The annual tekom conference in Stuttgart is fast approaching. “Intelligent information” will be the key focus of the event – and for good reason, since everything that currently falls under the label of “Industry 4.0″ and “Information 4.0″ will completely revolutionise industrial and information processes alike.

As a developer of content management systems, this new commercial landscape has not caught us unprepared. For many years now, we have been offering functions and technologies to fill the very gaps in the market that have arisen from new types of self-controlled processes for content management.

Firstly, let us take a look at what lies behind the buzz word “Industry 4.0″ in terms of challenges for the production and distribution of information. After all, that is what interests us the most as an organisation responsible for technical information.

Industry 4.0 – a classic example

Internet of things, smart factory you will already have come across many of these phrases, which are currently in vogue in relation to Industry 4.0. But what do they actually mean? How can we visualise them? And what does that have to do with us from the perspective of technical writing and as an information provider?

I always like to try and explain new and unusual features using an example. In this case I am imagining a typical manufacturing company, for example one that makes engine blocks. A variety of different machines are used in the manufacturing process, including a milling centre, which produces threads in the engine block. A motor spindle is required to drive the milling cutter during the milling process.

Now let us look more closely at the motor spindle itself. It is equipped with a sensor to monitor the actual state of the individual component and which sends continuous status data to a central information and control system. There is nothing new about that – set-ups like this are standard nowadays.

But now it is not only the spindle, but all the other self-monitoring components as well that send status information about their own condition to the control system. And the control system is so intelligent that it uses all of the available information and interrelationships to independently make a decision about what to do based on the incoming variable data. This type of self-control is the truly innovative and special feature of Industry 4.0.

The highlight – self-control

Coming back to the spindle, what happens if the spindle constantly reports that it is operating within its temperature limits?

In the ideal smart factory, the device is calibrated in line with the maintenance data, which knows the error pattern and advises that the spindle is replaced within 48 hours, for example. This result is then considered in relation to the planned utilisation capacity of the machine and the availability of a spare part, allowing a time slot for the required maintenance work to be determined. Subsequently, a service engineer has an appointment added to their task management system. And when the replacement is actually being carried out, the service engineer has the precise information he needs at his fingertips on his tablet and on the control panel of the milling machine.

As we can see, all of this takes place without any human intervention: we have a truly self-controlling system.

Information 4.0 – what it means for you

The question now is where do we, as technical writers, systems manufacturers and the documentation sector as a whole, come into play? In my example I hid two of “our” contributions – the maintenance data and the spindle replacement instructions.

Of course they are already there today, but they usually exist as part of finalised, self-contained documents. For Information 4.0, it is now necessary for this information to be available as information units that can be linked as required and that can be managed and organised by the smart factory’s central control system.

So now let us look at the spindle replacement process again. To ensure that the service engineer carries out his task quickly and successfully, information needs to be compiled from different providers (the spindle manufacturer, the machine manufacturer, the plant’s maintenance manual). This information needs to work together, without it all being prepared at the same time and packaged together in one, rigid publication. The documentation effectively configures itself.

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At this point I would like to leave our little scenario. I think it clearly illustrates the changes associated with Industry 4.0 and it shows us what Information 4.0 means for us as an information provider:

  • the age of rigidly defined “documents” has definitely come to an end. From a technical writing perspective, information modules that are intelligently indexed by keyword and that indicate the context they relate to and their thematic content are needed. These information modules must be compatible with one another across different companies, as it is no longer possible to predict or regiment what kind of concrete information will need to be compiled. Or, to use those well-known buzz words again: we need intelligent information.
  • What’s more, self-controlling processes like these require new technologies to make the information available. If I am the spindle manufacturer from our example, how do I provide my documentation in the future? What infrastructure do I make available to my customers or their control system, which will be the first recipient of my information?

Solutions are on the way – and we’re playing an active role

If you have been following the big developments in the documentation sector over the past few years, you will be well aware of these next two points.

And actually, even without the “pressure” from Information 4.0, we – as a developer of component content management systems – have further developed the functions of SCHEMA ST4 to meet many of the demands of Information 4.0. For example, this includes the indexing of information modules using keywords (intelligent metadata, taxonomies), which ST4 masters in many variants.

I will be introducing you to the new project configurator in an upcoming blog. This will also help to addresses the demands of Information 4.0 on the automation of authoring processes.

Along with the Component Content Management System ST4, two years ago we launched another innovative solution: Content Delivery Server (CDS). CDS is our answer to the demand for the dynamic distribution and assembly of information.

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tekom-conference – exploit the opportunity

Are you coming to the annual tekom conference in Stuttgart? If you are, it will be a great opportunity to digest the requirements and opportunities “Information 4.0″ presents in your project and authoring world. How can we help you?

Firstly, you are cordially invited to visit us on our stand. A face-to-face meeting is often the best way to get to the heart of the matter, put forward suggestions and to plan the next concrete steps.

What is more, we will also be participating in two information events that will certainly be worth a visit. Both will address the iiRDS interchange standard (Intelligent Information Request Delivery Standard). This ensures that the indexing and content structure of information from different providers are compatible with each other, as described earlier.

Here are some important dates for your diary:

  • Wednesday, 9.45am, Plenum 2 (IN33): During this session you can learn about the basics of the iiRDS standard (Intelligent Information Request Delivery Standard). This standard has been developed by the tekom “Information 4.0″ working group, of which we are a member as a CMS developer.
  • Wednesday, 11.15am, Plenum 2 (IN34): The iiRDS is already in use now. You can see for yourself how systems from different technology providers exchange information in an “Industry 4.0″ scenario. We will show you how you can network the intelligent distribution components SCHEMA ST4 and SCHEMA CDS with other content management systems and content delivery platforms.