by Dave Lorenzoni

While at the PTC/User World event this year, I had the opportunity to attend a few sessions. There were 4 in particular that I wanted to talk about:  Arbortext Roadmap and Strategy, Product Information Delivery System, Virtual Parts Catalog, and PTC University use of Arbortext. You can see my notes for each one and what I felt was of particular interest. The slides for all of the sessions are now available for you to download. To get them, please visit the PTC/User portal at http://portal.ptcuser.org and login. From there, go to the file library by clicking on FILES in the navigation menu, or by using this direct URL: http://portal.ptcuser.org/p/do/sc/catid=55

Session:   Arbortext Roadmap and Strategy

Featured Speaker(s):  Mike Sundquist – PTC, Leslie Paulson Caterpillar

The first half of the session was a review of PTC’s Arbortext products and where they stand today, along with a list of future enhancements.

PTC is going to focus on what they call the Product Information Delivery System to deliver modules that the customer can use as a starting point.  This is good because it will help clients implement and address their business problems quickly with (hopefully) less resistance to change.  They also intend to help the customer focus on providing templates (stylesheets) that will help the customer deliver content as needed rather than in the traditional “book format”–or “pre-publish everything”–paradigm.

To do this they will continue to rely more on DITA as the content structure model.

The initial customer with whom they are working to develop this model is Caterpillar.  Caterpillar has been an Arbortext customer for over 10 years.

In the second half of the session, Leslie Paulson, Manager of Technical communications within Caterpillar’s Technical Information Solutions group, discussed the success to date that they have attained with Arbortext and moving forward with the Product Information Delivery System.

Because Caterpillar does not sell directly to the end user, their model has to support a variety of users.  In Caterpillar’s business model, they rely on external companies to sell and service their products.  Here are some of the metrics:

  • 230,000 users.  These are the Caterpillar Dealers and service providers that both Caterpillar and their customers rely on to sell and service their products.
  • Currently supporting 53 languages
  • Current content library, 42 million words.  Each needs to be translated into the 53 languages they currently support.
  • Last year they published 5,142 service information piece published to support over 8000 possible product configurations (think engine types, size, etc).
  • 20+M hits per day from people looking for service information

With that kind of volume you can see the need to deliver exactly what the client needs when they need it because searching through thousands of pages of documentation just doesn’t work, especially when some clients may not have the highest speed network.

Session:  Product Information Delivery System

Presented by:  Tom Sears – PTC Product manager

Overall theme?  PTC is going to be building and delivering (at no extra charge) sample applications to help customers deliver service information.  They will build on the Service Manual application and deliver additional applications or templates for output that covers:

  • Service and Repair
  • Parts Catalogs
  • User Guides

In addition, the focus will be on using DITA as a way to structure the content and to allow clients to produce information “on-Demand” as well as just books.  Users will receive only the content they need rather than being required to search through hundreds or even thousands of pages.  Of course when a user does request printed output, standard things like Tables of Contents and Indexes will be automatically included.

This is a great way for XML to make its way into more organizations.  Prior to this announcement an XML project for documentation always seemed to take on the “science” project approach because the user had to make a decision that was based on the paper-output paradigm versus going with a dynamic-output paradigm.  For example, we always print books, even though their customers never read the books and would prefer to get output based on their situation.  It resulted in longer implementations and often would lead to a project not attaining ROI within the original objectives.  This way, the customer can quickly attain a win and build from there.  Often times customers will learn that they don’t even need the “old” requirements and will be able to streamline their operation and deliverables while still meeting their clients’ needs.

Session:  Virtual Parts Catalog

Toro – Gary Smith

Gary presented a fairly technical overview of how Toro has integrated their existing BOM data with their documentation in order to dynamically build Virtual Parts Catalogs based on the customer selection.

They initially implemented Arbortext in 2004 and have attained the following metrics:

  • 1251 manuals per year a 70% increase while reducing Technical communications staff (through retirement and reassignment) by 25%
  • 35 part/assembly drawings per day per illustrator (IsoDraw)
  • 227% increase in productivity
  • 45% reduction in translation costs
    • Translation turnaround time reduced from at least 2 weeks to 4 days.

Toro has attained many of the benefits that the new Service Information System from PTC will provide because of a very smart team and management with a vision.

They have also implemented a reuse configuration that allows them to more efficiently reuse content for different products without having to manually insert the correct graphics file.  I have to admit I do not understand how they do this but as you can see by the reduction in translation costs the savings are significant.

Session:  PTC University use of Arbortext

In this session PTC described how their training and education department is using Arbortext to help build new training material.

PTC instruction designers now use the DITA data model with Arbortext to create DITA Topics that are dynamically assembled based on the course or customer need.  This new system has over 40 course hours of material and supports over 400 trainers.

PTC decided to use DITA as the foundation for their Reusable Content Strategy. Their objective was to make the content pieces simple, but standalone so that they can be configured based on the module and user-level knowledge (i.e., advanced, intermediate, beginner) and then delivered to outputs based on need (for example, teacher guides, student workbooks, and presentation materials).  Rather than be bound by the need to use Powerpoint as a delivery method, they now create the “slides” as PDF files.

The solution utilizes PTC’s Windchill/Arbortext Content Manager (ACM) for content management, Arbortext Editor to author content, Styler to create multiple-output stylesheets, and Publishing Engine to dynamically generate the output based on the instructors input.

Since implementation of Arbortext for the Wildfire 5.0 release, PTC has realized the following metrics:

  • 30% reduction per course kit (instructor guides, student workbooks, presentation materials)
  • 20% reduction in curriculum localization cost
  • 20% reduction in development time
  • 30% reduction in WBT production time
  • 40% reduction in configured training guides

What I liked most about this solution was that it’s not traditional documentation and shows the flexibility of the Arbortext suite of products as well as the use of the content management system by a non-centralized user group.

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