converted to corresponding DITA topics and improves version control through automation
Maintaining a proven content publishing process while expanding authoring capabilities
Creating a new technical documentation infrastructure for worldwide deployment
Simplifying and optimizing document translation into 33 languages
Automating versioning and management for multiple content types including XML, HTML5, video, and graphics
Preserves existing technical document publishing process while adding new capabilities
Establishes new global technical communication infrastructure accessible by internal and external stakeholders
Automation cuts turnaround time for translation into 33 languages by 50%
500K Microsoft Word source files converted to corresponding DITA topics and improves version control through automation
There’s a good chance HOMAG Group AG solutions helped build something in the room you’re in, including the room. Nearly one-third of companies that produce home and office furniture, kitchens, parquet and laminate flooring, windows, doors, staircases, and even complete prefabricated timber-frame buildings use HOMAG machines and control software.
HOMAG designs and manufactures woodworking solutions ranging from single saws, drills, and routers for small workshops to integrated modular systems that can fill entire factories with networked production lines. The company supports customers in more than 100 countries and in 33 languages.
HOMAG is also on the vanguard of building factories of the future. Sometimes called Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ascension of such factories relies on the dynamic exchange of information through the Internet of Things (IoT) to help connect computers, machines, and humans.
“We make complex woodworking machines that, when not used properly, can be hazardous. Operators, service technicians, and plant managers need complete technical documentation for both job efficiency and safety,” says Andreas Wolf, Head of Technical Documentation, HOMAG Group. “HOMAG has been on the cutting edge of publishing content directly to machines for a long time. We’re now taking it to the next level.”
Head of Technical Documentation, HOMAG Group
HOMAG developed a way to automatically publish technical documentation by mapping source content directly to parts lists stored in its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. A team of about 150 contributors (including machine designers, engineers, developers, and constructors) authored documents in Microsoft Word, organized them using a manual file-naming system, and converted them to PDF files.
As soon as a woodworking machine was configured for a customer in the ERP system, a document system linked to the ERP data automatically compiled corresponding PDF content. Once compiled, more than 20 document types—including operation instructions, service manuals, and training materials—were available digitally.
HOMAG began automating documentation in 1996 using Word and its legacy ERP system. Unfortunately, source document administration and version control became difficult. By 2016. more than 500,000 Microsoft Word source files were stored on independent systems at each of HOMAG’s 14 manufacturing facilities.
In 2016, HOMAG decided to upgrade to a new SAP ERP system to help unite business data with information from design software, simulation tools, and other back-end systems. The technical documentation team recognized the switch to SAP as an opportunity to preserve its ERP-based publishing methods while eliminating inefficient workflows.
“We had a good solution for automatically generating documentation, but document authoring and translating were laborious and time-consuming,” Wolf says. “We wanted to eliminate as many manual processes as possible.”
For example, translations had been almost entirely manual. HOMAG emailed Word files to external translation agencies. When a translated Word file was emailed back, it had to be manually numbered, converted to PDF, and uploaded to the document system.
Since HOMAG was upgrading its ERP system, the technical documentation team used the opportunity to upgrade from Microsoft Word to Adobe FrameMaker for XML authoring and editing. Using the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) open XML standard in FrameMaker enables HOMAG to automate and standardize topic-based content creation, exchange data with third parties, and easily manage multiple types of content, including XML, HTML5, videos, and graphics.
“HOMAG chose Adobe FrameMaker for DITA authoring because we could customize it to work seamlessly with SAP ERP,” Wolf says. “We’d had been looking at FrameMaker for close to 20 years but didn’t have an opportunity to move off Microsoft Word until now.”
HOMAG is automating the migration of legacy Word documents to FrameMaker with the c-rex.net DTS conversion engine. Consultants from c-rex.net are also helping to connect Adobe FrameMaker with SAP ERP.
“Adobe FrameMaker helps integrate content providers into HOMAG’s technical documentation process,” says Markus Wiedenmaier, CEO, c-rex.net GmbH. “FrameMaker lets us put DITA/XML functions in the background so authors—whether trained writers, developers, or constructors—can focus on content.”
The structure of each HOMAG machine—how it’s built and the components used—is completely mapped in SAP ERP. The solution’s built-in document management system (DMS) automates document versioning, status management, and distribution. It also enables global collaboration through real-time access.
The DMS’s content hierarchy is different from a typical DITA content management system, so HOMAG needed help connecting it with Adobe FrameMaker. Consultants from c-rex.net developed customizations for what they call “component-oriented documentation.”
Whereas DITA uses topics (discrete pieces of standalone content about a specific subject with identifiable purposes) to build documents, the SAP DMS relies on almost the opposite. It uses a component hierarchy in which the top component is an entire machine, followed by the parts that comprise it. Each machine in the ERP system is associated with a customer order, to which all the documentation is mapped and managed.
“SAP’s DMS is not designed to manage small content like a single DITA topic,” says Wiedenmaier. “You need a bigger set of documentation, which in our case would be a specific component or unit of a machine. We call this package a macro-topic.”
Each macro-topic is stored in an HOMAG DITA eXchange Package (HDXP), a special file bundle created by c-rex.net. Each HDXP contains assets such as a DITA map, DITA topics, and SAP metadata (e.g., title or component information), images, videos, and references to other HDXP files.
CEO, c-rex.net GmbH
Authors edit DITA content by checking out an HDXP file from the ERP system. Upon checkout, the DITA map opens automatically in Adobe FrameMaker.
“We have a FrameMaker plugin that’s soft-connected to SAP, so there’s no API integration that affects SAP code,” Wiedenmaier says. “The author simply edits DITA files in FrameMaker the way they’re used to, and then checks the HDXP file back into SAP.”
Upon check-in, FrameMaker plug-in developed by c-rex.net, automatically generates PDF files using Adobe FrameMaker and XLIFF files for computer-assisted translation (CAT), and updates XML machine-control data. It then reassembles the HDXP file and makes it available for publication. For translation into different languages, SAP automatically sends orders to third-party translation agencies that HOMAG has granted direct SAP access.
“A CAT agency can check-out XLIFF files, translate the content, and then check the file back into SAP,” Wiedenmaier says. “The returned file is automatically checked-out to FrameMaker and then published to all the outputs that are needed for different document types, and then checked back into SAP. Automation with Adobe FrameMaker has cut translation times by 50%.”
When a new order is entered into the ERP system, SAP CADDI composition software collects all documentation and control files related to the order. It automatically combines PDF files, creates a table of contents, and generates a metadata package. The files are then exported directly to the HOMAG machine (or machines for a large factory order) and published back into the ERP system for archiving.
Once in the machine, the documentation can take control of maintenance activities as part of HOMAG’s Industry 4.0 vision. When HDXP files are reassembled, XML files are generated from DITA topic metadata in Adobe FrameMaker. The machine’s control system then evaluates the XML data against machine data such as runtime. If machine status indicates that maintenance is due, the control system automatically triggers an operator alert in the user interface and automatically provides links to relevant technical documentation such as maintenance guides and repair manuals.
HOMAG is now looking to further extend the power of its documentation by uniting DITA content created with Adobe FrameMaker with metadata using the new iiRDS standard for information delivery across the IoT.
“Standardizing metadata gives us opportunities to connect machine data and documentation for intelligent plant management. For example, we want to automatically link machine events to documentation for troubleshooting or prioritizing maintenance and make it accessible on mobile devices,” Wolf says. “HOMAG sees Adobe FrameMaker as an important tool for expanding the integration of dynamic technical content delivery into our solutions and delivering more value to our customers.”