MULTIDOC is a one-year concerted action which aims to formulate user requirements and functional specifications in order to improve existing systems that support technical documentation management. It will also investigate the electronic supply, delivery and maintenance of technical and other documentation via intranets. The industrial focus is the automobile industry, and world-class European companies in this sector will participate in the project. Large volumes of documentation are processed at the user sites and there are many language-related issues that need to be addressed within the technical document management process. The project results will lead to improvements in technical document quality and reductions in production costs. The languages covered are English, German and Swedish.
Documents are the most common means of representing and storing an organisation's information and knowledge. An ever increasing number of companies recognise the value of creating, storing and managing their knowledge as online documentation. However, the online storage of documents has left early adopters disappointed, sometimes after a large investment. Technology vendors have been trying to deliver on the promise of digital document management for several years, but today there remains little progress beyond monolingual proprietary tools and formats, with poor interoperability and limited features catering for the life cycle of documents.
Nowhere more than in the automotive industry are the problems of document management greater. It has to produce and maintain documentation in many target languages, taking into account different legislation and cultures, and be able to respond quickly to a changing market and product line. Documentation is also produced by different internal departments and external component suppliers.
Normal business practices in the automotive industry already stress standard documentation procedures. For example, the Swedish partner uses diesel engines from Germany, whilst a French company uses some engines the Swedish partner produces. Companies have to adapt to changing work procedures and skills, technological development, and structural changes such as a move from centralised to decentralised storage of data concerning vehicles. The German partner already has a multi-lingual hot-line support system (HUS) which passes messages between the different sites involved in car maintenance and repair, and which can be expanded to link different information types, including technical documentation, from independent departments.
Two recent EC sponsored projects, INDOCREN and DOCSTEP, investigated the field of product documentation management in the aerospace industry, taking into account the sharing of resources and open standards. The end result of these projects is an integrated data and workflow model for design, authoring and maintenance of technical documents. They have been able to build on existing standards such as a controlled operational language of simplified English and set rules for writing as given in AECMA. However, this is not the case for the automotive industry which uses many different languages and has no common standards for writing documents.
The MULTIDOC project is an initiative to establish a common basis for collaborative efforts of the European automotive industry in the management of multi-lingual technical and product documentation. It will build on a vital document management industry to define an architecture for use in future projects, using methods and tools which provide high quality multi-lingual document preparation, management and translation at lower maintenance costs and in shorter lead-times. It is the first step towards harmonising the exchange of technical and training documentation between European vehicle manufacturers with the emphasis on multi-lingual documents.
The work foreseen includes the joint analysis and specification of existing and emerging methods, practices, techniques and technologies of the information technology sector and the language engineering sector. The objective is todefine an architecture that significantly improves documentation work-flow and the associated information flows in this branch of industry: both internally, between departments and with suppliers and customers, and externally, with the general public and the relevant authorities.
The MULTIDOC architecture will be based on the second generation of client/server technology and Intranets. The MULTIDOC architecture will be based on the second generation of client/server technology and Intranets. The main advantages of this new client/server generation are:
- Object oriented design, which increases the re-usability and modularity of the code.
- Graphics based tools to support programming.
- Security functions and improved transaction handling.
- Tools for business process re-engineering which combine business processes with software development.
Intranets use standard Internet know-how to deploy a rich, full function environment for sharing information, communication and running applications, all built on top of an open network. Since it is based on open standards and protocols that emerged from the Internet itself, it supports cross-platform and cross-database access, providing flexibility and vendor independence.
The partners are co-ordinated by a university related research organisation which has an established reputation for R&D in natural language processing (NLP), machine translation and other information technologies. User participation is made up of:
- A core user group consisting of the technical managers of documentation and information departments in the vehicle manufacturer organisations.
- Technical writers, translators, and engineers who use information systems in the service field, together with technical instructors and other technical managers.
- Participants who are interested in the project, such as those who contribute to workshops or provide written guidance and feedback.
MULTIDOC will build on in-house studies from the partners as well as company or sector specific surveys which include:
- Identification and modelling of key user needs.
- Comparative analysis of documentation and information work flows. This is essential for multi-lingual information interlinking and the representation of company and product knowledge in various industrial environments.
- Critical analysis of the information and language technology market, including a trend research and a technology risk analysis.
The standards used will include SGML, HTML, ISO 9001, SAE J2008, CALS, EDI/EDIFACT and TMS.
The proposed architecture will be reviewed along the following lines:
- Critical analysis of the specifications of the system.
- Analysis of changes to the informatics, human resources and organisational environment
- Identification of any restrictions, constraints, risks and problems not yet taken into account.
The architecture will be the result of an intersection of different requirements from a wide range of companies especially those of the European automotive industry, as well as in house situations. It could be adapted to other business sectors with a need for multi-lingual document management. This, in effect, would mean nearly every organisation with international business activities.
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