Manuals 2.0 for Boon Edam
Every day Boon Edam, a leading manufacturer of revolving doors and security barriers, delivers beautiful products that are crafted to perfection. An excellent product deserves a manual equally as great. One that does not require any explanation, and makes life easier for the mechanic and the end user. For Boon Edam this has not always been the case. Bert Dammers, Manager Information & Document Management at Boon Edam, and his team give us a look into what it took to be able take great pride in the company's manuals.
Professionalization of manuals
In 2014 Boon Edam began to focus on the quality of the manuals. Until then, the team did what they could and what they thought was right knowing that there was room for improvement. The journey to better manuals began when an external partner was called in for help. Bert explains: "We contacted Etteplan, a company that specializes in improving the content creation process of technical documentation including manuals. Our goal was to be more efficient and improve quality at the same time. To achieve this, Etteplan looked at our existing content creation process and conducted a technical analysis on our manuals. They also interviewed colleagues working on the manuals and those actually using them, our customers."
The conclusions of the analysis were not very positive, to say the least. However, sometimes the inconvenient truth is just what you need to move forward.
In-depth analysis revealed improvement areas
"The analysis showed that there was a lot of room for improvement: The structure of our manuals was not logical and the quality of illustrations was poor. Nor did we have measurement tools to determine the quality. Also, we did not use a structured process, which made it difficult to reuse the content in other materials. Simply put, the way we were working resulted in manuals of relatively low quality."
Recommendations for improving the quality of manuals
"Etteplan recommended that we should start seeing our manuals and documentation as a part of the products we sell with a better focus on the end-user. Another important suggestion was to use Simplified Technical English (STE) for all written text. In addition, the use of technical illustrations was a real must. The advice was to use line drawings instead of pictures to provide more clarity. Finally, we needed a logical and unambiguous structure in all our manuals."
Before we used pictures like these:
Now we use clear illustrations:
An example of Simplified Technical English:
Before (20 words):
The material may be damaged or the operation of the product affected if the installation procedure is not followed correctly.
After (7 words):
To prevent damage, do the procedures correctly.
Goal setting for new process
Following the recommendations, the team set itself a number of important goals:
- Handling a high-quality standard for technical documentation.
- Introducing status and audit management for technical documentation.
- Ensuring that all manuals could be developed and maintained globally.
- Ensuring that one language is used and that would all work on one platform.
- Providing a basis for product training.
Subsequently, a plan of requirements for the process to create manuals was formulated.
Considerable cost savings and improved quality
By 2016, the necessary steps were taken to complete the implementation process and actually get started with the creation of new manuals. The benefits of the new production process are numerous: the manuals have a more professional look and are a lot more user-friendly. But more than that: Boon Edam is saving costs.
By standardizing the process and using structured content, the content elements can easily be reused in other materials.