Publishing Drilling Manuals

Increase publishing turnaround by 2500% at no additional cost
publishing turnaround with XML

What’s in a drilling rig manual?

Drilling rigs are used for a variety of purposes such as mining, taking samples from the ground, studying rocks by drilling hundreds of meters beneath them, and more. Depending on the task, a user buys different types of drills with different platforms, and sometimes, they might require a different type of tower or power supply setup. Drilling rigs are portable devices made up of several individual machines. They are disassembled and reassembled at every point of use.

When a user buys a drilling rig, they are entitled to a manual as per their specifications and language requirements. These manuals are necessary because many drilling operations occur in locations that are far from the reach of mobile towers and service specialists. Although the company that makes these rigs sold over 300 a year, they were able to deliver only a dozen near-specific manuals. This meant that many customers, despite paying millions for the product, would not receive the manual suited to their exact needs based on their selection of drilling equipment.

What’s the scope of delivery?

The manufacturer sourced the job from a publisher who edited the manuals and created the layout as per specifications. As each manual was hundreds of pages long, the copyeditor had to be conscious to find every instance in the book where corrections were required. This work was tedious and subject to human error. Every time there was a change in the content, the layout specialist also had to come in and edit every page.

Considering the number of pages and the size of the task at play, it is evident why the publisher found it difficult to deliver the required 300 manuals per year.

What was the challenge?

A variety of tools can be used to create a document like a product manual. One might use a word processor such as Microsoft Word or an advanced tool for technical authors such as Adobe FrameMaker.

The challenge lies in the fact that these tools are proprietary products; the user’s ability to perform operations like translations is heavily dependent on the program’s inherent functionalities. At the time of this project, the publisher needed to publish manuals in CJK characters and right-to-left languages, but Adobe did not provide this facility. Therefore, an equipment user in Iraq or China would have access to only an English language manual.

There are other challenges as well. For example, if the content written in English is 100 pages long, the same content in another language may require up to 50% more space. This means that the layout specialist would have to prepare the entire document from scratch. To solve these problems, XML was brought into the picture. Another challenge was changing the mindset of the authors and having them accept that they can’t know how the final content is going to look in different output formats while they’re working on it, considering the variety of ways in which documents are accessed today.

How does XML address these challenges?

When the publisher uses an XML-first approach, they make a one-time entry for all their reusable content. For instance, the function of a diesel engine is the same, regardless of the drilling rig setup. The text that describes the use of the diesel engine remains uniform across the board.

However, the diesel engine may vary in size. So, every instance where the size of the diesel engine is referenced is identified and profiles are built around it. Every time a new diesel engine is ordered, the publisher only needs to create a profile of the engine with specifications and images, and the appropriate details are automatically entered into the manual.

The other benefit of the XML approach is that layouts could be built as templates, and once the text was finalized, it was automatically laid onto the manual. Therefore, the page breaks and layouts were done as per coded specifications.

Does this solution take away the artistic touch?

When this transition occurred, copyeditors and layout specialists expressed concern because some page breaks and image positions were laid out differently than they would have preferred.

From the author to the page designer, each person has a unique style with which they craft the manual. They had established a workflow when they were working on each page individually with FrameMaker. But when XML was brought in, they no longer had to work on pages individually. With the XML solution, the publishing team now had the opportunity to focus on improving the quality of language, images, and diagrams instead of focusing on the layout.

Therefore, the solution that enabled the publisher to accelerate their workflows also allowed them to spend more time on improving the content.

What was the business outcome?

The drilling rig manufacturer now has very happy clients who have access to a manual that is highly suited to their specific customization.

The publishing team of authors and designers that previously published around a dozen manuals annually now publishes over 300 manuals a year in 17-18 different languages, including CJK characters and right-to-left languages using the same style sheet and content. The quality of content has also improved as the team no longer needs to relay every version of the manual. The team was able to publish the drilling rig manuals in different formats such as print PDFs, eBooks, HTML for web versions as well as mobile- and tablet-friendly versions.

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