The linking of information is an essential component of Smart Information. This involves linking information with the product, with usage scenarios and with other information. This enables the system to output information quickly, purposefully and user-specifically.
It must be ensured that the potentially increasing number of links is also controllable and maintainable. Together with our customers, we develop individual concepts for information networking on the basis of specially developed methods and ensure that the connectivity also meets future requirements.
Metadata structures as the key to connectivity
The key to connectivity is metadata, which is assigned to the individual content modules, the topics. The metadata describes what information is contained in a topic. We have had good experience with metadata structured hierarchically in tree structures (taxonomy). In practice, the PI classification method according to Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ziegler from the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences has proved particularly effective.
A module is classified using two hierarchical metadata trees:
the Product Class that states about which part of the product (machine, plant, software, etc.) the topic contains information
the Information Class that states what kind of information the module contains.
In many cases, these two coordinates can be used to classify the information sufficiently to achieve useful connectivity.
Carry metadata into the company
The introduction of classification systems such as PI classification already brings advantages in itself, because information can be better planned during the technical editorial process and is easier to find for the user.
In order for connectivity to have its actual effect, however, it makes sense to extend the classification to other areas as well. It makes sense to use the product class as a universal key. This makes it possible to display all the content that exists for a product component (for example, for an assembly or a software function) in a bundled form. For this purpose, the classification only has to be included in the leading design or development system. For example, all or only certain information about a component can be displayed by clicking on it in the 3D model.
The classification acts like invisible threads that ensure that puzzle pieces that belong together are found. The great advantage of the classification over the part number that is otherwise often used is that it finds the links even if they do not fit exactly.
In design, different numbers are usually assigned to components in different colours. However, the colour is irrelevant for information on the installation of the component. The link is always found via the classification, even if the same part was created in a new colour.
The classification thus saves the precise tracking of all design changes in the information space at this point.
The same applies to more general information, which is valid for many different design variants.
Classification thus makes it possible to link to the virtual twin of the product and thus bring the information to the user in an appropriate manner.
Connecting information systems
The information relevant for internal and external users often does not lie in a single generalised system, but in several systems specialised in their respective tasks. The operating instructions and service information can be found in the Content Management System, spare parts information in the ERP or a special spare parts catalogue system, product data in the PDM system and so on. In the usage scenario, the user naturally does not want to look up different systems depending on the type of information.
A uniform classification enables us to connect this information with each other and offer it via a viewer system in the sense of a "single point of information".
Alternatively, it is also possible to link different viewers, so that the user can jump back and forth between them and always have the appropriate information displayed immediately.
Thus the user always feels well informed and can concentrate on his or her current tasks.
Secure and sustainable operation of connected structures
There are three major challenges in introducing connectivity.
the conception of a supporting classification
the implementation of the classification in various systems
the classification of information units (for example, topics)
Experience has shown that the third challenge is the greatest, because during classification it is often found that content is not clearly separated and needs to be split or simply does not yet exist. The sheer volume of information units is also often a challenge.
Ultimately, processes must be set up to ensure that the metadata is assigned correctly. The correctness of these links determines how well automatic linking works in the user scenario. Here, too, you can fall back on our methods and experience.