A technical documentation (including engineering documentation or product documentation ) includes all the information products that a technical product description and guide to its use, maintenance or repair. It systematically processes the information and structures it so that the respective purpose is fully fulfilled. The technical documentation is usually clearly assigned to the documented product using name and number systems.
Purpose of the technical documentation
The technical documentation is used to inform and instruct defined target groups , to protect the manufacturer from liability, to monitor the product , to ensure traceability and reproducibility as well as the permanent or legally required archiving of the relevant information content.
The components of the technical documentation provide information about the product itself, how it is used and how users behave. They consider all phases of the product's life, from development to disposal, in some cases including the manufacture of the preliminary products.
Internal and external technical documentation
For technical documentation, according to VDI 4500, a distinction is made between internal and external technical documentation:
- The internal technical documentation is used for the internal archiving of all product-relevant documents and the obligation to provide evidence of having complied with all legal obligations. It encompasses the entire product life cycle from product planning through development, market launch and product monitoring to product discontinuation. The information normally remains with the manufacturer, who archives it permanently and keeps it up to date for the entire service life of the product. Typical components are specification sheets , calculation documents, test reports , risk assessments , technical drawings and manufacturing documents , evidence of quality assurance measures and all external technical documentation for the product.
- The internal documentation is usually kept by the development or construction department of the manufacturer.
- The external technical documentation serves to inform the operator and user of the product and ensures that the product can be put into operation, used, maintained and, if necessary, disposed of safely and as intended.
- The external documentation is usually created by technical writers and usually translated into the language of the respective user. Depending on the product, target group and legal requirements, various names and forms are possible, such as instructions for use , installation instructions, assembly instructions, brief instructions, user manual, instructions for use, logbook, service instructions, online help, tutorial, etc.
Special sub-types of technical documentation result from legal requirements such as the filing obligation with notified bodies (example: technical documentation according to directive 94/9 / EC " ATEX ").
In the EU relevant are EU directives such as the Machinery Directive , the ATEX Directive , the Low Voltage Directive , the Pressure Equipment Directive or the General Product Safety Directive to mention that have been implemented by Member States into national law (eg. As German Product Safety Act or Medical Devices Act ).
In the event of damage, incorrect technical documentation results in the manufacturer's liability , which results from the Product Liability Act , the German Civil Code (§ 823 liability for damages) and any individual contractual obligations.
DIN , VDE , VDI and CEN create standards and guidelines . In the English language, no distinction is made between norms and standards . International standards are created and supplied by ISO (which is registered with the United Nations as the worldwide coordinating standardization institution). Standards of national organizations such as the American ANSI or the Russian GOST are also recognized internationally. Further standardization bodies can be found in the IEC , IMO , IATA and ICAO , some of which organize and coordinate their work directly with ISO.
Guidelines for the design of technical documentation or user information are available in the form of various standards and guidelines, EN 82079 or the VDI 4500 guideline. The documentation for power plants is regulated in the VGB guideline VGB-S-831-00, delivery of technical documentation (Technical system data, documents) for energy supply systems .
The EN 61355 regulates the classification and marking of documents of the technical documentation for plants, systems and facilities.
In some industrial sectors, different standards, guidelines and specifications are used depending on the civil or military use of a product. In aviation , these are, for example, the ATA100 / ATA2000 specification in the civil sector and the S1000D specification in defense technology , whereby civil standards are also used for defense material and vice versa. The order of precedence of the standards, guidelines (EU) and specifications for defense material is regulated in § 14 of DIRECTIVE 2009/81 / EG and in DIN EN 16341 .
Working on documentation is an activity that can be planned. Therefore, systematic production, including technical documentation, should follow a plan, which in turn is expanded and changed during processing.
The technical documentation must be organized and structured logically. To make handling easier, certain documents are grouped thematically or similar to the structure of the product and managed with modular document lists and tables of contents. A change history is common for the purpose of traceability of revision levels. Standards such as DIN 6789 provide a vivid overview of the documentation system .
A certain structure supports a selected view of a stock of documentation. Therefore, this structure cannot meet all requirements at the same time to the same extent. An index mediates between a special structure and possible further special interests of another order.
User information in particular places high demands on clarity and comprehensibility. There are structuring methods, such as information mapping technology or functional design, in order to structure the often complex information clearly and present it in an easily understandable manner . These make it easier for the content to be recorded and enable the user of the documents to find the information they are looking for more easily. Structuring also supports the creation, management, reuse and publication of content with an editorial system .
Use of colors and contrasts in safety and warning notices
According to the American standard ANSI Z535.6, as well as the European standard EN 82079-1 , warning notices , safety notices and product safety labels can be displayed in black and white, in grayscale or in color. The international standard DIN EN ISO 12100-2 (safety of machines) encourages the use of color in the following sense: "The use of color should be considered, especially for components that require quick identification." Colors can have different intensities (Full tone or lightened by screening) and can be used for various purposes. In particular when designing symbols and pictograms , the use of color aims to clearly emphasize commands and prohibitions. When using colors, care must be taken to always mark the same thing with the same color and to make the characters rich in contrast. It should also be noted that users with visual impairments ( red-green weakness , color blindness ) must be able to correctly interpret the safety instructions. When creating the safety information, the contrast between the background and the signal word should be as great as possible. In order to guarantee a uniform quality standard when using signal colors, guide values for the respective signal colors are defined in American and European standards. The specifications of ANSI Z535.1 and / or the international standard ISO 3864-4 serve as a guide for color prints. While the ANSI standard uses the Munsell color system, the European directives use the RGB or CMYK color model . The individual color impression always deviates slightly from the target, but this is not a big problem in practice. Internationally standardized and coordinated safety signs can be found in the international standard DIN EN ISO 7010 .
Technical documentation makes use of a nomenclature that is customary in the respective community of users and a highly specialized vocabulary. The users of this language will find their way around it well, foreign readers will have to approach this language through thesauri .
- Comprehensibility (see: Hamburg comprehensibility concept )
- Translatability (see: translation-appropriate writing )
Linguistically, these requirements are met by restricted or controlled language , especially in the case of an inhomogeneous group of authors . The language control includes, depending on the level of control, the following rules and restrictions:
- Style and grammar rules (see: Simplified English )
- Syntax rules
- Punctuation rules (especially for further processing with translation memory systems)
Since technical products are often exported to a large number of countries due to their high degree of specialization, external documentation and user information are mostly translated into a number of national or regional languages . So that these translations can be carried out cost-effectively, technical writers should pay attention to the requirements of translation-appropriate writing during the creation . This topic is also discussed today under the heading of localization . To support a high-quality translation, translation memory systems are used that translate and save not just individual words, but also certain parts of sentences.
Creation of technical documentation
All technical functional areas of the manufacturer are ideally included in the creation of the technical documentation for a product. Specifications , functional specifications , risk analyzes as well as construction and production documents are created by development and construction departments. Quality assurance documents are created or procured by the specialists commissioned for this purpose. Documents to be integrated from suppliers and sub- manufacturers are requested by purchasing departments .
The creation of external documentation, in particular, requires special expertise and qualifications. This task is entrusted to technical editors who are often responsible in special departments - technical editors - both for editing user information and for coordinating the cross-departmental documentation process.
These terms are directly related to the main term technical documentation. They are used for different purposes and in a customer-oriented manner.
- IETD - Interactive Electronic Technical Documentation
- IETP - Interactive Electronic Technical Publication
- IETM - Interactive Electronic Technical Manual
- Andreas Baumert, Annette Verhein-Jarren: "Texts for technology: guidelines for practice and study", Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg 2012 ISBN 978-3642138263
- Petra Drewer, Wolfgang Ziegler: "Technical Documentation", Vogel, 2010 ISBN 978-3834331014
- Andreas Schlenkhoff: "Duden Guide - Technical Documentation: Creating and designing understandable texts for products", Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim 2012 ISBN 978-3411747214
- VDI 4500 series of guidelines https://www.vdi.de/technik/fachthemen/produkt-und-prozessgestaltung/fachbereich/technischer-vertrieb-und-produktmanagement/themen/technische-dokumentation/linien-vdi-4500-technische-dokumentation/
- The German Association for Technical Communication and Information Development (tekom)
- Swiss Society for Technical Communication (Tecom)
- VGB guideline R171: Delivery of technical documentation (technical system data, documents) for power plants