Jake Memery

Jake Memery

Xignal S1000D Product Manager

What do you do if you’ve had a requirement from your customer to deliver S1000D documentation and don’t know where to start?

This is a fairly common situation.

In the aerospace and defence industry, the supply chain is vast, and lots of companies are not familiar with the S1000D specification.

Many companies only really start investigating S1000D once the contract has been awarded. At which point they start pondering the question “so what is S1000D?”, shortly followed by panic once they realise that they need tooling, training, data conversion and a lot of planning.

Of course, not all companies are unfamiliar with the specification, but it’s still possible that they don’t have the tools or knowhow to get up to speed quickly enough to meet their contracted deliverable dates.

So, what should you do?

Well, the answer is, it depends.

It depends on a number of factors, but for the sake of argument, we’ll assume that you fit into the above scenario, where you perhaps are new to the specification, don’t have knowledge, don’t have tools and don’t have data in S1000D already.

S1000D Planning Step 1: Speak to your customer

The reason you need to do this, is because it’s possible that the information that you’ve been given so far will not be sufficient to get started.

There are several things you need from your customer before you embark on your journey to produce and deliver S1000D data. These include:

  • The version of S1000D that you’ll be delivering. There are a number of different versions of S1000D, and you need to make sure you’re producing data in accordance with the correct version. If not, your customer is potentially going to have a problem and may not accept your data at all.
  • The project BREX (Business Rules Exchange). This file is an S1000D Data Module (DM) which contains computer readable rules which need to be followed during the data production process. Your (and your customer’s) software will do checks of your data against this file to ensure your data conforms to the rules within. Without this file – and software to check it against – you’ll probably end up with a lot of rejected data.
  • Style guide – traditionally this would come in the form of a document which contains information and guidance on how to produce your S1000D data. This will typically contain details which cannot be checked automatically, or just additional information pertaining to the checks in the BREX. This document can be very large and very daunting, but it’s important that you have it, and have somebody onboard who understands what is being asked for. Again, a lot of re-work can entail otherwise.

More information on these and the terminology can be found in our earlier Q&A article.

Once you have the above information, you’ll be in a pretty good place to start planning, so what’s next?

S1000D Planning Step 2: Draft your Data Module Requirement List (DMRL).

The DMRL is a list of all the DMs that you need to produce.

This is a vital part of your planning exercise. The DMRL can take the form of an Excel spreadsheet and will evolve over time as the planning moves forward. This list may partially be driven by wider Integrated Product Support activities (Logistic Support Analysis), where required maintenance activities are identified by LSA engineers, but it also contains your descriptive DMs, such as the top-level system descriptions etc.

The DMRL can get very long and run into hundreds or even thousands of DMs as the project progresses, depending on the size and complexity of the equipment you produce.

The DMRL will contain, at a bare minimum, the following pieces of information for each DM listed:

  • Data Module Code (DMC).
  • Data Module title (comprising Technical Name and Information Name).
  • Proposed document type (Procedural, Descriptive, Fault Isolation, Illustrated Parts Data, etc).

It’s important to mention that before you can even think about codifying your DMs – that is to assign DMCs – you’ll need to create your Standard Numbering System (SNS).

The SNS, put very simply, is your product breakdown structure. It can be more than this and doesn’t necessarily represent the physical product, but to keep things simple, just think of breaking down the product into a logical tree structure, starting with the top-level system, then breaking down into sub-systems right down to Line Replaceable Units (LRUs).

Fortunately, assuming you are working on a project where the end item is an aircraft, or a ship for example, then S1000D has standardised this and provides us with an SNS from which we can start. However, this only goes so far, and you’ll need to use this as a starting point to expand on for your specific equipment breakdown. The SNS provided does not go down to an LRU level for example, so you’ll need to codify that part yourself.

So, as part of this step, the order in fact, is SNS, then DMRL – since we need the first, in order to do the second.

Once you’ve drafted your DMRL, it’s advisable, and possibly even contractual, that you share it with your customer. It’s normal that the DMRL is exchanged and batted between you until an agreed baseline DMRL is established.

S1000D Planning Step 3: Use the right S1000D tools

Now that you have an agreed set of DMs that you need to write, the fun can begin!

It’s time to start creating S1000D data.

As a rule of thumb, these are the tools you’re going to need:

  • S1000D Common Source Database (CSDB) – this is your S1000D content management system which will hold and manage the DMs through their workflow and track revisions and issue numbers etc. Can you create S1000D data without one? You can (in fact we have a MS Word Add-in that enables you to create S1000D data in Word) but ultimately the resulting DM needs to be imported into and managed in an S1000D CSDB. Why? Well, in addition to managing your data, the CSDB will also ensure that your DMs conform to the BREX rules that we mentioned up above.
  • S1000D editor – You need a way in which you can write your S1000D DMs. Editors come in many forms, and if you’re new to XML or S1000D generally, most editing tools are not going offer much intuitive help as they are typically off-the-shelf XML editors configured to work with S1000D. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as a beginner, they are not going to make your life easy because they are so generic, not to mention full of XML tagging which can be distracting if you’re not familiar with it. Fortunately, we’ve produced an S1000D editor that makes producing S1000D data as easy as using MS Word. (Not convinced? See it in action here)
  • S1000D Publisher – It’s possible that you only need to deliver the raw S1000D data to your customer as part of your deliverable, but regardless, you’re going to want to see the output for review purposes, even if just to see the fruits of your labour in the context of a manual if nothing else. For this, you’ll need an S1000D publisher, which at the very least will generate a PDF manual for you, but if you wanted to get more exotic, there are more advanced Interactive Electronic Technical Publication (IETP) options available.
  • Illustration software – You’ll need to produce graphics, and depending on your requirements, you’ll possibly need those in a CGM format as opposed to PNG or JPG like you’re perhaps used to. The S1000D specification gives lots of detail about how to produce proper S1000D conformant graphics, and this could easily be an article of its own. But there are software tools out there which specialise in making these graphics really simple and enable you to reuse CAD data etc where it exists. Speak to us for more information on this.
  • S1000D Conversion tools – If you have existing data that you need to convert into S1000D, then unless you want to spend the next few years copying and pasting data out of Word and into XML, you’ll need some automation.

By now you’re probably thinking “this sounds expensive”, and you’d be right!

Traditionally, to go from zero to S1000D capable is not a low-cost exercise. The above tools tend to be priced separately and need a large army of IT personnel and IT infrastructure configured to support it all.

But that was before we came along, and fortunately for you, we think differently.

Our Xignal S1000D products can help with all the above, and they have all been designed with simplicity and affordability in mind.

We do not price everything separately, in fact the CSDB, editor and publisher all come in one affordable subscription price and are even available as a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering which means you can literally be up and running in a matter of a couple of hours.

The S1000D conversion tool is separate, but again, is priced to be affordable, the exact cost depending on the amount of data you need to convert. And what’s more, it’s just a simple Word Add-in, meaning it sits within Word itself with no additional software to install or learn.

In addition to the S1000D tools that we’ve built specifically to help get you up and running as fast and affordable as possible, we also offer S1000D training, where we delve into all of these topics in more depth and can even look at your specific projects and offer guidance on how to get up to speed.

S1000D Planning Step 4: When needed, ask the Experts

I hope the above isn’t too daunting.

If you are a newcomer to the S1000D spec, or you have a new S1000D requirement, or even just some questions, then please do reach out to us. We are here to help and make your journey as simple and smooth as possible.

If you have any questions on the above or would like a demo of our awesome S1000D tools, get in touch here or reach out to me, Jake Memery  via LinkedIn.

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