Market grows for technical document management

The federal technical document management market is moving ahead solidly as agencies work to handle more of their technical and engineering information in electronic format.Technical document management is a segment of the imaging market that focuses on documents such as engineering drawings blueprints and maps. In contrast to mainstream office imaging which deals with 8 1/2-by-11-inch documents technical document management often involves large-format documents. As a consequence the field calls for specialized scanning equipment and a robust document management infrastructure.

Overall the technical document management market is growing at an annual clip of 25 to 30 percent from a 1994 base of $480 million according to Delphi Consulting Group a Boston-based market research firm. The federal sector represents a significant chunk of the market according to Mike Muth a senior consultant with Delphi which refers to the market as product data management. "The government [has] a lot of things that have to be engineered and re-engineered " Muth said.

He added that the Pentagon's Continuous Acquisition and Lifecycle Support program is an important initiative fueling technical document management in the federal market. CALS is an initiative that seeks to convert weapons systems documents into electronic format for greater productivity.

The management of technical documentation - specifically technical manuals - has been a key focus on the Defense Department's Joint CALS project. JCALS systems developed by prime contractor Computer Sciences Corp. Moorestown N.J. have been deployed at 12 sites in the Army Navy Air Force and Marines to support a technical manual application according to Bud Caldwell vice president of CALS business systems at CSC.

JCALS offers the services the ability to create edit and manage technical manuals. Now the program is shifting toward distribution. CSC is working to supplement paper-based distribution with CD-ROM and on-line methods Caldwell said. Starting with the Air Force CSC will provide CD-ROM and on-line distribution through JCALS and is targeting a rollout date toward the end of the first quarter of calendar 1997.

The DODwide Joint Engineering Data Management Information and Control System pact is another major CALS effort that deals with technical document management. Litton/PRC Inc. is prime contractor on JEDMICS which serves as a repository for engineering drawings and associated text.

JEDMICS currently installed in 35 locations holds more than 40 million images of engineering documents said Mike Mooney vice president and general manager for CALS at Litton/PRC. The electronic conversion effort is paying off. According to Office of the Secretary of Defense projections the JEDMICS payback will be 8.5-to-1 on an investment of about $175 million.

Much of the return on investment comes from easing the task of revising weapons systems documentation. Each time a weapon system is upgraded the supporting documentation must be revised and such changes are typically labor-intensive time-consuming and costly according to Mooney. The ability to have documentation in an electronic format however makes it easier and less expensive to make revisions.Electronic documentation also has trimmed the maintenance cycle. At North Island Naval Aviation Depot Calif. JEDMICS has helped reduce the time it takes to repair a Navy F/A-18 fighter plane from about 260 days to 100 Mooney said. "The payback now starts to be dramatic " he added.

Other agencies also are getting into technical document management. The U.S. Geological Survey fulfilled its document management needs through the use of CD-ROM technology. USGS produces topographical maps of the nation's water supply above and below ground of mineral deposits and of natural hazards such as volcanoes earthquakes and mudslides. For the first time this year USGS published its yearbook on CD-ROM and on the Internet. And it just produced a CD-ROM of aerial views of Yellowstone National Park.

"A lot of data is being made available on CD-ROM that heretofore was available only on mainframes " said Jerry McFaul a computer scientist at USGS Reston Va. "You can get 680 million bytes on one CD-ROM. It's an exciting way to manage large amounts of digital information."

USGS also uses Folio Corp.'s Views for electronic document authoring on the Internet and on CD-ROM. "We used Folio Infobase Web Server to put information on the Web." McFaul said. "It provides a search engine that turns documents into serviceable reference works then translates the results of its search and retrieval to create the [Hypertext Markup Language] that a browser needs to display results to the user."McFaul prefers CD-ROM to the Internet. "You can only move so much data at a time at 28.8 modem speed whereas it takes only moments on CD-ROM " he said.

Among Defense contractors Raytheon E-Systems Airborne Systems Division Greenville Texas is deep into technical document management. The company takes paper-based equipment manuals and test procedures and converts them to electronic format.

E-Systems uses ScanWorks scanning software from Precision Laser Plotting Scottsdale Ariz. The software works with Xerox Engineering Systems wide-format scanners to bring documents into Interleaf Inc.'s Interleaf 5 document management system. E-Systems runs Interleaf's integrated Intellecte/Access product bundle. The suite which runs on Hewlett-Packard Co. 9000 700 series hardware includes Interleaf's Interleaf 5/6 RDM (relational database management) Production Manager Liaison API and WorldView.

Once the documents are in Interleaf 5 E-Systems adds cross-referencing through the use of hyperlink tags available in the Interleaf system. Next the company uses WorldView to create a viewable document that users can annotate using color-coded markup layers. When that process is complete Interleaf's Production Manager tool passes documents to WorldView Press which indexes incoming documents delivers a common look and feel to the pieces adds numbering sequences and creates a table of contents for the whole document collection said Pat Byrne director of product marketing at Interleaf Waltham Mass.What E-Systems appreciates most about Interleaf is that the product integrates with the company's third-party scanning software. "The technology has advanced so much in the past two years " said Joe Bishop supervisor of on-line document support at E-Systems. "The scanning software is faster and much more accurate. And ScanWorks scans documents directly into Interleaf now. Before we had to scan it save it as ASCII text and then convert ASCII into Interleaf format."

Interleaf is also seeing activity governmentwide in managing computer-aided software engineering documentation diagrams and accompanying text. "What I'm seeing is more document management techniques being used within the CASE documentation area " said Pam Morris business development manager with Interleaf's government operations. She said the Federal Aviation Administration the Internal Revenue Service and DOD are making moves in that direction.

Not surprisingly the current imperative among document management vendors and users is to discover how Web-based technology impacts document management strategies. "They are trying to figure out how to apply document management capabilities to the vast amounts of information available on intranets " said Linda Myers-Tierney analyst and consultant at International Data Corp. Framingham Mass.

Document management vendors are expanding their client/server technology base to offer Web-based capability in the care and feeding of a document Myers-Tierney said. Interleaf for example offers an intranet solution called Intellecte/BusinessWeb that plugs into its document management system and makes documents in that system available on an intranet in HTML and other formats such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel executable or source files.

However most users are not yet ready or have not devised a full strategy for utilizing the Internet or intranets for document management industry executives said.

Gerber is a free-lance writer based in Kingston N.Y. Department Editor John Moore contributed to this story.

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At A Glance

Status: The market for technical document management is seeing steady growth among federal agencies that need to manage engineering and design information.

Issues: Document management is rushing to incorporate technologies such as CD-ROM and the Internet. Integration therefore is a key issue for users.

Outlook: Good. Technical document management will remain a vital market but the emphasis appears to be shifting toward distribution and the integration of emerging technologies.

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Integration issues

As federal agencies inch their way toward the paperless office they also must integrate multiple technologies if they want desktop users to manage the seas of electronic documents quickly and easily.Integration has been the top issue cited for the past five years in an annual document management user survey conducted by International Data Corp. A five-year forecast titled "Electronic Document Management Software Market Review and Forecast 1995-2000 " also showed integration at the top of the list of concerns.

Vendors are working on improving integration between technical document management and office imaging. AutoDesk Inc. and Documentum Inc. for example are working to link AutoDesk's WorkCenter product with Documentum's document management system. AutoDesk's WorkCenter manages technical documents for design teams while Documentum develops document management products for client/server and World Wide Web environments.

But even as document management vendors have made progress integrating their own and third-party vendors' products a growing number of technologies have entered the fold of document management. "The convergence of technologies is bringing more vendors into the market so users have a wide variety of products and vendors now " said Linda Myers-Tierney analyst and consultant International Data Corp. Framingham Mass.

-Cheryl Gerber


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