Tech Pubs in the Digital Thread – Redefining Reuse

By Trish Laedtke

Stop researching product data for tech pubs. Use it as content, directly from the digital thread. This is a paradigm changer for technical authors, and is providing more accurate and effective product documentation, from parts catalogs to operations manuals.

If you’re not familiar with the digital thread, it’s the connected data flow and integrated view of the product data throughout its lifecycle across traditionally siloed functional engineering disciplines. Originally an aerospace concept, it’s now being implemented across industries, and is often talked about as part of design, manufacturing planning, production, and service execution. We’re extending that to include tech pubs authors and illustrators.


Check out this Society for Technical Communication webinar “Moving beyond Content Management Reuse and Applicability” for more info and a demonstration of how we’re changing the way tech authors and illustrators create and update product documentation.  


(view in My Videos)


I’m not just talking about giving authors and illustrators access to the data digitally. We know that access to engineering and product data can reduce research time exponentially (see my earlier blog on Efficient and Effective Technical Publications). Technical writers in manufacturing – who document everything from toasters to airplanes – spend the bulk of their time researching product design, and rewriting to stay current with their product configurations. In many industries, those tasks account for 50% or more of a technical writer’s time.

I’m talking about using engineering digital data directly in documentation – taking JT and CAD formats and the PIM data available in the thread and converting it on the fly to create content. And not just 2D and 3D illustrations, but also the text in part catalogs, procedural steps in operations manuals and service bulletins, and assembly and disassembly information in training exercises. And – more importantly – updating that content as product designs change or products are serviced to stay current with the product configuration.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at