J. Lynn1, R. Thomson2

1Glasgow Caledonian University (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Thales Optronics Glasgow (UNITED KINGDOM)
Over the past four years, an industrial partnership between an engineering manufacturing company (Thales Optronics , Glasgow, UK) and staff within a university engineering school (Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK) has produced research and practical outcomes in the area on multimedia conversion of technical documentation systems. The genesis of this relationship was founded within doctoral work into the crossover of design and media production skills normally associated with multimedia and web based publishing, with the increasing need for engineering companies to address issues arising from the production and use of paper based project documentation / client support. This research dialogue has inevitably required an understanding of the mindset and cultural behaviors within manufacturing industry, and the design processes engineers are taught and apply, as well as the internal organisation of a large scale (global) manufacturing company. The focus in the early portion of the research and development phase has been into areas such as interface design, user centered design and effective communication of knowledge and navigation of the same. An example of this was the production of a diagnostic tool for submarine personnel based on one of two periscope systems. The end users working environment in terms of physical space, access to paper based documentation, operational pressures and stress levels, largely dictated the design of the new system which was contained within a typical PC laptop device. However a second, and equally critical component of the design of the digital documentation system, was encountered when investigating the potential shortfalls of converting existing paper based knowledge, and that of "time acquired" expertise in the subject field. The physical documentation produced by the company is and has to be very accurate and maintained on an ongoing basis. This methodology is firmly fixed within a documentation / technical authorship mindset, and as such may bypass vital knowledge gained within field support, which by its nature does not enter the documentation chain. This knowledge usually resides with senior staff who may connect multiple historical manufacturing projects and solutions to problems, by virtue of their experience and collective knowledge. The issue which this paper explores is the dual processes of using rich interactive and audio/ visual multimedia to create effective engineering documentation for the client / end user, and the use of the same media to train new engineering students to think about problem solving, The present generation of university students are experiencing a revolution in information access and the growth of sophisticated mobile communication technologies. Combining necessary core engineering skills and knowledge, with how to communicate information to the end user using different approaches, will it is suggested by the authors, produce the next generation of effective engineers.