- Industry Trends
Most people associate the name “Caterpillar” with its familiar construction machinery. What is less well known is that the Caterpillar concern also manufactures many other trailblazing products. In the case of Caterpillar Energy Solutions, these include gas engines and gensets for independent power generation, e.g., for biogas plants. Under its brand names CAT and MWM, the company sells everything from cogeneration systems through to turnkey installations. With a workforce of 1100 in Germany alone and sales subsidiaries in more than 60 countries, the company enjoys a worldwide presence.
Caterpillar Energy Solutions produces standard products, albeit with a high degree of customization – just like so many successful, modern companies in the manufacturing sector. In addition to its own products, Caterpillar also integrates many other third-party products and components. As a result, practically every product has its own distinctive set of features. Good news for customers – but a challenge for technical documentation.
To meet these challenges, an in-house tool based on an Access database has been in use for some time. This tool was able to assemble pieces of information in a structured manner. The process involved adding metadata to individual PDF documents using an imported list of components in Excel format and storing the documents in a fixed file structure. The tool also checked which translations already existed and output an error report showing for which components instructions or translations were still required.
The existing tool just about met all the requirements, but it was starting to show its age. In particular, the difficulty in adapting it to accommodate new document and storage structures gave the editorial team plenty of headaches, as it was this that also determined the granularity of the maintained content. It was therefore impossible to make use of a greater degree of modularization and modern multiformat output options.
Ms Sester, head of information management in the technical writing department, summarized the situation as follows: “We knew that the existing special solution for creating orders had reached the end of the line. And as the editorial team was in any event strongly committed to SCHEMA ST4, we felt we should look for a solution within the authoring tool.”
The key to the puzzle was the project configurator in SCHEMA ST4. This Viewlet enables Excel data to be dragged and dropped, allowing material numbers, for example, to be integrated. An order number is then entered and the installed systems can be selected. The project is complete as soon as the order is checked and the product type specified. What proved particularly helpful was that the selections can be exported and reused without any problem.
By contrast, the error summary that the old tool delivered and which was a key element in the editorial process proved a little tricky. This obstacle was overcome by the clever use of metadata and a test module that was integrated into the content specifically for this purpose. The test module collates error messages in a hit list that can be exported in CSV format, permitting a comparison of the Excel spreadsheet with the original import list. This enables Engineering to control the order.
Using standard ST4 tools has produced a solution that can replace the former specialist software in its entirety. What was really useful was the ability to import material numbers and the import/export
interfaces of the editorial tool. Overall, there’s been a marked improvement in the day-to-day work of the editorial department.
Let Ms Sester have the final word: “We were really surprised, but also very pleased, that we were able to replicate our earlier system in the standard ST4 system. It’s astonishing what the ST4 project configurator can do given a bit of forethought and creativity. I’m sure many other editorial teams will also benefit from using ST4”