DKG Group takes smarter approach to technical documentation with Etteplan HowTo

56,000 square metres, 240 employees, 500 kitchens a day. In numbers, that's De Keuken Groep (DKG), one of Europe’s most modern kitchen manufacturers. ‘We utilise the very latest production techniques, yet the assembly instructions are still printed on paper. With Etteplan HowTo, we're shifting all our technical documentation to the digital world.’

Outdated documentation a thing of the past

Ferry Stam, senior product engineer DKG Group, has been active in the kitchen industry for over thirty years. ‘Cupboards were white and the range was limited, but over time kitchens have become more like furniture, and we follow the furniture trends closely. DKG Group is a “Quick adopter” of the latest developments. If we decide to implement a trend, our development teams can include the new product in the range in short time. Unfortunately, the stacks of cardboard boxes containing our paper assembly instructions are no longer in keeping with our state-of-the-art production facility. They're never up to date, turnaround times are long and costs are high.’

‘In the past, there were no manuals at all, or they were very limited in scope,’ tells Ferry Stam. ‘It was considered enough to just jot down a few steps on a piece of paper. We printed them in large quantities to keep the price down. But over the years, assembly of our kitchens became more complicated and we fell hopelessly behind with the printed manuals. When we made a change to the assembly instructions, we were left with huge stacks of now outdated manuals. A huge missed opportunity. When we deliver a kitchen, it's as individual elements. Then the kitchen fitter integrates them all to create a finished kitchen. Ultimately, the quality of DKG Group kitchens depends on the quality of the assembly process. We expect more and more from a kitchen fitter, so we have to improve how we handle the technical documentation.’

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Answers to all the questions

‘With “Etteplan HowTo” we were able to answer all DKG Group's how-to questions,’ says Mick van Sliedregt, area manager technical documentation at Etteplan. ‘How do we digitise the assembly instructions? How can we ensure the assembly instructions are always up to date? How can we provide fitters with manuals for on-site use? How can we add video or show greater detail?’ At Etteplan, we understand the changing needs for digital documentation better than anyone. The call to keep information more up to date and available on demand led to the development of How To, which perfectly matched what DKG Group was looking for.’

‘After several orientation sessions with Etteplan we formed a picture of who uses the technical documentation and what requirements the information must meet,’ explains Ferry Stam. ‘We develop, design, sell and install kitchens under two brands, for private and business customers. And we do this not only for our own brands: DKG also uses its knowledge of kitchens to develop private labels from DKG Keukens. We sell kitchens through our own retailers who have regular fitters, as well as through dealers that work with their own fitters, hire someone externally or sell to do-it-yourselfers. The new How To digital tool has to serve all those different fitters.’

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A step forward

‘We have chosen to make the shift from “telling” to “showing”, by using pictures rather than text wherever possible,’ says Ferry Stam. ‘Video and animation are important, as are detail drawings. And although we've only just begun, we already have new ideas, such as a visual search function and the inclusion of suppliers' videos. We also want to add an option that explains what to do if you run into certain problems. We held a number of sessions – for the field staff, internal staff and fitters – to present the new approach. The introduction of Etteplan HowTo has been a success from day one. Fitters are techies at heart, who want to get their work done well and on time. This makes them rather wary of new approaches to the work. The fact that they were telling us “this is a real step forward” from day one is fantastic.’

‘With How To, the assembly instructions are now part of the product development process,’ says Ferry Stam. ‘We receive feedback on the information, which enables us to manage the content of the manuals more effectively. Any instructional videos and animations can also be used for product presentations. What's more, we prevent people from wandering away on the web, and we remain connected throughout the entire life cycle of our product. So what paper goes in the box now? Just a QR code that takes you directly to the digital manual on the portal.’

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Mick van Sliedregt
Mick van Sliedregt
Area Manager
Technical Documentation Services