Traditionally, service technicians in the field have had to use paper manuals that often run thousands of pages and cover hundreds of different product variants. Finding the section they need require thumbing through many pages, and even when they find what they are looking for there’s a good chance the instructions and related parts will be outdated due to a recent design change yet to make it through the supply chain.
Furthermore, the flat 2D drawings in a manual are often difficult to understand because the technician is viewing the part in an entirely different orientation than the 2D drawing. This and other limitations of 2D drawings mean that technicians usually have to rely mostly on explanatory text.
As a result, original equipment manufacturers have to spend a considerable amount of time and money writing elaborate textual descriptions and then translating these descriptions into the many different languages that are used by service technicians around the world. The cost of authoring, when added to the cost of printing and distributing, drives up the OEM’s costs.
If the service technician is working on a version of the product released after the manual was written, or if the product design has changed, then the technician will have to try to reach someone that is familiar with the new version or take a guess.
Another problem with existing manuals is that the limitations of 2D drawings and the fact that the manuals quickly become outdated results in frequent incorrect spare-parts orders. Inventorying and shipping incorrect parts constitutes a large and growing expense for many OEMs.
Interactive service manuals linked to enterprise
Creo Illustrate provides OEMs with the ability to create interactive service manuals that can be viewed by service technicians on a laptop, tablet computer or smartphone. There are a few other 3D illustration tools on the market but they are primarily point solutions that are not connected to enterprise design information. Creo Illustrate, on the other hand, is associatively linked to original CAD files on the Windchill server or on a local disk to automate the 3D illustration change process whenever the engineering design is modified.
OEMs today typically update their service manuals once or twice a year. With Creo Illustrate, updates can be carried out as often as the design changes.
The technician can call up a model that covers the exact product variant that he or she is working on without any extraneous information. All of the latest engineering changes are included.
Instead of thumbing through the manual looking for a familiar 2D illustration, service technicians can call up a 3D image of the product and pan, rotate and zoom to the right assembly. Rather than being limited to the specific 2D views provided in a paper manual, service technicians can view the product from any angle, with the parts they want to see shown and others hidden, at whatever scale they wish.
3D animations show assembly and disassembly
With Creo Illustrate, OEMs can go far beyond the capabilities of a paper manual by creating 3D animations that show, for example, how an assembly is disassembled and reassembled. Animations and interactive 3D drawings usually eliminate the need for most of the text in the document, which substantially reduces authoring and translation expenses. Service technicians typically have a much easier time in understanding animations than a textual description.
Interactive service manuals produced with Creo Illustrate can also substantially improve the part ordering process. Technicians will have no difficulty finding the right part because they can navigate through a 3D model and view the part in the same orientation as the real-world part to make sure it’s a match. The continually updated nature of interactive service manuals also contributes to accurate part orders. The manual can be designed so that service technicians can order a new part simply by clicking on the part they need. This improves ordering accuracy by avoiding a situation where the technician transposes a number when typing the part order into a computer.
Creo Illustrate also makes it easy to adapt the design information to meet the special requirements of the service technician. Manual authors can easily create a service bill of materials (BoM) that is different from the design BoM. For example, the alternator in the design BoM may be made up of hundreds of components. But to make it easier to order a complete alternator, the manual author can reduce it to a single component. The author can also add components such as tools, glues, or lubricants that are used and ordered by technicians but are not included in the design documents.
Creo Illustrate provides revolutionary improvements throughout the service portion of the product lifecycle. The cost of producing manuals is reduced because 3D models and illustrations reduce the need for text and translations. Even more important, giving technicians access to an interactive 3D manual that is always current enables them to keep the product performing better than before, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.