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S1000D: The international specification for technical publications

Updated on June 22, 2015

Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Landing Dock (LHD)

Documentation for the LHD will be generated using the S1000D Specification
Documentation for the LHD will be generated using the S1000D Specification | Source

Supporting Technical Publications

In a world where newspapers and current affairs programs are dominated by wars and terrorism, it should come as no surprise to find Defence journals equally dominated by technological responses. Technology has always benefited from war. Many advances we now take for granted have come directly from weapons research; Radar, the Global Positioning System, many aspects of modern Medicine and even the Internet to just name a few. There are a large number of existing military procedures and more being introduced all the time. Industry and its military customers have become reliant on complex computer systems to support its technical publications.

Logistics is the Key

As any good soldier will tell you, you need more than modern weapons to win a war. Logistics is the key. The smart weapons of today require even smarter Technical Publications to support them. Increasingly, defence forces world-wide are introducing S1000D as the technical data standard for all future Defence major equipment acquisitions.

What is S1000D?

S1000D is an international specification for the procurement and production of technical publications. The current issue has been developed by the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) and the Aerospace Industries Association of America. These organisations form the Technical Publications Specification Maintenance Group (TPSMG) which is responsible for establishing standards for documentation agreed by the participating nations. From issue 2, the scope of the specification has been extended to include land and sea specific applications.

Data produced to S1000D is presented in modular form in Data Modules. A Data Module is defined as “a self contained unit of information” and each module is identified by the Data Module Code that permits the use of a database to store and manage the complete information set. All the technical publication information for a specific project is contained within a Common Source Data Base (CSDB).

Using the Data Module Code ensures that the data is not duplicated within the CSDB. Information that is used in more than one publication can be stored once as a single data module and used repeatedly. When a change is required, only the one Data Module needs to be altered; the change will appear throughout the output. Control of the data becomes paramount; it is the Data Module Code which gives the specification the ability to function.

Data Modules are produced in XML, an international standard mark-up language that describes how the data is to be formatted. It is designed to be device independent, allowing the user to utilise any system that is S1000D compliant. Data can therefore be shared more easily between organisations using S1000D. Data can be output as either an Interactive Electronic Technical Publication (IETP) or as a paper based product.

Because XML is an international standard, it can be read by many different systems. This allows S1000D to be non proprietary. That is, the specification is not promoting one particular system over another. Organisations wishing to take advantage of the specification can either shop around for a system that suits their particular circumstances and budget, or chose to develop a system themselves. As long as it is S1000D compliant, it will allow the transfer of data between participants.

Collaboration

Increased technology has come at a high price. Budgets for major Defence projects can run into billions of dollars and the risk is often more than one company or nation is prepared to take. The number of collaborative projects between industry and Defence and between nations is growing every year. A specification such as S1000D will enable partners to share their data with ease.

Interoperability

Interoperability is one of the main driving forces. Defence forces from different countries, working along side each other will need access to each others technical data for maintenance and repair of materiel. It is probably no coincidence that the United Kingdom and the United States of America are two of the major players in pushing for this standard to be introduced.

Products

Producing information in accordance with S1000D facilitates various levels of output functionality. The specification includes a functionality matrix which is intended to indicate possible capabilities for various types of typical technical data. As mentioned earlier, there are two types of output supported by this specification. Page oriented publications and Interactive Electronic Technical Publications (IETP). The first of these is a traditional paper output or screen presentation of technical data displayed on an electronic device in a linear or page oriented manner. The sequence of the data presentation is largely pre-defined by the author. Most of us are familiar with this approach. Examples include text books, car maintenance manuals and computer and software manuals. The IETP, on the other hand, is a relatively new form of documentation. Technical data is displayed in a non-traditional manner. There are high levels of interactivity between the data and the user. The sequence of presentation is dictated by the inputs of the user, external sources or events. What this means is that the user is able to decide what information is required and display only that. Non-linear data bases, if populated correctly, can also provide tremendous life cycle savings.

One thing to be decided is the final format of the Data Modules. S1000D includes rules within the specification and the Document Type Definitions (DTD). As you can imagine, with a specification as broad as this, these rules contain a certain amount of generalities and are open to interpretation. To remove the ambiguity, a set of business rules is defined to agree on the structure and use of the Data Modules and avoid confusion. There will be a hierarchy of Business Rules associated with S1000D. There will be rules which DMO apply globally to its contractors and there will be another set that is specific to the project in question. In some cases, there may be a need for a set to cover the UK and another for the US. These rules will dictate what a legal entity for inclusion in the data is and how it should be displayed. Business Rules must be agreed between Industry and DMO and recorded. This is a major undertaking in its own right.

Also to be determined is the type of output that DMO will require. The UK experience has shown that it is a relatively simple exercise to provide IETPs to Air and Sea applications but it has struggled to achieve the same results with land based equipment. Providing widely dispersed and some times rapidly moving vehicles and equipment with secure and reliable access to the Common Source Data Base is a very difficult exercise. Battlefield security of the data could become a major issue.

Making it work

One of the major obstacles for the implementation of S1000D is the natural resistance people have to change. There are four main reasons for resistance; cultural, social, economic and psychological. For S1000D to be a success, it will require the support of staff members at all levels. It is an involved process and will initially take a great deal of effort and commitment to put it in place. Managers will need to be aware of, and sympathetic to, the reluctance some workers will have to the move to new technology.

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