Documentation for the Mechanical and Plant Engineering Industry

Published: 2023-05-03 Updated: 2023-07-26

Mechanical and plant engineering can be fascinating. Its methods and processes have developed over the years to make the development and production of machinery a highly efficient process. For technical writers, this means that they have to march in time with these developments and not become a bottleneck or a risk factor. In addition to the usual documentation requirements, mechanical and plant engineering has a couple of special challenges for its technical writers.

Speed, Complexity, and Individualization

Machines and plants are becoming ever more complex, with more and more components being installed. In addition, the degree of digitalization is increasing, making product information in mechanical engineering more and more complex. On top of this, there's the rapid acceleration of manufacturing cycles. More complex and faster… could it get more difficult? Yes, in fact it can, as all the information has to be consistent and available in several languages, too. The strong export performance of the German mechanical and plant engineering sector means that translation management is a significant logistical challenge.

Standards and Legislation

The various standards and legislation applicable to mechanical and plant engineering also bring challenges. On the one hand are the differing standards for the products themselves, which must naturally also be addressed in the product literature. On the other, there’s a whole raft of standards aimed specifically at manuals and the work of technical writers.

What’s more, there will be internal standards that technical writers use to manage their workflows and that ensure a uniform level of quality. As you can see, every manual is subject to a wide range of standards and rules. However, these “tiresome” manuals cannot simply be done away with. According to current legislation, they form an integral part of the product; without its manual, the machine remains incomplete.

Preparation, Media, and Print

Print a manual and send it with the machine – laypeople often imagine that the work of technical writers in the mechanical engineering sector is as simple as that. But this is a far cry from what actually happens. The product information for a plant can easily encompass 30,000 or 40,000 pages. If you wanted to make all this available to the users in printed form, then a documentation facility where the product information could be studied would have to be planned into every plant.

Although printed manuals still have their use, most product information is nowadays provided in digital form. At first sight this might seem to simplify matters, but in fact it places totally new demands on version management and how the information can be adapted to the different digital output media (screen, smartphone, tablet, machine display, augmented reality, to name just a few). And, at the same time, the requirement that product information has to remain accessible for ten years from the time the final machine comes off the production line remains.

Content Management Systems Make Things Easier

Technical documentation in mechanical and plant engineering is a very serious matter: it has to depict highly complex systems in a reliable and easily accessible manner, while not losing sight of the different markets for the product, support diverse media and conform to the standards. A demanding task that can only be made easier with the right tool – for example, a component content management system (CCMS) for technical writers.

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