Documentation creation is not the end of the story
The next task is to distribute documented information rapidly and safely to authorized recipients. Here we are in the world of security policies, access control, and system performance.
Usually electrical documentation will be just a part of a much larger environment. This environment is mission critical, and will normally be provided and administered by a large IT provider. So it’s important that the documentation process is sufficiently flexible to automate creation of any desired electronic format, so it can be accommodated within the overall environment.
Of particular importance is the IT overhead from the end user’s standpoint. Because service organizations are by nature distributed, the IT footprint should be as low as possible, ideally zero. No special software should be installed on site, and for legal, commercial and practical reasons documentation providers cannot realistically expect end users to be individually licensed.
This final point is important when considering the end user: The service technician. Because of the extreme complexity of modern electrical systems, the technician needs as much help as possible to understand the information. Presenting configuration or vehicle-specific data is massively helpful, greatly simplifying the task, but it is not enough: More software support is needed.
- First, it should be very easy to navigate around the documentation. The technician should be able to move seamlessly across many related artifacts, jumping at the click of a button (for example) from a schematic to a wire list to a location view to a repair procedure, with convenience aids such as windowing, and pan & zoom.
- Second, meta data should be instantly available so that technicians can access items such as expected pin voltage, fuse resistance, wire color, or component part number—but without excessive screen clutter.
- Third, electrical intelligence should be available so the technician can easily trace troublesome signals through the maze of connectors and devices.
- And for very complex situations, yet more advanced features may be needed, such as progressive revealing of connectivity (sometimes called “click & sprout”).
Of course all that information must be displayed in the technician’s local language via a hidden dictionary.
An example of such an intuitive, highly productive technician environment is shown below.
A rich, intuitive environment boosts the productivity of service technicians.
To deliver this smart environment to the technician, the electrical data model must again be leveraged. This data model understands all aspects of the information and hence permits advanced capabilities. But it should also be clear that true functionality must be delivered to boost technician productivity: Relatively static environments such as a searchable PDF file are not sufficient. This in turn challenges software providers who must find a way to monetize their investment in creating this functionality without demanding individual licensing. One can imagine several business models emerging, such as negotiation of a “right to use”.
We have seen that documentation of modern vehicle electrical systems is an onerous task—and fault diagnosis by human beings perhaps even more so. The commercial implications are significant in terms of cost, potential liability, brand image, and vehicle downtime. Fortunately, powerful commercial software is now available that automates electrical system documentation creation and provides a highly productive technician environment. Mentor Graphics Capital Publisher
is a leading example of such commercial software, delivering the solution features described above.
Nick Smith is business development director in the Integrated Electrical Systems Division of Mentor Graphics.
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