Technical documentation - standards, laws, guidelines - what has to go in?

What does it mean to prepare technical documentation, which standards, laws and guidelines must be observed? In today's article you will learn more...

Anyone who is confronted with the term "technical documentation" will probably first think of a technical drawing or operating instructions. In fact, there is much more behind this expression. Which documents belong in a complete technical documentation? What different forms of technical documentation are there and which laws, standards and guidelines must be observed in each case? We would like to answer these and other questions about the technical documentation in this article.

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Why is technical documentation needed?

First of all, this documentation serves as an information basis for various target groups that come into contact with the product. In addition to the customers, these target groups also include the manufacturer's employees and, depending on the product in question, also sales intermediaries or service providers for assembly and repair. The information therefore not only relates to the product itself, but also to proper handling over the entire life cycle of the product. This includes the development, manufacture, delivery, use, maintenance and disposal of the product including all its components.


Motivation for the manufacturer

Technical documentation is of great importance for the product manufacturer, since complete documentation can protect against risks relating to statutory product liability. In addition, with good technical documentation, the manufacturer can also ensure that the user can use the full range of functions of the product and that error-free use is ensured. The latter leads to a lower number of complaints, so that the manufacturer incurs fewer costs.


Which variants of the technical documentation are differentiated?

The Association of German Engineers (VDI) provides the guideline VDI 4500 sheet 1 with the title "Technical documentation - definition of terms and legal bases". Two categories are defined in this guideline: the internal technical documentation and the external technical documentation.


What is the internal technical documentation?

This term summarizes all product-related documents that are created and stored within the manufacturing company. The manufacturer thus also fulfills his/her obligation to prove that he/she has observed the applicable specifications and laws. Since the internal technical documentation typically contains the relevant information from the product development process, its creation is usually the responsibility of the development department. In addition to technical drawings and production documents, the internal documentation also includes specifications and specifications, risk assessments, test reports, documents for the computational design and quality management measures.


What is the external technical documentation?

The external technical documentation contains all product information that is important for the user, not only for the actual use, but also for installation, commissioning and maintenance, depending on the product and disposal. Important documents of the external technical documentation are the assembly and operating instructions, support information, spare parts catalogs and information on disposal.


Legal basis and standards for technical documentation

At the European level, it is, among other things, the "Directive 2001/95/EG on general product safety" that requires technical documentation from the manufacturer. This directive is implemented in Germany via the Product Safety Act ProdSG. The aim of these regulations is that all products in the European internal market should be safe for the consumer. If this is not the case, the manufacturer must be liable for any damage caused, particularly in the case of defective technical documentation (Product Liability Act). ;We based VDI Guideline 4500 on the standards DIN EN 82079 (creating instructions for use), DIN EN 61355 (classification and identification of documents) and DIN 199 (technical product documentation).



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