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BSH and ST4: a new partnership brings interactivity to manuals

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BSH Hausgeräte GmbH is Europe’s largest household appliance manufacturer, with brands such as Bosch and Siemens and products for all areas of everyday life. And because BSH relies on SCHEMA ST4, with 150 technical editors in various locations and around 100,000 “live” publications in up to 50 languages, it is also one of SCHEMA’s biggest customers. Networked home appliances have already been a reality for BSH for some years, and the company is now also preparing for its next developmental leap in technical documentation. If appliances communicate with you, the instructions need to be more than just words on a page – they need to get involved. In other words, they need to be able to respond interactively to your input. At the SCHEMA conference, Saskia Miller and Christina Steidle from BSH gave a presentation on why they decided to implement ST4 and how they are achieving this objective with the XML editing system.

The switch to ST4

From ovens to refrigerators, and from vacuum cleaners to washing machines: BSH appliances can be found in any situation. And we’re not talking about just one refrigerator or just one washing machine – a high number of product variants make similarly high demands on variant management in the technical documentation and require a high level of content reusability. A project at BSH includes information on many similar appliances, thus forming the basis for a multitude of manuals. There are therefore many production rules and filters for each product: it is not unusual for projects to have up to 600 filters! SCHEMA ST4 can cope with these demands, and during the evaluation phase, BSH established that the standard version of ST4 already covered the majority of its needs:

  • ST4 has efficient variant management that meets all requirements.
  • It allows for high reusability of topics and structures.
  • The nodes can be distinguished with flexible hierarchical meta data.
  • ST4 supports multimedia content and interactive elements.
  • There is no need for any manual layout work.
  • ST4 can be used as a base system for future automation.
  • Integration into the existing BSH system environment (Media Asset Management, Translation Management System) is straightforward thanks to the ST4 standard interfaces.

The company therefore decided to switch to ST4 as a component content management system.

Integration and modification

BSH’s corporate identity standards give rise to complex layout requirements in printed and online output. Individual, interactive implementations were therefore designed in ST4 using Page Layout Designer (PLD) and Online Media Designer (OMD).

BSH’s internal guidelines also require consideration of a number of special features, which have been taken into account by defining and integrating a DTD specifically developed for this purpose. This includes the semantic display of information for flexible output, as well as a deliberate restriction of flexibility in many areas to provide precise instructions to editors. BSH can also selectively enhance the data model themselves, such as by defining particular topic types for which content models and icons can be individually selected.

BSH can also independently modify the display of elements in the XMetaL Editor – content and structure are validated when saving in XMetaL, as with a DTD. BSH also validates XML against Schematron rules recorded in ST4.

The “interactive manual” project

The first step to digitisation in technical documentation at BSH was the provision of manuals as PDF files. Simple HTML versions were also subsequently created with the same content. BSH has stated that its objective is now to transpose instruction manuals into an interactive format. The CCMS SCHEMA ST4 is the right solution for this, as its use of current web technologies and implementation in a responsive design ensures optimised display of the manual on any device. Networked home appliances need this development, and users will thus be taken to the information they need more clearly, quickly and easily.

The route from the PDF file (left) to a simple HTML version (centre) and finally to the new interactive manual (right)

Simultaneous publication in a number of output formats

Publications are ultimately delivered to BSH’s Media Asset Management System (MAM) by means of a separate interface. A meta data file to manage the publication in MAM is created at the same time. However, there is no production of individual manuals: with 25,000 instruction manuals alone being published by BSH in 2017, it is absolutely vital that a large number of documents can be created in various formats in a single step – from the traditional PDF file right through to the new interactively designed HTML format. With the right adaptation in ST4, it is now possible to select any number of production rules all at the same time and begin creation of the target files, including Schematron check, TMS status check and many other process steps.

… and so it goes on

After a successful pilot phase last year, ST4 is now being rolled out in Germany. Running in parallel to this is the development of automation solutions: as each ST4 project at BSH includes a whole host of production rules and filters, (semi-)automatic creation of filters and production rules will considerably ease the editors’ workload. Roll-out to international BSH locations is scheduled for next year. BSH will therefore be using ST4 to bring interactivity to all homes.

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