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Case Studies

Document Management in Critical Engineering

Airservices Australia – Dv TDM controls and expedites access to CAD data on an Australia-wide network

Airservices Australia is the nation-wide company that took over from the former Department of Civil Aviation to handle air traffic control, and all the flight operations support that does not fall under the control of the various separate airport administrations. They inherited a large volume of technical documentation, records and engineering drawings from the Department of Civil Aviation and have reorganised their engineering design and support arrangements considerably since the changeover. Quick access to the appropriate technical data in its latest version is a vital requirement in this critical industry.

There had been an electronic drawing data management system in place under the Department of Civil Aviation, called the National Drawing Index, but that was a system on the mainframe computers in Canberra. The Airservices Australia system was changed to a wide-area network of PC computers, the locations of many activities changed, and a new data management system was needed. There was never any doubt about the value of a data management system, as the old NDI system had many times proved to be a vital resource. The intention was for the new system to be more widely accessible and wider in the scope of the data that it handled.

Finding a System

The search for a new data management system began towards the end of 2000. At this time Airservices Australia drafting was operating from a headquarters in Canberra and an office in each capital city. Since then, the Canberra, Adelaide and Perth drawing offices have been closed. Drafting operations are now centred on new premises at the relatively new Brisbane airport.

Several of the data management systems that were offered were quickly discounted on grounds of the very high cost involved. The choice narrowed to a handful of systems. During this stage a second tender invitation was issued with the aim of possibly finding an additional system that was designed especially for handling CAD data. However, that did not bring any new systems forward, and the selection proceeded on the basis of looking for a system that could do everything they wanted in control of the approval and checking of CAD data, tracking of changes, marking-up for changes, as well as indexing other forms of documentation.

The final selection was Dv TDM from Acumen Data, which provided all the flexibility and control options they wanted; easy customisation and implementation, the ability to operate over their Australia-wide network, to work with MicroStation and AutoCAD data, and to display CAD data on web browsers.

Scale of Operations

Airservices Australia uses MicroStation for all its drafting work, but also needs to store and refer to AutoCAD files produced by various contractors and consultants. Currently, there are five MicroStation workstations in the Brisbane head office, two in Sydney and five in Melbourne. They have about 70,000 CAD data files; comprising MicroStation DGN data files and CIT raster files of scanned paper drawings. They are all stored in the Brisbane network server, and accessed as needed from any office over a high-speed permanent cable network. Many of the scans date back to the 1960's. The network system is based on Windows 2000 and the Brisbane server has a striped RAID array of five 180Gb disks. Dv TDM was installed using the Borland InterBase Client/Server database system that is offered with Dv TDM.

All alteration or creation of new data has to access the disk system via the Dv TDM data manager. This ensures both right of access and proper recording of the stages of initiating work, checking and approval. The system stores every previous version of altered drawings, and marks files with their status of ‘drafting in progress', ‘issued for checking', ‘approved' and ‘superseded'.

Mark-up and Viewing

Airservices Australia makes full use of the ‘Redlining' mark-up facilities incorporated in Dv TDM. Changes to drawings are normally started by redline mark-up of the existing drawing. The mark-up data file is automatically linked to its CAD data file until the work has reached the Approved status, so that anyone referring to the data is aware of changes that may be in progress. Mark-up of existing drawings can be done with Dv TDM from the location of the relevant equipment because it needs only a networked PC with a web browser, and the appropriate access rights.

An important function of Dv TDM is making drawing data available to relevant personnel who are not drafting staff and hence do not have the use of the MicroStation CAD software. They can view CAD data with full use of normal CAD viewing controls such as zooming and panning, selection of Levels (or layers) etc. That is also the system that provides for redline mark-up. Most users at Airservices Australia who need to view CAD data, do so by Dv TDM's web browser interface, which avoids the need for any special viewer software to be installed on every network computer.

Reliable, effective and expandable

The current implementation of Dv TDM at Airservices Australia is proving highly reliable and effective, and has ample capability to accommodate considerable future expansion of both data volume and number of users. An expansion of computer operations is under way for the introduction of a network-wide SAP system, and Dv TDM will play a part in that system.

Dv TDM is serving the critical and widely spread needs of Airservices Australia very capably, and any changes to its facilities that may be needed can be implemented without difficulty by the Airservices Australia staff themselves. Data management and access control systems are often disliked by those who need to alter data, but this system is proving to be very well accepted. Its easy network-wide data viewing facilities have done a great deal to reduce the volume of large format printing and circulation of paper being done, as well as expediting fast access to critical data and ensuring the most up-to-date versions are always in use by everyone.

Airservices Australia's use of Dv TDM will increase as its use expands to supersede various paper and microfilm procedures and allows the phasing out of the old NDI mainframe drawing management system which is very costly to maintain. Their present Engineering Authority procedures for initiation and approval of drawing work involve paper processes, and are expected to be considerably streamlined when Dv TDM becomes the mechanism for handling them electronically.


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