Why don't OEMs use more 3D in their after-sales content?

I’d like to take you down memory lane. Honestly, in 2022, I never thought I would be writing about this until I had a conversation with a learning and development professional last week that highlighted some of the problems holding back vehicle manufacturers from using 3D content in their after-sales content. Issues that project AFTR is working on solving.

My connection to this story started in 2015 when I transitioned from PowerPoint-based technical training to the more traditional eLearning delivery format of interactive modules and courses. We started building interactive eLearning modules in Adobe Captivate for training and uploading them to the company’s Learning Management System (LMS).

Creating technical illustrations came naturally for the content team since we all have a technical writing/technical content production background. We used Catia Composer to create drawings from engineering’s 3D models. We used these graphics for repair manuals, service bulletins, and instruction sheets delivered in PDF for technical writing.

However, the training department created drag and drop eLearning interactions to instruct technicians to put an assembly back together or perform a repair correctly. It suddenly took the content team a lot more time to go from 3D to 2D. The publishing process was far from streamlined. We wanted to create interactivity for the learners, but our tools made that problematic. Still, we took an interactive 3D model, spent a phenomenal amount of time turning it into a series of static 2D illustrations, and then added interactivity back into the project. To illustrate how bad it was, check out the tasks in that process.

I logged my first service ticket/feature request with the Adobe Captivate team: “Please add native support for 3D!”

Fast forward to 2022; things should be better, right? Wrong. The learning and development professional I had the pleasure of speaking to manages a team of content authors for automotive manufacturers. Frequently, these manufacturers are so big that each region operates in somewhat of a silo and has the freedom to contract out the required training to support their regional network. Check out the oversimplified diagram below to see what I mean.

The service provider highlighted that the regional divisions often ask for engaging 3D content in their training modules. Here’s the problem: when the service provider requests the regional office for the 3D files, the regional office doesn’t know who to ask back at the OEM head office. Furthermore, if they finally do find the right contact, the time it takes to get the necessary approvals in place makes it such that there is very little time left to create the training content. Finally, business agreements often dictate that the data be deleted once the project is delivered, making revisions or subsequent projects repeat the process.

The Solution?

We think the solution is a cloud-based 3D software platform, like a PLM for content creators, instead of engineers. This platform would allow OEMs to optimize their 3D files on-premises before synchronizing their digital twins to the cloud. Unlike sharing 3D files through a file share system, all 3D files would remain securely on the platform, not on the desktops of content creators.

The platform uses a rule-based pre-configured system to automatically remove all proprietary information while converting native CAD files to lightweight web-optimized files—no more human errors, complicated processes, one-offs, or “oops.”

Content authors could work with the 3D files on the platform to create their deliverables. We plan to start with 3D spare part catalogs, then move into 3D technical illustrations for training repair manuals. We suspect that next up would be eLearning or vehicle configurators, but we are looking for your input to help us decide.

Finally, here’s a preliminary dashboard screenshot that keeps all these projects and hubs organized.

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