The fast way from PDF to CDP
Developing a content delivery portal in just a few months and building a semantic knowledge network with metadata according to the iiRDS standard – is it possible? Using the example of the new product information portal of Bosch Rexroth, we report on how we achieved this.
You can spend hours searching for the right information.
There’s a document of 600 pages and on page 317 you find the info
I want the Amazon feeling.
These are some of the answers we received from users who we asked about our product information in the run-up to the project. So, we knew that we had to move away from the old PDF documents to a new information structure allowing users to find the information they were looking for more easily and quickly.
We would achieve this goal by means of a Content Delivery Portal (CDP)– with a topic-based structure and information in HTML format, with search options and filter functions to narrow down search results. The information units were to be semantically linked so that just with a few mouse clicks, related topics could be accessed across multiple sources. The standard iiRDS was to be our compass to define the appropriate metadata for it.
At the beginning of the project, we developed a pilot portal to find out how Rexroth product information works with a CDP. Therefore, we used existing documents and marked individual sections with iiRDS metadata – just enough to be able to test exemplary use cases in the pilot portal. Each of the metadata corresponded to a facet filter in the CDP. This allowed us to narrow down the search results.
The result was amazing. The information on our use cases was now easy to find. We just had to enter a search term and then narrow it down with only one or two filters. Even with this quickly built system, the basic expectations were met. The “Amazon feeling” was thus achieved. On top of that, we benefitted even more from the pilot portal:
- The processes and dependencies of content development and presentation became transparent.
- From the test cases, we were able to derive functional requirements for further development.
- We saw that the iiRDS standard works well for our use cases.
- The management was impressed that information could be found so easily and gave the green light for developing the product information portal.
Limit functions and content to essentials
Following the successful pilot project, the portal has now been implemented. In only eight months, a new product line was to be presented to the public. The respective documentation was to be available in the new product information portal.
To achieve this goal within the tight timeframe, we initially focused on developing essential functions and content only. For example, we omitted the function to create personalized content and connecting additional systems such as ERP or PIM. We limited the content to a small number of documents in one language only. As a result, after a few months we had a fully functional portal that we were able to use as a proof of concept. It was only later that we added more functions and thus gradually further developed the portal.
Modeling of metadata
The most important part of the work was the development of the metadata model based on iiRDS. The standard provides a good basis for modeling information-related data; we were able to define the relevant metadata without much effort. The situation is different for the product-related metadata. Here, iiRDS only provides docking points to which the product metadata need to be attached. Products and product variants, individual product components, their functions and properties – all of these data had to be defined so that the user would be able to filter his search accordingly and receive the requested information from the huge product portfolio. As intelligent information lives on metadata, it was worthwhile to invest enough time and effort in the modeling of these product-related metadata.
Manage and apply metadata
Metadata and relations are stored in a semantic graph database system. A metadata specialist manages the data and relations, for example, when new products are added. Editors can access the metadata to tag modules using CCMS dialogues. The iiRDS metadata are used both for facet filtering in the portal and for qualifying XML modules in the CCMS to automatically compile content for publications. Thus, we reached two goals at once!
The new product information portal
When the new product line was presented, the portal was ready. We then worked on optimizing the portal, which went live six months later in summer 2020 with all the information on the new product line. In the current phase, we are implementing functions that we had initially put on hold for time reasons, such as
- Semantically linking topics across document boundaries: The user is offered topics related to the currently displayed information, even if these topics are not contained in the same document.
- Further development of the portal into a context-sensitive help system: In software products, the matching topic is displayed with the <F1> key.
- Integration into a mobile service app: The service app on the smartphone or tablet communicates directly with the machine/system. In the event of an error, the service app displays the troubleshooting instructions matching the installed component.
- Topics über Dokumentgrenzen hinweg semantisch miteinander vernetzen: Der Anwender bekommt zum aktuell angezeigten Topic verwandte Themen vorgeschlagen, selbst wenn diese Themen nicht im selben Dokument enthalten sind.
- Ausbau des Portals zum kontextsensitiven Hilfesystem: In Software-Produkten wird mit der Taste <F1> das passende Thema angezeigt.
- Integration in eine mobile Service-App: Die Service-App auf dem Smartphone oder Tablet kommuniziert direkt mit der Maschine/Anlage. Im Fehlerfall zeigt die Service-App die Anleitung zur Fehlerbeseitigung passend zur verbauten Komponente.
- Produktives CDP – Semantisch vernetzte Information für unterschiedliche Anwendungsfälle (German only) at the tcworld conference
- iiRDS Best Practice Rexroth Product Information Portal
Thomas Katzenmeier, owner of Ingenieurbüro Katzenmeier, has been working in software development, technical writing and training in automation technology since 1991. He designs and creates technical documentation, consults, and supports projects around information management.
As Senior Manager, Berthold Strucken is responsible for the processes and strategic development of technical documentation in the “Automation and Electrification Solutions” division of Bosch Rexroth AG. He has many years of experience in the fields of technical documentation and translation.