XML drives publishing software selection

About one year ago, executives at Freightliner Corp. decded they needed a better way to process, manage and ultimately, publish information about the company’s products and services.

After considering several vendors, the company turned to products provided by Reading, Mass.-based XyVision Enterprise Solutions Inc. (XyEnterprise), a developer of content management and publishing software.

Founded in 1942, Freightliner is a manufacturer and retailer of customized heavy-duty trucks in North America. The Portland, Ore.-based company is also making inroads into the medium- and light-duty truck market, said Donna Loper, the firm’s manager of corporate publishing.

Loper said she initiated a needs-analysis to determine how Freightliner was storing, managing and organizing information about its products. The analysis indicated that the system Freightliner was using was inefficient because it didn’t allow various departments to share and reuse data, she said.

It also didn’t allow the company to produce literature about its products that customers needed. After seeing the results, Loper developed her requirements for a new system.

Any new software system would have to allow separate business units within Freightliner to build a common technical database that would meet the needs of all divisions, she said.

The company’s most pressing need, though, was to provide its customers with up-to-date drivers’ and maintenance manuals in multiple media and languages, said William Nicholson, director of marketing strategy at Freightliner.

The way to do that, Loper said, was for Freightliner to adopt XML, a simple, flexible text format derived from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), and to re-engineer the company’s database to build a single technical database infrastructure. Although Freightliner was already using SGML – an international standard for information representation – Loper said it wasn’t using it to full advantage.

By migrating to XML, which was designed to meet the challenges of electronic publishing, Freightliner will be able to extract information from its SGML-enabled documents and publish that information in a variety of media.

Loper said the consultants hired to perform the needs assessment, from Isogen International Corp. in Dallas, narrowed the field of vendors that could provide software capable of meeting Freightliner’s requirements to two.

The consultants ultimately recommended the XyEnterprise Parlance Content Manager (PCM) and XyEnterprise Production Publisher (XPP) because both XyEnterprise and its technical support are based in the U.S., while the other vendor, STEP GmbH, is in Germany.

PCM is a compound document management system that enables companies to manage information as objects in a common database, share and reuse these objects in multiple documents and publish the same information in multiple formats. XPP is a composition and pagination system that automates the production of complex documents.

“Our initial estimates show the implementation of XyEnterprise’s industrial-strength composition system will allow us to reduce our print and distribution costs by approximately 30 per cent, which is a significant savings,” Loper said. She declined to say exactly how much money the company would save.

Alan Weintraub, an industry analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc., said Freightliner’s decision to adopt XyEnterprise’s software will give the company the tools to move from SGML – which he said is limiting in capacity – to XML architecture to extend its publishing capabilities.