New standard helps sort out large systems

The Defense Department and several other nations' defense organizations have settled on a standard for documenting large-system configurations.

The Product Life Cycle Support Technical Committee of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards developed the standard. Military services and contractors can use the PLCS ISO standard to maintain up-to-date descriptions of large systems such as those for weapons.

'We could start with a configured item and track how it is maintained through its life'something we've never been able to do automatically before,' said Howard Mason, co-chairman of the technical committee and an engineering information standards manager for BAE Systems PLC of Farnborough, U.K.

'The big issue here is being able to maintain the information across the industry-government divide for contractual logistics support,' Mason said.

Government members of the committee include the Defense Information Systems Agency, British Ministry of Defence, Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation and Swedish Defence Materiel Administration.

Contractors involved

Also on the committee are defense contractors BAE Systems, Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and ManTech International Corp. of Fairfax, Va.

'One of the biggest challenges for owners and maintainers of a complex, high-value asset is aligning all the information that describes it and the associated support environment with the actual product configuration as it changes throughout operating life,' said co-chairman and DISA computer scientist Jerry Smith in a statement. The committee built the new standard on ISO 10303 Application Protocol 239. Known as STEP, the international standard is widely used by defense contractors as a blueprint for design and manufacture of complex systems, though it has not been used to document the configuration of individual units.

The committee's work, Mason said, 'extends STEP into the full lifecycle.' For example, he said, the design of the C-17 transport aircraft has been documented in STEP, although the military services have no standard way of capturing information about each individual aircraft.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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