Tech PubsIdentifying tools and solutions to help technical publications managers and their employers produce accurate, impactful service and operating manuals remains the focus of the ever-developing AEM Technical Publications Committee.

The AEM Technical Publications Committee has tasked its members with focusing on and addressing four key “deep-dive” topics in the near term. Sub-committees comprised of volunteers have each been assigned a topic, and they are: best practices, standards and regulations, translations, and writer training.

“The formation of these sub-committees shows the strong level of engagement by our committee members and their commitment to share best practices on a range of topics, driving our industry forward,” said CNH Industrial's Jill Wiggins, who serves as the committee's chair. “Considering the variety of participating companies in terms of both products and scale, it is remarkable how many challenges we have in common. The sub-committees provide our members with the opportunity to work together to tackle these issues head on.”

Best Practices

The Best Practices sub-committee is a developing group. Its objective is to identify solutions and tools for process improvement that members of the Technical Publication Committee can use within their companies. The sub-committee’s aim is to create a resource library made available to participants of the larger committee as a whole. The resource library would include tips and guides on common practices associated with technical publications, tools for project tracking, as well as internal collaboration.

“The Best Practices Sub-Committee provides insight and guidance on the technical documentation process and all the facets that are involved,” said Ken Cook Company's Molly Barndt. “The main committee has members from varying industries, so it is our goal to help determine which resources and documentation will support all of the members.” 

Standards and Regulations

As it relates to technical publications, standards and regulations refers to factors directly affecting their content, ranging from wording requirements to guidelines on creation of safety signs and symbols. Since not all members of the AEM Technical Publications Committee possess the same needs when it comes to which standards and regulations they need to monitor, the Standards and Regulations sub-committee is currently working on the creation of a survey to help gain a better understanding of the larger group’s needs and priorities.

Translations

Composed of AEM service member companies who specialize in translations – along with a few who are experienced in the translations process (so as to provide a real-world view for committee participants) – the Translations sub-committee has team has outlined key items an end-user could encounter when going through the translations cycle. Since such a topic encompasses a large volume of information, the sub-committee divided it into two sessions. The first session was a live WebEx presentation held in October of 2018, which was made available to members of the Technical Publications Committee. The session focused on preparing for translation services, which included setting up projects and suppliers, style guides, terminology and localization, as well as requirements by market or country. The second part of these sessions is currently in development, and it will include managing technical in-country review options, content types, sharing reviewer feedback, and post-project reviews (including metrics).

Writer Training

The sub-committee focused on writer training is engaged in the process of identifying guidelines technical publication departments can utilize to create job descriptions and qualifications when looking for new hires. The group is also classifying career levels and varying job titles that exist in the technical publications world, along with steps needed to develop one’s career over time. Small and large companies alike will benefit from the information gathered on this topic.

“Well-written technical manuals connect the groups responsible for developing products and the groups responsible for operating and maintaining them. With the inception of the Technical Publications Committee, AEM has pragmatically confirmed the value of technical manuals,” said Vermeer Corporation's Ron Groenenboom, an active participant in several of the sub-committees. “AEM members gain so much from working together, and now technical publications professionals have opportunities to share with each other, and learn from each other.” 

Sub-committee members will present their findings on these topics in the coming months, and they are scheduled to meet at the 2019 Product Safety and Compliance Seminar.

For more information on the Tech Publications Committee, contact AEM Publications Manager Valerie Lynch (vlynch@aem.org, tel: 414-298-4747).

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