Navy sets course with SGML

Navy sets course with SGML

Service attempts to turn its paper technical manuals into digital documents

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The Navy has created 2.5 million Standard Generalized Markup Language files to eliminate paper technical manuals, and shipboard sailors later this year will access the documents through secure Web browsers.

The Navy's Bernie Coval and Martin Cohen view technical manual drawings loaded into a computer from a CD-ROM, then compare them to printed versions.

'We're getting out of the warehousing business,' said Martin Cohen, Technical Manual and Training Branch chief at the Logistics and Fleet Maintenance Department of the Naval Surface Welfare Center (NSWC) in Philadelphia.

'By getting rid of paper, we're saving them a lot of shelf space and weight' on Navy ships and reducing the time it takes to look for documents, he said.

Through Computer Sciences Corp.'s Joint Continuous Acquisition and Lifecycle Support (JCALS) contract, the Navy is turning all its technical manuals'which contain all the data required to operate, maintain and repair naval machinery'into digital documents.

'Our goal is to put servers on ships that have logistics products so sailors could pull down data while afloat' using satellite communications, said Bernie Coval, an NSWC project engineer in Philadelphia.

Navy ships sometimes have to shut off nonessential transmissions during operations, so having an on-site server makes sense, he said.

Sailors can pull down translated files on CD-ROMs using a Dynatext reader from Inso Corp. of Boston, and eventually they will be able to access the data via the Web as Adobe Portable Document Format files, Coval said.

'JCALS has the only secure Web browser for our documents,' Cohen said. For that reason, the center will wait until all the manuals have been upgraded to JCALS before letting sailors use PDF to view them, he said.

Engineers continuously change documents, so a more dynamic environment such as Web-based or client-server architecture would work even better, Cohen said.

NSWC officials store the data on Hewlett-Packard 9000 series K460 and K480 enterprise servers running HP-UX Unix and other servers running SunSoft Solaris.

In late 1998, they started using XyEnterprise Production Publisher from Xyvision Enterprise Solutions Inc. of Reading, Mass., to publish SGML files, Coval said.

They converted 5,000 documents for submarine and combat systems and will convert up to 3,000 more this year, Coval said.

The Navy also uses the CSC-developed JCALS Workflow Manager for shipbuilding in Puget Sound, Wash., and Bath, Maine, Cohen said.

'In the beginning of the program, there were some growing pains with the contractor during the conversion. But since we have been doing this for the last seven years, we have a 99 percent quality' rating for accuracy, he said.

'The original system was labor-intensive, but [XyEnterprise] is a big deal because of the processing power, which allows us to run thousands of files at one time,' Coval said. XyEnterprise Production Publisher 5.0 lets the service convert a 250-page book in three minutes; such a task would have taken 20 minutes with the previous system, he said.

The XyEnterprise software site license cost $80,000, with an additional $400 monthly maintenance charge, Cohen said.

After initially working with raster files in a project that began in 1992, NSWC officials recently adopted SGML as their technical manual standard and are using a dual SGML/raster system until they convert all technical manuals to SGML, Cohen said.

Getting all the data into SGML reduces maintenance costs because it's easier to make changes, he said.

By working with the Defense Logistics Agency's Document Automation and Production Service, NSWC officials this month will launch a print-on-demand program for their technical manuals in PDF, Cohen said. Any manual will be printed when DAPS receives a requisition, he said

Eventually, there will be more than 1,000 JCALS users at NSWC in Philadelphia, Coval said.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected