With TopicPilot and COSIMA from DOCUFY, Siemens Mobility overcomes one of the most difficult challenges in technical documentation: users always find the right information in the right place at the right time, even if the database comprises thousands of pages.

“TopicPilot is a powerful search machine for company content. It is like our very own Google for our product documentation.”

Matthew Horner, project manager at Siemens Mobility Locomotives

Siemens Mobility

Siemens Mobility is an independent company belonging to Siemens AG that has been a leading provider of transport solutions for more than 160 years. Its core business centres on rail vehicles, railway automation and electrification solutions, turnkey railway systems and associated services. Digitalisation means that Siemens Mobility can now give mobility providers the world over the chance to create smart railway infrastructure, secure long-term added value across product life cycles, enhance passenger comfort and guarantee availability. In financial year 2021, Siemens Mobility generated revenue of EUR 9.2 billion with a global workforce of some 39,500 employees.

Image: Siemens Mobility

Siemens Mobility Locomotives and the DOCUFY Suite

In 2014, Siemens Mobility Locomotives implemented DOCUFY’s COSIMA content management software to allow its extensive technical documentation to be published practically at the touch of a button. Now Siemens has levelled up the documentation for its Vectron locomotives with the help of DOCUFY TopicPilot: The new Vectron Advanced Service Documentation (VASD) is cloud-based interactive documentation available on PC, tablet or smartphone and supplements the existing HTML and PDF documents.

VASD is a system that allows customers to search for content quickly and easily, apply filters and even put together a list of the tools necessary for a particular maintenance job. Before the introduction of VASD, the documentation for the 30 different models of Vectron locomotives was prepared with COSIMA and then delivered to over 60 customers as an offline HTML package containing embedded PDFs. The documentation covered each specific Vectron model and was not tailored to each customer. Updates were applied twice a year, but with documents for each Vectron model spanning up to 10,000 pages and translations provided for 18 different languages, it was an almost Herculean task. The portable document format (PDF) structure also imposed a number of restrictions on content use. Employees could only search for certain information in the file that they had open at the time. There were no content filters, and PDF files are not optimised for display on mobile devices. Finding the information required for the task at hand could be a time-consuming process. Distributing the documentation to customers was also relatively laborious, as large packages had to be transferred manually.

In project manager Matthew Horner’s eyes, VASD now offers Siemens its very own Google for Vectron documentation. Using the online documentation system offers locomotive customers the following advantages:

  • Full-text search to look up content in all languages
  • Filters allowing customers to limit their searches to specific categories such as maintenance measures
  • Quickly set up maintenance intervals, components, task areas, etc.
  • Reveal lists of relevant safety information, tools, spare parts, etc. for locomotives
  • Automatic updates so that the latest versions of the documentation are always available
  • Change histories
  • Universal access from all end devices, both online and offline
  • Collections of key content able to be synchronised across all devices
  • Standard interface to provide access to targeted VASD content from other applications

“In the past we have always had to assume a high level of knowledge and organisation among our customers when it comes to documentation.”

Tobias Zieringer, Head of Documentation Locomotives at Siemens.

Image: Siemens Mobility

The locomotives documentation team headed up by Matthew Horner set up VASD to make the volume of information more manageable for customers. One of the main aims of the system was that the new solution featured all the relevant functions of a modern online documentation system. The platform for the new VASD system was already available in the shape of the DOCUFY’s COSIMA content management system. With DOCUFY TopicPilot, the new solution was built on these solid foundations, bringing the original vision to life. Whether the database contains a thousand entries or a million, the right information can always be found at the right time and at the right place.

DOCUFY TopicPilot consists of server software, a web application and native apps (iOS, Android) that display information on mobile devices and online in accordance with the context of the query and the role of the person searching for the information. Using TopicPilot to find specific information away from rigid document structures is a particularly important feature in Siemens’ case – no wonder, really, with each document containing many thousands of pages. Many other areas of Siemens can also enjoy the benefits of the intelligent content management: marketing, sales, assembly, commissioning, operations, maintenance, support and waste disposal – TopicPilot provides optimal, low-cost support in all relevant company processes.

“Googling” for information with the powerful full-text search

If you ask Tobias Zieringer, the powerful full-text search function is the stand-out feature of the VASD system. It makes searching through multiple PDFs for the required information a thing of the past, and turns VASD into Siemens’ very own Google for Vectron documentation. The ability to apply intelligent filters to find particular categories of information, and display documentation change history, are two other features that Zieringer believes are particularly beneficial for customers.

Source of reference for the service and maintenance department

VASD is extremely versatile and can be used in many different ways, but there are two main user groups who will benefit most from the system’s simplified user interface. Service is one, with VASD simplifying day-to-day tasks for maintenance teams considerably. They can navigate through maintenance documentation much more quickly and have a better idea of which maintenance tasks have to be performed at each maintenance interval. Train drivers are the second main user group. They have all the relevant manuals at the tips of their fingers and can access the information they need to operate the locomotive, for example what to watch out for when crossing into another country’s rail infrastructure or what to do when error messages appear.

Customers can also use this information as a source for their own maintenance management systems. With VASD, Siemens is gaining an edge on its competitors and setting a new benchmark when it comes to locomotive documentation, allowing customers to cut maintenance times and costs and enhance servicing quality.