Documenting the future of sustainable healthcare.

Roche Diagnostics gives clinicians and researchers more of what they want from product documentation.

Roche Diagnostics



Employees: 28,000

Basel, Switzerland


faster production of PDF documentation


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Adobe Frame Maker ›


Adding visual elements to documentation to address customer demand

Automating the conversion of documents from unstructured to structured XML

Creating content that can be migrated easily to a new component CMS


50% faster production of PDF documentation

Success moving from unstructured to structured editing

Customers love visual layout and design

Customised XML framework simplifies authoring

“Automating documentation production with Adobe FrameMaker changed the entire process, which gives us faster time to market moving forward.”

Thomas Risi

Department Leader, Roche Diagnostics

The power of knowing

In vitro diagnostics are known as the “silent champion” of healthcare. “In vitro” is Latin for “in the glass”. Tests performed outside of the patient, using glass slides, petri dishes, test tubes and other media, influence more than 60% of clinical decision making while making up only 2% of the cost. Diagnostics help laboratories reliably empower clinicians to make the right decisions for patients at the right time and help patients stay informed regarding their health and well-being.

Roche Diagnostics, a division of the global healthcare company Roche Group, gives customers across the healthcare spectrum—from research institutions, hospitals and commercial laboratories to doctors and patients—the power of knowing. Roche Diagnostics develops and manufactures hundreds of products and technologies that are both complex and highly-regulated, including rapid disease screening tests and high-volume automated tube processing instruments.

High-quality technical documentation is vital to patient safety because it helps ensure the proper use of supplies and devices. However, the technical documentation departments at companies like Roche Diagnostics are continually challenged to keep up with rapid technological innovation, industry growth and an expanding international clientele that speaks dozens of languages in countries with widely varying regulatory requirements.

Roche Diagnostics

Adding structure and visual appeal

For more than 25 years, documentation experts from commatec, a Roche Diagnostics partner, have helped the company develop technical documentation. Depending on the device, a single operator manual can have up to 1,500 pages, with training and service manuals adding up to another 1,500 pages. In addition to developing content, commatec also provides consultation services for the authoring and tool landscape.

A few years ago, Roche Diagnostics determined that the look and feel of its manuals needed a refresh. Customers were asking for more images and less text, so Roche Diagnostics developed a training manual prototype and then turned to commatec to help make the transition across documents.

“After having the same layout for several years, we wanted to move into a completely new era,” says Thomas Risi, Head of Documentation Core Lab at Roche Diagnostics. “Aesthetically, this involved a new focus on graphics. We also took the opportunity to move from unstructured to structured editing using Adobe FrameMaker as our XML editor.”

Initially, Roche and commatec considered using the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) as its Document Type Definition (DTD), which is essentially the “grammar” of a file. The DTD for an Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) file contains the elements, attributes, entities and notations used. However, DITA was too complex for what Roche Diagnostics wanted to achieve. With help from commatec, Roche Diagnostics created automations for converting unstructured documents to a customised XML framework.

“Our starting point was a document that was creative and filled with insight, but didn’t have rules for standardisation,” says Martin Schlicksupp, CEO of commatec. “So, we built the structure ourselves with the right blend of content rules and design flexibility using Adobe FrameMaker. FrameMaker has been our favourite tool for nearly 20 years because in FrameMaker, we always seem to find a solution for any documentation challenge we face.”

“Adobe FrameMaker Publishing Server and Miramo empower our global teams to publish content in various formats—including PDF, CHM, HTML, HTML5 and XML—through our content management system, TCToolbox.”

Silke Köhler

Process Manager, Technical Publication and Translation at Schneider Electric Automation GmbH.

Customisations and automations

The customised XML solution commatec created with Roche Diagnostics relies on FrameMaker automations created with FrameScript, an object-orientated scripting automation and customisation tool. On startup, FrameMaker loads the scripts that extend FrameMaker functionality.

“Our staff has become very skilled in the WYSIWYG authoring environment,” says Thomas Risi, Head of Documentation Core Lab at Roche Diagnostics. “That’s why we kept the same DTD and Adobe FrameMaker is still our XML editor. We want to make things as easy as possible for our authors.”

Scripting helped automate the conversion of existing documents to structured XML, but the teams also had to modify the DTD. Layout and editorial changes were an iterative tradeoff between adding images and removing text, followed by updates to the DTD to support future documents. The DTD, created with help from commatec, has become the standard used by the 80-member documentation team at Roche Diagnostics and for three other Roche third-party documentation support providers.

Roche Diagnostics

Customer and critical acclaim

The updated Roche Diagnostics manuals have received rave reviews from customers, who immediately appreciated the new emphasis on visuals. The manuals also caught the attention of the European Association for Technical Communication (tekom).

Every year, tekom presents awards to companies that produce exceptional technical documentation. A jury of technical communication experts evaluates entries for structure, text quality and layout and design. The PDF and electronic versions of the updated Roche Diagnostics manuals received the prestigious tekom Dokupreis in October 2016. The proprietary online help format for Roche systems, called User Assistance, which is generated from the same structure in FrameMaker, won the recently established tekom Dokupreis for electronic documentation.

“We were very methodical about the improvements we made using Adobe FrameMaker,” says Risi. “We’re very proud that we have pleased our customers and impressed our peers.”

Topics and time savings

The next advance for the Roche Diagnostics documentation team is the implementation of a new SCHEMA component content management system (CMS). The CMS will allow Roche Diagnostics to move from file-based editing to topic-based editing.

“Today, our DTD database contains topics, but they are all packed into files,” says Risi. “When we have the CMS, editing will be strictly topic-based in Adobe FrameMaker, meaning we won’t have to manage entire chapters in a single file.”

Using content edited in FrameMaker, Roche Diagnostics will be able to manage variants and translations in SCHEMA and then publish and distribute documents. Future plans include optimisation for mobile devices, which will improve customer experiences by adding the convenience of mobility.

Since converting to structured XML, Roche Diagnostics estimates the time to produce a PDF has been cut in half. Once content is loaded into the CMS, the company estimates it will be able to cut translation times in half, too.

“Automating documentation production with Adobe FrameMaker changed the entire process, which gives us faster time to market moving forward,” Risi says. “But the time savings don’t tell the whole story. The documents are much more sophisticated, so we’ve improved much more than the technology behind the production; we’ve improved the end-user experience.”

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