For Manufacturers, Going Digital Means More than Producing a PDF

Today, most manufacturers produce digital documentation, a practice which began over 20 years ago.

But let’s look at digital documentation in the context of a complex product. Consider what happens when a company—let’s say Bombardier—sells high-speed trains to a railway operator.

Back in the 1980s, updating documentation for such a system was a complete nightmare: it meant physically replacing dozens of pages in multiple ring binders, while the information contained therein became outdated faster than documents could be replaced. It was hard to keep up.

At the time, producing digital documents such as PDFs solved several significant issues. Paper was slow, painful and expensive, while digital was the opposite: quick, easy and less expensive.

Heaven on Earth? No, not really. Because this solution was also very document centric, and it was still hard keep up with the constant slew of changes and updates to documentation.

Some companies are still stuck in this hellish era, but most understand that digital documentation goes beyond the PDF.

One-size-fits-all is not good enough for today’s complex products. Documentation needs to be targeted to different users and should address different product configurations and models.

A product-centric approach to technical information achieves just this. Using product-centric information manufacturers are able to create, manage, and deliver service information tailored to:

  • The specific product configuration down to product model and part serial numbers
  • The user’s need: product owner manual, technician service procedures and parts list
  • The user’s profile: owner/operator, novice or expert

A good example of this? Using new technology, leading manufacturers are now able to create 3D illustrations with associative CAD data to deliver configuration-specific graphical information to technicians.

And there are still more possibilities.

Not only do service technicians use this information at the point of service, but they can capture product performance data and feed it back to their service network and engineering.

A product-centric approach organizes and manages content in the context of product structures, thereby enabling all stakeholders to access and add to the same single source of up-to-date, rich technical information.

As a result, manufacturers not only deliver high-quality service to their customers, but are able to harvest a wealth of field experiences and feedback. You can imagine the competitive advantage this brings when designing new products and improving existing models.

Is your company document-centric or product-centric?

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2 thoughts on “For Manufacturers, Going Digital Means More than Producing a PDF”

  1. Cheryl Beebe says:

    Documentation of your process is extremely important. It’s necessary that everyone on the team has the most up to date document to avoid mistakes. We capture daily production data via an Excel CSV file and store it on the hard drive to allow production managers to run analysis on production output.

    1. Marie Lichtle says:

      Hi Cheryl,

      Your are absolutely right: process documentation is extremely important and I would even go further saying that managing the entire service information lifecycle is vital for today’s industries. This is why PTC provides solutions that offer way more than Excel spreadsheets. PTC’s approach to Service Lifecycle Management enables companies to deliver and capture product knowledge at the point of service. It also provides a closed feedback loop between engineering and service, continuously improving both service and product performance. For more details, you can visit

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