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  1. #21
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    When I was a project manager many years ago at a software company we had an outside company we would pay to regionalize our software into the languages of our choice. Unfortunately they didn't translate it in finished form. They would give us charts of English words in our software with the corresponding words in the language we were trying to convert it to. My guess was it probably came out very weird in some cases.

    I am very used to almost cryptic documentation from the far East. People get a kick out of reading the warning stickers on my Korean Doosan and Hyundai CNC machines.

    One that surprised me was my Haimer 3D Taster. I expect better from Germans and also enough people speak both I was not expecting the little pamphlet that comes with them to be so vocabularily labored. It was kind of amusing but made following the instructions very annoying. Expected better for a not inexpensive tool from a very large German company.

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    Who needs a manual anyway?
    fusker

  3. #23
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    Writing manuals is EXPENSIVE, especially technical manuals. The company I worked for purchased upwards of 60 highly sophisticated production machines from an American company based in Chicago. As the machines got older they started to show wear and couldn't be run at their design speed. We contacted the vendor asking for a service/rebuild manual so that our inhouse technicians could refurbish/rebuild the machines. The reply was that no such manual was available and the machines needed to be sent back to the factory for reconditioning.

    Our company wasn't about to do that. We had previously partnered with this company on a project only to find they had attempted to copy and sell many of the machines our inhouse engineering department had developed as part of the project. Since our engineering department had also spent years of time and tons of money making improvements on the machines that needed to be rebuilt we didn't want the original manufacturer copying what we had done and incorporating it into their next generation of machines.

    At that time our entire staff was working on "priority" projects so we tried to hire an outside company that specializes in writing technical manuals. This company spent the better part of a year with 2 of our best technicians trying to write a suitable rebuild manual. In that time they sent us at least half a dozen drafts that were no where near acceptable. They totally skipped over critical technical specifications and ignored complete sections of the machines. We finally had to pull the plug and end the contract. Even though we had nothing more than poorly written and incomplete drafts it cost our company nearly $100,000.00.

    As luck would have it myself and another Engineer drew the short straws and were assigned to write a rebuild manual. Long story short it took the two of us along with the two technicians another year to complete the manual and verify its completeness and accuracy. To this end our team set up an independent shop to rebuild the machines. We invited 2 technicians at a time from several production facilities to attend a 2 week session to rebuild a machine from their facility. All machines were rebuilt in accordance with the procedures outlined in the newly created manual, and with guidance from the technicians on our team. It took another couple months to refine and update the manual before it was finally released for publication.

    I would guess the final cost of creating this technical manual was somewhere in the $1,000,000.00 range. It took 4 people full time over a year, establishing a shop with all the necessary tooling, and paying 8 technicians salaries, room, board, and transportation during the verification period. Not many companies are willing or able to dedicate those types of resources to create adequate and accurate documentation.

  4. #24
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    Documentation is hard to do. One of the earliest things we all learned was how to tie our shoelaces... now write a complete description of how to do that. It is even more difficult without clear diagrams/pictures. Even a video of how to do it is not easy. Once you have that done try doing it in a foreign language (even one you know well enough to converse in.) There are several good examples of excellent technical manuals from the past and present Heathkit, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Tektronix, almost anything from Bentley Publishers.

    A large chunk of my work as an Engineering-Physics lab director was translating technical manuals and lab manuals from some sort of English to English students and professors could understand. I was paid well enough for it but it also requires a very broad technical knowledge of how stuff works and how to get clueless people to understand how it works. There is the additional problem that there may be something obvious to me but is a complete mystery to the reader. It is difficult to proofread your own work.

  5. #25
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    IMHO its not the chinglish manuals that fuck me of the most, but the manuals written by whoever designed - wrote the machine controls. Sure they may know them to the n'th detail, but they end up missing so much basic stuff it takes bloody ages to make head nor tail of it. All the more so if its all acronyms not simply what the bloody buttons on the machine says!

    I do second that about the Chinese too, they know me, they have a account for me so why the fuck do they not send me advertising in £ sterling. equally why are the translations so piss poor and never clearly translated by anyone with any actual technical knowledge.

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  7. #26
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    Somewhere, I've got a copy of a Sears Craftsman ad from the Nineties that touts a wrench that engages "all four sides of a hex bolt."

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  9. #27
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    Jaxian wrote: "...to be so vocabularily labored."

    Heh. I see what you did there.

  10. #28
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    Operators manuals are written by people who know how to use the machine for other people who know how to use the machine

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    Quote Originally Posted by swellwelder View Post
    Operators manuals are written by people who know how to use the machine for other people who know how to use the machine
    This is one of the main pitfalls encountered when attempting to write a technical manual. First you have to learn the capabilities of the machine, then how to operate the machine then, how to recognize when the machine isn't performing properly, then how to diagnose the problem, and finally how to correct the problem.

    Once you have mastered all these parameters diagnosing a problem and fixing it seems almost second nature. You quickly forget how much time and effort it took to get to the point where you could quickly recognize, diagnose, and repair a problem. You start to make the assumption it's so simple anyone could do it. That might be true of those having the same level of experience, but is an unrealistic expectation for anyone new to the machine.

    Most instruction manuals are written by people with an intimate knowledge of the subject or machine. As such they often pass over basic fundamentals. One example comes to mind. Most manuals start with a paragraph instructing the technician to have the machine running and in the production mode before attempting to diagnose a problem. That's fine if it's a simple matter of turning a switch to start the machine, and that switch is properly identified. However in many cases starting the machine is a multi step process that requires each step to be done in the proper order. If those steps aren't identified, and listed in the proper order there's a good chance the machine will either not start or not start properly, and in fact could be damaged.

    Often times I would ask my wife to assist me when writing a manual. In most cases she would have no previous knowledge of the machine. Fortunately she is quite methodical and extremely good at following written instructions to the letter. This is a perfect situation to determine if the instructions do in fact include all the steps in the proper order necessary to accomplish the task. There have been a number of times when her assistance was invaluable. More than once I found myself leaving out information that was "obvious" to someone familiar with the machine, but critical to someone new to the machine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swellwelder View Post
    Operators manuals are written by people who know how to use the machine for other people who know how to use the machine
    Not in my world! As a technical author I more than once was presented with a pack of 2-D drawings for a machine that hadn't yet been built. My job was to write operating instructions, self-test diagnostics, and disassembly/reassembly instructions for repairs. If I was lucky I could see a space model of the case and spend a morning with one of the designers. On one occasion I had to go back to the designer and tell him, as diplomatically as I could, that his design was impossible to operate. It didn't go down well.

    George

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    My friend called up the company to complain about the lousy owners manual for a camera. The owner of the company asked him sarcastically if he thought he could do better. My friend answered yes. The owner gave him the job. He ended up writing the manual.

  14. #32
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    Well :-) Re the folowing quote:
    I feel your pain sometimes with manuals but it is difficult to make a manual where everyone understands it with out any issues.
    I think a large part of the problem may be attributed to the variations in what anything in the particular field involved is is called by people. Even in this "metalworking" group of supposedly intelligent people it's common to hear widely different names for the same item . Often in spite of there being a well known standard name ie. for instance in the "Machinery's Handbook". So The first thing (in my opinion) is to "try' and educate those that are either too stubborn or lazy to adopt the conventions and terminology of the "standards". :-)
    ...lewie...

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    Fluent in each field of the trades and types of machining..Some times mill hands don't understand grinder language.

  16. #34
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    Do you think we should move more toward video based manuals? In keeping with the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps that would help in bridging the language/translation problem. I know U tube has helped me out a lot on fixing some things. I personally work better from a set of prints then a monitor but if the drawings and schematics are made in a printable form then that would solve that problem. Some people seem to work better in a visual world.

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    You at your machine are in one world,they in their cocoon are in another.
    When my broadband goes down (regularly) I 'phone to complain and the first thing I am told is "go to our website". They are English speaking to me from another planet coincidentally named England.
    What chance do you have with another language?

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    The presses I work on cost from 4-6 million,and while the latest manuals are getting better they are sometimes hard to decipher.
    I think the problem is they are translated by German,Swiss or French native speakers into English.They learned their English in their native lands. It would be like me learning French or Spanish in high school and trying to translate an American English manual into their language.

    What they should do after they make their final draft present it a native speaker of the language to proof read before final release.

    Had one problem with a timing issue.The trouble code called for an "overshot" sheet.Should have said retarded timing or undetected in English it would have made more sense to me.

    I normally have to figure out how the SOB is supposed to work and then read the manual to see if the facts match the theory.
    Sometimes I do like my wife ,if the facts don't match the theory I throw out the facts.

    When I started in this business the manufacturers would not supply repair/service manuals(not to be confused with operator and pm manuals).Only the mfg tech's that had been with the companys for many years had them(Europeans), the American techs would have to have pages faxed to them for what ever they were working on.I always made duplicates and eventually made our own manuals.The old Planeta presses didn't have English prints.Getting called in at night to trouble shoot electrical problems was always a pia.

    "Cheap equipment", in this case has nothing to do with it.


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