Advanced Technical Documentation System Helps Slash Cost and Time of Distributing Manuals
When Lockheed Martin Aeronautics won the contract to design and build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a multipurpose aircraft, it also acquired a major logistical challenge. The F-35 would be built for all three armed forces branches, as well as a number of allied countries. However, while each country and armed forces branch would share many common features on the multipurpose fighter, each would also modify minor features to fulfill its unique mission and requirements. The resulting changes had to be accounted for within the supporting technical data, while also maintaining a significant level of reuse of common aircraft data.
The company had extensive experience working with paper manuals used to support previous aircraft, and they were aware that distributing changes for these traditional manuals would be expensive and time consuming. Changes would have had to be faxed, e-mailed, or, more often than not, shipped to the respective bases for incorporation into existing paper manuals.
To streamline the creation and delivery process for the manuals, Lockheed Martin turned to Innodata Isogen to help them design and deploy the F-35 Virtually Integrated System for Technical Authoring. Innodata Isogen has extensive experience helping organizations deploy flexible technical data that not only achieves a high level of content reuse, but can be easily and safely distributed.
To achieve the level of reuse desired by the Joint Strike Fighter team, Innodata Isogen used a customized version of S1000D as a basis for their data structure. This allowed changes to be distributed as electronic modules, thus eliminating the logistical, and expensive headaches of paper-based distribution. To coincide with this new form of delivery, end users will now use laptops and personal digital devices to view technical data. This will not only eliminate the costly distribution of paper, but will also remove the security risk of having manuals filled with sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. These electronic devices require proper security clearance and passwords to access information.
As a first step, the Innodata Isogen team implemented a ContentManagement System (CMS) to manage the structured documents. This CMS allows for collaborative data creation among work groups. To complement the new system, Innodata Isogen next deployed a Digital Asset Manager (DAM) to handle the large volume of graphics, videos and training materials.
The team then created a link management application that enables authors to easily create cross-references between modules, graphics and training materials. The link management tool also monitors links and their references to ensure validity. Much like technical data, illustrations are created in a modular fashion. This enables users to reference only the parts of an illustration that are needed.
Innodata Isogen also developed a means of handling effectivity and applicability in order to account for each Fighter variation. This allows for maximum reuse of content and for complex rules to be defined when distributing configuration-specific data.
A workflow application was integrated, and processes were defined, for each document type in order to determine how content was created, authored, reviewed and delivered. Whenever possible, the Innodata Isogen team automated workflow to reduce the need for manual intervention.
By bundling these components together and making them transparent to users, the F-35 VISTA enables authors and engineers to create data, incorporate links, make editorial changes and publish within a single set of interfaces.
This effort by the Joint Strike Fighter team and Innodata Isogen significantly raised the bar in delivering maintenance data as quickly and securely as needed. In addition, electronic distribution has eliminated the vast time, expense and resources involved in printing paper manuals. With its interactive links, the electronic manual can be updated easily and accurately, making it both more comprehensive, as well as easier to use, as updates are developed for core programs.