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Case Study: Modular Manuals

Technical Documentation: using modular construction with shared files to update manuals among product families

Client uses single-source content in different templates, creating consistent information in product manuals.

Client

An international corporation providing industrial, commercial, and retail solutions.

Challenge

The client wanted to update several installation and operation manuals and user guides within a product family. The manuals are available as PDFs and as printed and bound books. The updates needed to keep pace with hardware and software upgrades, regulatory test results, and shipping deadlines. The technical field team and training staff also requested simple, valid instructions in the documents to reduce the need for customer service calls.

Teamplete analysis determined that product families shared many basic information sections, but this information was not presented consistently. The manuals sometimes did not present clear instructions, or the instructions did not include informative graphics.

Solution

Teamplete created information modules for procedures, descriptions, specifications, and processes. The procedure modules included screen captures and icons to help the user follow each step and result.

Teamplete developed templates using Adobe InDesign and boilerplate content to facilitate a consistent appearance of the information modules and establish standard operating procedures. Wherever possible, especially within a family of products with minor differences, Teamplete linked repeatable information modules. The information could be linked even in different documentation types: the master layout and paragraph styles of the template would determine how identical content would be displayed.

Result

Teamplete revised over 75 installation/operation and consumer user manuals, keeping pace with multiple product releases. The client could now update several documents sharing information by updating the source file. Shared content and standardized templates reduced the production cycle time for manuals and helped improve the accuracy of documented processes, procedures, and specifications. The master paragraph and character styles helped identify hyperlinked index entries and SEO metadata in the electronic (PDF) documents.