parts books that are custom-built alongside the machinery.
  • When parts or other product data are revised by the manufacturer, customers’ electronic parts books are automatically updated within a day.
  • Because part and assembly drawings are now identical to the physical components, order accuracy increased while order processing efforts dropped.

It’s surprising to learn that many billion-dollar companies still manage aftermarket support the old way. Forward-thinking firms like Schramm—and Digabit’s other clients—have discovered a 21st-century parts catalog solution, and the benefits of 24×7 customer access to highly accurate product documentation.

Technical Publishing 101: Part Supersession & ECOs, Oh My!

June 3, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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The life of a technical publisher at a manufacturing company presents some difficult challenges. Your job is to produce useful and engaging content for employees and customers. Content that puts the company’s products in the best light, and reflects the importance of customer support to your organization.

And when you finally go to print, or publish your latest project online, you feel a great sense of satisfaction…until you look at the final product and realize that, before even one user views the results of your hard work, there are numerous errors and inaccuracies hidden inside the text.

This is what happens to authors and editors of parts catalogs every single day. Illustrations that don’t match the as-built product. Machines that have a custom configuration of parts and assemblies, but are shipped with a “base model” parts manual. Part numbers constantly being updated, and so on.

Unhappy-Tech-PubCreating an accurate parts catalog for complex equipment is harder than most people realize. Image files, bills of materials, and other source documents arrive from multiple designers and engineers. Engineering change orders (ECOs) are issued during prototyping, testing and production, leading to superseded part numbers and modified descriptions. To add even more confusion, version control may not be universally consistent across departments and document management systems.

It’s up to the publishing staff to pull it all together and ship the documentation, as close to perfect as possible. But it’s never perfect under these conditions—nobody can keep up with all the changes, and desktop publishing platforms require a high level of effort to edit a single part number or illustration.

Often, no one outside the publications department seems to care about these difficulties.

But customers care. Machine operators and technicians care, desperate to fix the machines that their livelihoods depend upon. The dealers who want to prove themselves indispensable to their biggest accounts. And the owners of the machines certainly care, since they view downtime as a vampire-like monster siphoning away profits.

How do you bring order to this madness? Is the idea of a 100% accurate parts catalog a fantasy?

It’s not a fantasy, and it’s achievable with proven, widely available technology. Imagine being able to quickly import part illustrations, BOMs and other product data, right into your authoring tool. With automated linking and hot-pointing of drawings and part descriptions that save hours of formatting labor.

Happy-Tech-Pub

And, imagine not having to copy and reformat text within your desktop publishing system. Or revise the part number for a part shared between 20 models in 20 separate parts book documents. What if you could edit one text field in your authoring tool and know that you instantly corrected the documentation for hundreds of machines—and thousands of customers—all around the world?

If you could do that, people would start noticing. From the VP of customer service to the guy sitting behind the parts counter, they’re going to notice easier part sales and happier equipment owners. And you’ll deliver that brand new, insanely accurate parts catalog with a huge smile on your face.

This is the power of authoring and publishing with a relational database. It’s the future of technical publishing, and it’s here now. If you’d like to see how easy it is to start building world-class support documents with Documoto, check out our Quick Start Publishing package that offers fast, affordable implementation!