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The long-awaited mainstreaming of S1000D for civil aviation

Calendar March 13, 2018 | User Charles S. Cunningham

The long-awaited mainstreaming of S1000D for civil aviation

The S1000D specification has taken a long time to see wide-scale adoption in commercial aviation.  Since its emergence in European defense in the 1990s, S1000D has had a slow build outside of military applications.   For more than a decade, the adoption of S1000D in the commercial space was a “coming soon” phenomenon – widely predicted, but only slowly manifesting.

Today, however, it appears that mainstream for S1000D appears to have finally arrived.  S1000D has finally achieved a strong presence within civil aviation space.  With virtually all new and refreshed programs (including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350, the Bombardier C-Series, the COMAC C919, and the Boeing 777x) adopting the S1000D specification, and virtually all programs on the drawing board doing the same, it appears finally to be the de facto standard for all non-legacy programs.

However, the road to S1000D has not been a smooth one, for either OEMs or operators.  More than two decades since its inception, many still struggle with the complexities of this specification, which promised improvements for end-consumers — albeit at the expense of greater back-office investment.  As S1000D matures to become the dominant specification for content exchange in aviation, defense, and potentially other large asset industries like rail, marine, and energy, it has become increasingly important to find ways to “tame” this complex specification so that it is usable not just by big players, but by the entire large asset manufacturing and operations ecosystem.

A few of the ways to make S1000D work better for manufacturers and operators include:

  • Focus on meeting the needs of content end-users to ensure that back-office investment in content migration/conversion, authoring, and S1000D CSBD solutions are fully reflected in improved user experience via interactive S1000D IETMs. This may seem a given for airlines, but OEMs have long spent more time focusing on the complexities of content creation and too little on content consumption at a cost to customer-facing innovation.
  • Don’t use a “one size fits all” for legacy content created for non-S1000D programs. Focusing all of your content into one spec, one system, one consistent format is an understandable impulse.  Before doing so, you must ensure the ROI is there.  Legacy programs or fleets that have just a few more years of life and sparse funding often won’t benefit from the investment, and the change may not add much to the end-user experience.
  • Implement meaningful S1000D training for authors on the opportunities of component content reuse and proper usage of the S1000D specification (including S1000D BREX business rules). Publishing in iSpec 2200 was by no means simple, but creating content that is modular, reusable, and that utilizes the applicability model of the S1000D specification requires specialized S1000D training, especially for new authors entering the workforce.
  • Strive to make publication the review and approval experience simpler to minimize disruption associated with adopting the S1000D standard.  S1000D content changes can often be reviewed in component form, cutting review times for approvers who would otherwise sift through large publications.  Workflows can also be substantially automated to reduce backlogs, determine required subject matter expert participation, and provide insight into bottlenecks before they become critical.  Finally, choosing a mobile-friendly workflow toolset gives reviewers flexibility on where and how they access approval requests.
  • Connect (and stay connected) with the S1000D community to stay abreast of the latest change to this dynamic specification and its OEM-specific extensions. Now in its fourth generation of issues (with many sub-point issue versions), S1000D continues to expand to reflect feedback from practitioners, and reflect advancements in technology (such as 3D, and potentially in the future, AR/VR).  The S1000D User Forum (produced by ASD, AIA, and the ATA e-Business Program), is the premier event for building and cultivating these connections, both for operators and OEMs.

None of these suggestions represent a “quick fix” for minimizing the challenges imposed by S1000D, or realizing its full potential for making task performers more prepared and effective.  But, by keeping them in the forefront of your thoughts at various stages of adoption and refinement of your organization’s S1000D specification strategy, you can help make decisions that help to optimize the return on investment your team realizes as part of optimizing your use of this mainstreamed specification.

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