1. Discussion

    As noted in Document Control Practices for Consumer Electronics and Appliance Companies in General, I maintain a library on the house server of manufacturer product documentation downloaded from manufacturer websites. I search for and download manufacturer product documentation when I acquire or procure new tools or equipment.

    I am almost never able to find the same revision of the document on the manufacturer website (herein "online revision") that was packaged with the tool or equipment (herein "packaged revision"). In general, online revisions are much earlier revisions than packaged revisions, and frequently the first revision. In most cases, the packaged revision is unavailable from the manufacturer.

    I identified two problems:

    • As a general rule, manufacturers do not make up-to-date product documentation available to consumers.
    • As a result, changes made by the manufacturer to packaged documentation are not available to consumers having access to online documentation only.

    Although I selected the NETGEAR GS105v3 as representative of the kinds of problems noted when attempting to replace the packaged revision of manufacturer product documentation with the online revision, this pattern is pervasive and NETGEAR is not unique.

    However, I would be misrepresenting the prevalence of these problems if I did not also document the reviews after which no deficiencies were noted.

  2. Analysis

    I purchased a Greenlee Textron, Inc. (herein "Greenlee") GT-12 Voltage Detector (herein "GT-12"). I downloaded the online revision of the Greenlee GT-12 "Instruction Manual" from the manufacturer website and compared it to the packaged revision. I concluded:

    • Greenlee made up-to-date documentation available to consumers.1
    • No differences between the packaged revision and the online revision were noted.
    • No errors or omissions were noted.

    Refer to Section References for a list of objective evidence supporting the results of this review.

  3. Results

    No deficiencies were noted.

  4. Conclusions

    Based on the results of reviews of manufacturer product documentation for other consumer electronics and appliances, the author concluded document control practices have not caught up with the need to maintain multiple revisions of documentation for multiple versions of products which may differ only in appearance or the presence of some minor feature, and that a more robust solution is needed, one which integrates production and publication of the online revisions of manufacturer product documentation with packaged revisions of the same documentation.

    The author concluded that for most companies this is a cultural change, one which requires they commit to making the distinction between online and packaged revisions of documentation irrelevant, and revising their internal practices to support the production and publication of both versions of manufacturer product documentation for their customers at the same time, and on an as-needed basis.

    See Document Control Practices for Consumer Electronics and Appliance Companies in General.

    The author considers the results of this review support these conclusions. However, a question remains: Why were the results of this review significantly different from the results of other reviews?

    The Greenlee GT-12 "Instruction Manual" stated: "Greenlee Textron Inc. is certified in accordance with ISO 9001 (2000) for our Quality Management Systems." and "An ISO 9001 Company".

    Based on the author's familiarity with ISO 9001, the author considers this evidence supporting an assertion that the impetus for the "cultural change" at Greenlee was, very broadly, implementation of a functioning Quality Management System (QMS) which required Greenlee to commit to good document control practices. Although Greenlee referred specifically to ISO 9001:2000, there is no evidence that Greenlee's document control practices were deficient prior to ISO 9001 certification, and the author does not assert this. Greenlee may have had a functioning QMS for many years prior to ISO 9001 certification.

    The author also asserts the intended use of the product, a voltage detector widely used to detect live circuits in the construction trades, may also provide incentive for hosting up-to-date documentation.

    As a result of this review, the author decided to determine the ISO 9001 or other QMS certification status for manufacturers of products previously reviewed, the NETGEAR GS105v3 and Krups F203, and manufacturer ISO 9001 or other QMS certification status in future reviews, for comparison.


Greenlee Textron, Inc., GT-12 Voltage Detector, Document Number 52045588, Revision 3, dated May 4, 2009 (file 52045588REV03.pdf, last accessed February 1, 2011)
Greenlee Textron, Inc., Non-Contact Self-Testing Voltage Detector,
http://www.mygreenlee.com/GreenleeDotCom/Products/main.shtml?greenlee_category_id=6&product_category=168&adodb_next_page=1&portalProcess_2=showGreenleeProductTemplate&upc_number=20947 (screen capture, dated February 2, 2011)


Although Greenlee made up-to-date documentation available to consumers, the revision of the Greenlee GT-12 "Instruction Manual" downloaded from the manufacturer website is Revision 3, implying at least two prior revisions. No other revisions are available from the manufacturer website. As a result, the author concluded owners of older versions of the Greenlee GT-12 may be unable to locate the online revision corresponding to the packaged revision. Because the author was unable to determine whether prior revisions were published or what changed between revisions, the author has not evaluated the potential impact of such changes and make no assertions about their impact.

Last updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2011

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