What Does a Documentation Engineer Do?

M. Kayo

Documentation engineers can do a lot of different things, but in general their primary job is to write and coordinate all of the documentation needed for a specific project. The work usually involves a lot more than simple filing and paperwork, though; the “engineering” part of the title signifies that this person is responsible for designing a system in which all of the documentation, filing, and required documents work together to efficiently and completely meet the larger organization’s goals. This can involve things like working closely with various departments to make sure that technical information about a product is recorded clearly and accurately, and may also include things like the preparation of schedules, contracts, and marketing materials. These sorts of engineers work in many different areas of industry including aerospace, manufacturing, and computer software, and the job can look a bit different in different industries. No matter the context, thought, it is usually important that a document engineer have a good working knowledge of the products he or she is documenting, and education in a related field, such as engineering or computer science, is often required.

A documentation engineer prepares, completes and manages all paperwork necessary for a project.
A documentation engineer prepares, completes and manages all paperwork necessary for a project.

Basic Job Concept

Most companies and businesses today have a lot of paper-based files, and keeping them organized and precise often takes a lot of work. Accuracy in filing and record-keeping is an important part of any project, and a documentation engineer may help design and implement systems for keeping this information available and up-to-date, for both internal users and external customers.

Documentation engineers work in many different areas of industry, including aerospace and manufacturing.
Documentation engineers work in many different areas of industry, including aerospace and manufacturing.

Some internal paperwork can be handled by administrators and secretaries, but these support staff are usually working within an already-set framework of best practices and filing protocols. In most cases, document engineers are the people who devise these overarching structures in the first place. Sometimes engineers work full time for companies, as is often the case with large multinational corporations. Other times they’re hired on a contract basis, usually to set up a working system and to train employees on its use. Engineers doing this sort of work are often employed by large firms or consulting businesses.

Main Responsibilities

The application of specific engineering knowledge combined with experience in a particular industry allows the document engineer to perform the many different duties required in this job. The main responsibilities include coordinating all paperwork and other materials related to project documentation. These documents include engineering drawings, product specifications and modifications, and production schedules. The engineer may also be required to review all the details of the design and manufacturing process to determine what type of documentation may be required for various phases of a project.

Contract Review and Modification

Contract review and modification may also be a part of this person's core duties. As a particular project is initiated, government regulations may require that specific processes or methods are recorded or documented along the way. For example, a company that makes fuel tanks for a spacecraft may be required to provide documentation of the materials, manufacturing processes, and inspection procedures used in production. This documentation allows technicians and engineers both to backtrack and find problems in the design or manufacturing processes in the event a tank fails to perform at specified levels. The engineer reviews the contract details and makes any necessary modifications to ensure that the design and manufacture of an item meets the requirements specified in the contract.

Importance of Communication Skills

This job typically involves working with people in various disciplines, as well as customers in some cases, so good communication skills are key. In many cases, very complex systems must be explained in clear and concise ways. The job may involve maintaining the documentation for how-to guides, release notes, installation guides, as well as more technical documentation, depending on the industry. It is more and more common for this documentation to be kept in an electronic format, so familiarity with such systems is usually also important.

Required Education and Training

Most employers require that documentation engineers have a bachelor's degree in the engineering discipline most relevant to a particular industry. For example, a company that runs an extensive manufacturing operation will likely require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, while a company that produces computer software will probably prefer a degree in computer science or software engineering. Those who want to move into upper management positions may also have a master's degree in business or management. Documentation engineers typically have an extensive knowledge of the engineering and technology used to design and create the equipment necessary for various processes.

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