When manufacturing organizations grow, either through product development or acquisitions, their needs for product documentation grow as well. When leaders at The Manufacturing Company approached Orbis Technologies, they had successfully grown their business into a global leader in the consumer market. However, The Manufacturing Company’s rapid growth made it difficult for the internal development team to adequately manage product documentation needs and keep pace with the demands of the business.
The Manufacturing Company’s technical documentation group faced challenges that are common to other companies:
The Manufacturing Company wanted to find an outsourcing partner to help them navigate through their documentation challenges and make necessary improvements, so they could focus on delivering quality products to their customers.
The Orbis Technologies team took the time to learn about The Manufacturing Company’s challenges and needs, and then proposed a solution that addressed all of their concerns. Initially, Orbis Technologies prioritized process improvements. The team collaborated with internal stakeholders to identify opportunities to make changes that would reduce the time needed to develop key documents, while promoting better alignment with the product development lifecycle. Orbis Technologies also facilitated key template standardizations to simplify product documents in ways that improved clarity, reduced volume, and improved consistency. These improvements helped to set the stage for valuable cost reductions because they led to reduced development effort, reduced engineering burden, and reduced translation costs.
The Orbis Technologies project manager was a key constant from the beginning, facilitating workflow management and providing status reporting every step of the way. Plus, the rest of the Orbis Technologies team focused on bridging gaps and building strong working relationships with stakeholders at all levels and provided timely communications to ensure everyone was part of the process. Because of the Orbis Technologies team-based model, scalability was seamless, which meant that The Manufacturing Company did not have to worry about staffing to meet peaks and lulls in their development lifecycle. Individual Orbis Technologies team members were brought into the project, as needed, in order to keep each deliverable on schedule and on budget.
Orbis Technologies also began reporting unit cost metrics, which provided new visibility into the performance of the documentation development process—insight that The Manufacturing Company had not captured in the past. With this new information, leaders at The Manufacturing Company were able to see exactly how much work was being done and how much was being spent on every phase of documentation development.
Soon after Orbis Technologies began facilitating key improvements, The Manufacturing Company was able to see meaningful and measurable improvements in product documentation unit cost reductions, timing reductions, and process efficiencies.
Since the project began, Orbis Technologies has reduced the development cost per page for installation and operator manuals across the board. (Work to drive efficiencies in developing other document types is ongoing.)
Additional metrics proved to be just as valuable as unit cost in measuring the performance of the documentation development process. With the data that Orbis Technologies captured on the document review cycles, it was clear that efficiencies emerging out of improved processes were closely tied to the percentage of rework needed.
In the beginning, Orbis Technologies had to revise about 50-60% of a document before getting to a final draft. Part of the reason for all of this rework was due to poor alignment with product development, meaning the product was still being refined and features were still changing while writing was happening. Key stakeholder involvement was also a challenge that led to some rework. During this time, it took an average of five review cycles to get to a final version of a document.
Since Orbis Technologies implemented key process improvements, product document development begins at the ideal time—when a product is more stable—so up to 80% of the document development cost happens in the first draft. With the process improvements, the right stakeholders are included in the process, scope is clarified, features are defined, and details are validated more efficiently and effectively. That means, fewer changes are needed. Today, only 2-3 review cycles are required to get to a final document.
Over time, The Manufacturing Company’s other internal groups began to notice how effectively Orbis Technologies team members were able to integrate into their business, learn the products, reduce costs, and make a positive impact on the product documentation. Plus, The Manufacturing Company managers became increasingly invested in supporting the new documentation process. They began applying internal pressure to ensure that everyone was accountable for doing their part to maintain the improvements they had achieved.
With all of the gains in efficiency and significant cost reductions that were achieved in the first year, The Manufacturing Company moved to fully outsource all of its domestic technical publication work to Orbis Technologies, eliminating the need for dedicated internal documentation staff to support its Americas region. As a result, the monthly volume of work that Orbis Technologies manages for The Manufacturing Company has increased significantly. Today, Orbis Technologies works with ten separate engineering groups and additional groups in many other departments, such as: marketing, service, legal, product management, and international documentation. In addition, Orbis Technologies is working with The Manufacturing Company’s European publication team to extend the partnership.
These positive results illustrate the value that Orbis Technologies can offer its outsourcing partners. For The Manufacturing Company, this translates to a team of Orbis Technologies experts who know the business, know how to develop critical product documentation, and instinctively take ownership of delivering results on time and on budget. With outsourced product documentation, The Manufacturing Company’s internal teams can focus on their mission and drive their core business.
“Another fan. You and your team are doing a great job. It’s amazing what happens when you remove roadblocks and obstacles and let people do their job!” – Vice President of Engineering, The Manufacturing Company