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Int. J. Product Lifecycle Management, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2005

Information management for through life product


support: the curation of digital engineering data
Chris McMahon*, Matt Giess and Steve Culley
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
E-mail: enscam@bath.ac.uk E-mail: enpmdg@bath.ac.uk
E-mail: enssjc@bath.ac.uk
*Corresponding author
Abstract: Many engineering companies are today undergoing a paradigm shift
from product delivery to through life service support. The shift applies across a
range of different sectors, including defence, civil aerospace and construction.
If these sectors are to remain competitive, they require new business,
operational and information system models that extend 30 years or more into
the future. This paper is concerned with identifying the research status and
agenda in the development of information systems to support the process of
product introduction and through life support. The paper first concentrates on
issues of engineering model representation, including the storage of product
lifecycle management (PLM) data for long term access, and the capture of
design rationale, decision outcomes and design process information. It then
addresses systems issues, including the longevity of digital hardware and
storage media, and strategies for the archiving of digital data over several
generations of computer hardware and software. Next, issues of data
organisation are concerned with how large collections of information can be
organised to assist information access by diverse communities over long
timescales, and with appropriate security and identification of information
provenance. Finally, management issues are concerned with the strategic and
organisational approaches to through life information management adopted by
organisations throughout the value chain, with the way people and communities
work with information collections, and with how working practices may
change in the future.
Keywords: design information systems; through life support; longevity of
digital information; product representation.
Reference to this paper should be made as follows: McMahon, C., Giess, M.
and Culley, S. (2005) Information management for through life product
support: the curation of digital engineering data, Int. J. Product Lifecycle
Management, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.2642.
Biographical notes: Chris McMahon is Professor of Engineering Design in the
Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath and
Operations Director of the Departments Innovative Manufacturing Research
Centre (IMRC). His research interests are in Engineering Design, especially
concerning the information needs of designers, the Development of Tools for
Information and Knowledge Management, Design Automation, Risk and
Uncertainty Management and Design for Remanufacturing. He is a
Non-Executive Director of Adiuri Systems Ltd., which provides information
systems software for a variety of applications in engineering and beyond. He
has published his work widely, including over 150 refereed papers, a number of
edited volumes and coauthorship of a major textbook on computer aided design
and manufacture.
Copyright 2005 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

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27

Matt Giess is a Research Officer within the Innovative Manufacturing Research


Centre at the University of Bath. His research interests are in Engineering
Design, focusing primarily upon the Generation and Management of
Information in the Design Process. He has investigated the use of Data Mining
methods in the analysis of Operational Manufacturing, Assembly and Test
Data, for which the results have been discussed within a doctoral
thesis currently awaiting examination. His recent work has been on Strategies
for the Management of Information for long lived, complex products in
product-service systems.
Steve Culley is Reader and Head of Design in the Department of Mechanical
Engineering at the University of Bath. He has researched in the engineering
design field for many years. In particular this has included the provision of
information and knowledge to support engineering designers. He pioneered
work into the introduction and use of the electronic catalogue for standard
engineering components and has extended this work to deal with systems and
assemblies. He has over 150 publications and has recently coauthored a book
on design and changeover. He is a member of the EPSRC funded Innovative
Manufacturing Research Centre (IMRC) at Bath University. He is a Fellow of
the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Non Executive Director of Adiuri
Systems.

Introduction

Many engineering companies are today undergoing a paradigm shift from product
delivery to through life service support. The responsibility for supporting equipment from
supply to disposal is increasingly moving from equipment owners to equipment suppliers,
to minimise the capital investment required by the procurer, to reduce whole life
costs and to improve the control of the supplier over the service element of the supply.
(Davies et al., 2003; IfM, 2003). The shift applies across a range of different sectors,
including defence, healthcare, aerospace, automotive and construction. There are a
number of drivers for this change including changing procurement policies in the public
and private sectors (HM Treasury, 2000), extensive market segmentation, the need to
control spares and support activities and pressures to reduce environmental impact
(McAloone, 2003). The change to a product-service model has substantial potential
benefits as it encourages greater efficiency and more sustainable approaches to
engineering by improving the scope for supply-side innovation. For example, in
aerospace the emergence of power by the hour as a service has challenged traditional
engine suppliers to rethink their technology offering which will in turn lead to a
revision of the design rules developed over the past 30 years (IfM, 2003; Deloitte, 1999).
The shift presents a significant opportunity to integrate design and manufacture with
ongoing aspects of in service operation such as facilities and asset management.
Engineering companies have always been required to retain key information in
support of the equipment that they supply through life and beyond, both to enable the
effective support of the equipment and to comply with contractual, legal and regulatory
requirements. The move to the product-service model makes the maintenance of detailed
and easily accessible records particularly important, as a core aspect of companies
businesses depend on these records. The situation is complicated, however by the
progressive move to electronic ways of working, with current methods dictating that

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almost all data is now created, stored and used electronically. The ability of companies to
support equipment and remain compliant with legal, statutory and contractual conditions
is critically dependent on being able to locate and use information and cope with changes
in information access arrangements and processes. Organisations are faced with
understanding how information can most effectively be created, managed, stored,
accessed and if necessary recreated through many generations of information technology
and systems, and potentially spanning many decades.
There are very many aspects to the effective creation and through life management of
engineering information, which we will term Through Life Information Management
(TLIM). Engineering model representation issues are concerned with the modelling of
the product design, including the storage of product lifecycle management (PLM) data in
a suitable form for long term access and capture of such issues as design rationale,
decision outcomes and design process. Systems issues include the longevity of digital
hardware and storage media and the development of strategies for the archiving of digital
data over several generations of computer hardware and software. Data organisation
issues are concerned with how large collections of information can be organised to assist
information access and retrieval by diverse communities over long timescales, and with
issues such as security and information provenance. Management and human issues are
concerned with the strategic and organisational approaches to TLIM adopted by
organisations and throughout the value chain, with the way people and communities work
with information collections and with how working practices may change in the future.
The intention of this paper is to review developments in each of these areas and to
suggest elements of a possible research agenda.

Engineering model representation issues

Engineering model representation issues address the questions of firstly how the
outcomes of the design process should be recorded in the most appropriate way to
communicate design intent to all concerned, and secondly how design information should
be communicated, given the diverse proprietary data formats that are used in the design
process. The first question involves topics of engineering representation such as computer
aided design (CAD) and other computer aided engineering formats used in PLM, but also
involves such concerns as what should be captured of the inputs to the design process
(design requirements, information upon which design decisions are made and so on) and
what should be captured concerning the activities and reasoning of the design process
itself. The second question is predominantly concerned with the exchange and
interoperability of PLM data produced during the design process.

2.1 Capturing the outcomes of the design process


During the design process, the design team produces representations of the product in
order to allow the design intent to be communicated, and to allow the participants in the
design process to cope with the complexity of their work. The representation of discrete
manufactured parts has traditionally been by drawings that describe, in the abstract, the
characteristics that the design is to have. The structure of systems of interconnected parts
has traditionally been shown in diagrams, for example for electrical or fluid power
systems. For some forty years, engineers have also worked on computer based

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representations of designs, including computer representation of drawings and diagrams


and three dimensional geometry, interconnections in networks, and part assembly
relationships (McMahon and Browne, 1998).
During the design process, a whole range of properties of the new artefact has to be
defined. These are the design parameters and are definitive or descriptive; they are the
properties that affect the manufacture of the object, and, in addition to shape, include the
form, dimension, surface condition, material properties and specific manufacturing
instructions associated with a design (McMahon, 1994; Suh, 1990). These are the
attributes recorded in engineering drawings, diagrams, volume models in CAD and so on.
In addition to these design parameters, a number of further properties of the emerging
design are identified during the design process. These are the performance parameters,
which are judgements, performance related assessments or emergent properties that are
used to assess the suitability of the object (McMahon, 1994; Suh, 1990). Performance
parameters might include the estimated performance, strength, wear resistance and
durability of an emerging design. They are derived, typically, by use of computer aided
engineering tools, by considering the design, described by the design parameters,
subjected to a set of external influences on the artefact, such as the applied loads.
There are a number of important issues involved in the through life management of
engineering information:

Traditional representation of design is straightforward, using paper. However,


many of the representations used today, such as boundary representation solid
models, assembly and tolerance models, finite element analysis and computational
fluid dynamics models etc. are only incompletely represented in 2D on paper, if at
all. While significant strides have been taken to identify neutral representations of
such models, as will be discussed in Section 2.3, the long term access to much
engineering information is heavily dependent on the extent to which aspects of a
PLM systems capabilities are covered by standards, and ultimately on the survival
of software companies and on careful attention being paid to the continued
maintenance of legacy information.

The increasing use of product representations that are extended by such capabilities
as parametric and variational modelling (Shah and Mntyl, 1995), design by
features (ibid), associative systems and by recording the history of the steps in
model construction make issues of dependence on proprietary software and of model
interoperability and persistence much more severe.

The semantic content of engineering models is low. Geometric models are


essentially collections of geometry with little or no formal semantic content, and
while progress has been made in enhancing the semantics of models through feature
based modelling, or identifying semantic content through feature recognition for
example in process planning progress has been limited owing to the difficulty of
recognition and the issue of viewpoint dependency each engineering
specialism has its own semantics and needs its own model representations
(Bronsvoort et al., 2001; Hoffmann and Joan-Ariyo, 2000).

Product life cycle management (PLM) allows the extension of product representation
beyond modelling of the product geometry, bill of materials etc. to encompass a broader
range of aspects of the product, including sourcing and procurement, supply chain
management and customer relationship management (CRM). PLM also extends to the

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end of the product life cycle in terms of service and warranty and product retirement
details, and its ultimate expression lies in portfolio management, the highest level
decision making about adding and removing assets across a company's entire product line
(Ericson, 2001). But while PLM is an important enabler in distributed and real time
collaboration, knowledge sharing, and assisting better decision making in product life
cycle management. (Nnaji et al., 2004), sustaining the data stored in PLM systems over
long product lifetimes will be a significant challenge.

2.2 Capturing design intent


In addition to the requirement to represent the product and its desired characteristics, two
further areas of significant recent effort in design research have been work on the
modelling and representation of design processes, and a work on capture of design
rationale. The former has led to the application in design of a number of approaches to
process modelling, including the IDEF series, Petri nets, the Design Structure Matrix,
Signposting and various object based approaches (Clarkson and Hamilton, 2000;
Middleton and McCollum, 2001; Richardson et al., 1998; NIST, 1993). Efforts to
allow capture of design rationale have been centred on Issue-Based Information
Systems (IBIS) and derivative approaches, such as the Design Rationale editor, DRed
(Bracewell et al., 2004). But where the models created by such approaches are paper
based, they are difficult to scale to cope with the complexity of modern engineering
processes, and where they are computer based, the issues of persistent sustainable
representations of the models are once again significant.

2.3 Data exchange standards


Exchange and interoperability of engineering data has been addressed for a quarter of a
century by data exchange standards including the Initial Graphics Exchange Specification
(IGES), and the so called STEP standard, ISO 10303, for Product Data Representation
and Exchange (Mason, 2002). Recent work on data exchange has been built around
STEP, with the standard being extended to electrical and electronics design information,
engineering analysis data, the information requirements of systems engineering, process
planning for manufacture and life cycle support (the latter through the Product Life Cycle
Support standard, PLCS, which is part of STEP) (ISO, 2004). Current developments also
involve STEP technologies being exploited in other domains (e.g., in the definition of
cutting tools and optics and optical instruments), and complementary technologies are
being incorporated into STEP for example in the use of the eXtensible Markup
Language (XML) to describe STEP schema (ISO, 2000). XML is also the basis for the
Product Data Exchange (PDX) series of standards developed for the electronics
manufacturing supply chain (PDX Standard Group, 2004). Both XML and the Unified
Modelling Language (UML) will have important implications for product representation
and exchange in the future. However, in spite of this extensive development of STEP, the
practical application of the standard is limited, as is its coverage of advanced modelling
approaches such as parametric, variational and feature based models.

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2.4 Future research agenda


Research on engineering model representation is well established but a number of topics
merit further research, in particular:

The issues of viewpoint dependency and low semantic content in product models.
The level of abstraction used in product models is too low for automatic
manipulation of those models. Extraction of viewpoint specific information is still
problematic. The semantic expressiveness of models captured by data exchange
standards is low.

Product models continue to capture what characteristics a product should have, but
largely fail to capture why a product has the characteristics it has. In TLIM it may be
very important to be able to revisit the basis of design decisions, together with the
process carried out by the engineering team and the information that has gone into
that process.

There is significant potential, therefore, for research to develop approaches to the capture
of extended models of product designs, including records of design tradeoffs, results of
negotiation, evidence of decision making, details of successful and unsuccessful designs
and rationale for design choices. In addition to identifying how extended models of
product designs may be captured, research is needed to identify what is needed
(and perhaps as important what is not needed) to record different activities at different
stages in the product life cycle.

Systems issues

If information in digital form is to be made available over long time spans, then strategies
must be put into place to enable long term, robust storage and management of such
information. The notion of curatorship, or curation as it is more commonly known, has
typically been associated with the activity of long term storage and management of items
of specific, individual importance, such as antiquities and pieces of art. In the modern
organisation, information is arguably one of the most important company resources, and
hence efforts to maintain this information in a digital form are referred to as digital
curation (JISC, 2003). Digital curation encompasses both the processes of digital
archiving and preservation as well as the accompanying management issues. Such
management issues comprise more than simply facilitating the archiving and preservation
processes, as digital curation is a complex activity that generally involves interaction
between creators and providers of data, the archivers of data, and most importantly the
consumers of data (JISC, 2003). This facility is vital to TLIM, where stored information
and knowledge will be added to, extracted and evolved over the course of the life cycle of
the product. The field of digital curation is still immature, as evidenced by the
establishment in the UK in 2004 of a Digital Curation Centre (Beagrie, 2004) to
investigate approaches to digital curation in the context of e-Science.

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3.1 Digital archiving


While digital curation describes the overall strategy of maintaining collated information
and knowledge, digital archiving focuses upon the specific methods and means of actual
storage. This field has received a great deal of research interest in recent years, in
particular by the library and archive communities. Although the information content
addressed by libraries is significantly different from that of concern in engineering TLIM,
the volume of data and the timescales are however similar and the focus upon strategic
requirements results in a generic methodology that can be transferred. Archiving
strategies include (CEDARS, 2002):

refreshing: copying to identical media in the event of degradation

digital/technology preservation: maintaining the original software


(and hardware, if necessary)

transfer: transferring data onto more stable/longer lifespan media

emulation: recreation of obsolete software on newer operating systems/hardware

migration: encoding of digital information into newer formats

encapsulation: storing of digital objects with everything that is required to give


access to the document

Each of these techniques has different merits and demerits. Many do not address the issue
of software obsolescence. Emulation, migration and encapsulation do address this issue
but there is no clear favourite among these, and a hybrid solution is likely to be most
suitable. Notable research in this area, such as the PADI initiative instigated by the
Australian National Library (PADI, 2004) and the CEDARS project initiated by the UK
Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) (CEDARS, 2002), has hesitated to identify
the most suitable method, and instead has identified a range of possible solutions. It is
highly likely that a hybrid or amalgamated approach will yield best results, as proposed
by Lorist and van der Meer (2001) who posit it is likely that in practice a mixture of
these strategies will have to be used and that there is not a monolithic black or white
solution towards digital longevity. A further point, significant in the context of TLIM,
was raised by Rothenberg (2000) who argued that, in certain situations such as
negligence claims, it is important to be able to understand what another person might
have understood from a document. In this respect it is important to be able to view the
document in exactly the same manner as a previous reader to follow their logic, and
deduce what insights or blind spots they may have had.
A key recent development in the development of digital archiving is the widespread
support for use of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model
(CCSDS, 2002). OAIS is a conceptual framework for an archival system dedicated to
preserving and maintaining access to digital information over the long term, originally
developed by NASA to archive terrestrial and space observation data. This model has
been shaped and adapted within many digital archiving initiatives, for example the
CEDARS project (2002) and the NebLib project initiated by the Koninklijke Biblioteek
(Steenbakkers, 2000). OAIS covers aspects of archiving from document preparation and
submission, through to management and retrieval. It has now been recognised as an
international standard, ISO 14721 : 2003 (ISO, 2003). The prevalence of this standard

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suggests that it may usefully be deployed in an engineering TLIM context, assisting in


the integration of tools and methods developed elsewhere.

3.2 Media longevity


Closely associated with the archiving issue is that of media longevity. The hardware used
to record and store digital information has an associated lifespan, both in terms of the
physical longevity of the media (and reading hardware) and the time to obsolescence of
the technology. The problems presented by media have been well documented, and
various estimates have been given for the particular longevity of various technologies.
Table 1

Estimate of digital media lifespan and time to obsolescence

Magnetic tape
Videotape
Magnetic disc
Optical disc

Media lifespan (years)


1
12
510
30

Equipment obsolescence (years)


5
5
5
10

Source: Rothenberg (1995).

Table 1 shows an estimate of the life spans for digital media that were commonly
available in 1995. In many cases, engineering artefacts have lives of several decades, and
of the media described, only optical discs have lifetimes of this order, although the
estimated lifespan of 30 years could easily be exceeded by many engineering artefacts.
These estimates are subject to some contention (Harvey, 1995), with suggestions that
they are too conservative; however they clearly indicate the concern being expressed over
the stated lifetimes of digital media.
This limited lifespan affects mainly digital media; only high quality paper, stone
tablet, digital linear tape and microfilm offer life spans above 100 years, and only paper
and microfilm are practical solutions for very long term storage (Twentyman, 2003).
Research suggests that recordable and rerecordable optical discs (CD-Rs and CD-RWs)
suffer from much shorter and generally less predictable life spans than prewritten
CD-ROMs making it difficult to reliably quote a lifespan for such discs (Ross and
Gow, 1999). Adelstein (1999) suggests two reasons for this lack of consistency, the first
is that data obtained by empirical observation rarely considers the environment in which
the disc operates and the second that the use of accelerated ageing methods within
experimentation can apply infeasible conditions to the disc, resulting in the lifespan of the
disc being influenced by factors it would not be subjected to in practice.
The issue of media longevity can therefore be considered to have an impact upon
TLIM, as the life spans of many digital media are perhaps insufficient to provide storage
for the lifespan of a supported product. However, as more and more accurate methods of
life expectancy estimation are developed and better archival practices are undertaken
(e.g., British Standard BS 4783-7 : 1993 (BSI, 1993) specifies recommended methods of
optical disc storage, transportation and maintenance) the risks of sudden, unexpected data
loss through media failure are alleviated. It will then be possible to plan and manage
media degradation as part of a wider ranging archiving operation.

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Systems issues such as those involved in digital archiving and in media longevity are
crucial to TLIM, and involve unresolved issues, meriting further research. The various
methods of archiving digital information have been pared down to a few choices.
However, it is suggested that a hybrid approach is required and it is argued that, whilst
such research might be undertaken within the library and archiving fields, the unique
challenges of TLIM require that the options should be subject to separate and deliberate
appraisal. Digital curation is suggested to be the overarching objective of digital
archiving and preservation, and the facility of including knowledge within the realm of
digital archiving is essential to TLIM.

Data organisation issues

The outcome of an engineering project may be many thousands, even millions of


documents. It is thus important to identify how the information can be organised such
that in the future the information required for a particular task can be readily identified
and retrieved, but with access restricted only to those who have the appropriate authority.
It is also important to be able to identify how it can be verified that the information is
what it purports to be. These questions are concerned with issues of information retrieval,
categorisation, organisation and security, and with information provenance, each of
which is described in the following sections.

4.1 Information retrieval


Computer based storage and developments in communication and networking
technologies permit, in principle, much easier means of searching and retrieving a wide
range of relevant digital textual information, both within and external to organisations.
The most common information search and retrieval (IS&R) approach has been the use of
free text search engines; however these result in highly indiscriminate search results
(Chen et al., 1998). An alternative range of IS&R strategies is (largely) based on using
predefined knowledge organisation strategies (KOSs) (Foskett, 1996; Hodge, 2000).
Essentially, by spending time upfront:

organising information

associating parts of documents with preidentified standard subject categories and/or

identifying relationships between these categories, then relevant information can be


more easily located and retrieved at search time (McMahon et al., 2002).

Hodge (2000) identifies three broad categories of KOS:

term lists: which emphasise lists of terms, often with definitions


(e.g., glossaries and dictionaries)

classification schemes: which emphasise the creation and organisation of subject sets
(e.g., subject headings, classification schemes, taxonomies, and categorisation
schemes)

relationship lists: which emphasise not only the creation and organisation of subject
sets, but also the connections between the terms and concepts within them
(e.g., thesauri, semantic networks and ontologies).

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Of most relevance to the information organisation in TLIM are classification schemes


and relationship lists. The purpose of the former is to allow information objects
(which could be documents, parts of documents, etc.) to be organised in such a way that
similar objects are grouped together (into a predefined scheme) and dissimilar ones are
not. Approaches to classification include (Rowley and Farrow, 2000):

enumerative classification: based on dividing the universe of knowledge into


successively narrower and more specific subjects

synthetic classification: in which new classes can be developed for new topics that
are not already listed (logical rules are established for dividing topics into classes,
divisions and subdivisions)

faceted (or analyticosynthetic) classification: in which different classification


categories are assigned to individual concepts so that composite subjects can be more
easily represented.

Traditional classification systems, which attempt to comprehensively describe domains of


interest, are primarily enumerative. When using such schemes the classifiers job is to
select one of the predefined classification categories for a particular document that
adequately represents its contents. Typical examples would include the categories used in
a paper based filing system, the names of folders on a shared network drive or a
classification code from a universal library classification system. The main limitation
with this approach is that the number of specific subjects that have to be related in a
classification (which may represent any domain or field of knowledge) is potentially
enormous (Vickery, 1975). The main problem with enumerative classification approaches
can be, to some extent, addressed by the adoption of faceted classification principles.
Facets are clearly defined, mutually exclusive, and collectively exhaustive aspects,
properties or characteristics of a class or specific subject (Taylor, 1992). Using a faceted
taxonomy, the classification of information objects is carried out by associating each
object with multiple classification categories, i.e. a combination of categories from each
of the distinct facets. Faceted taxonomies have a number of advantages over other types
of classification schemes, including conceptual clarity, compactness and scalability
(Foskett, 1996), but they have the drawback, overcome using dynamic browsing
mechanisms (McMahon et al., 2002), that a large number of invalid compound subject
categories can be combined in a way that may be impossible within the actual domain
being described.
In one respect, relationship lists can be viewed as refinements or modifications of
classification schemes. Classification schemes basically comprise concepts that are
organised hierarchically and typically viewed as tree like structures (with general
concepts becoming more specialised with larger numbers of subconcepts). However, in
many cases, depending on the domain of interest, some concepts might be related on
logical and semantic grounds to other concepts. In these instances, relationship lists
(e.g., thesauri and ontologies) provide richer ranges of relationship types that can help
assist humans and/or machines in identifying links between concepts. The links provide a
means to improve the ease with which information collections associated with the KOS
can be navigated (e.g., by providing links to different completely different branches in an
apparently hierarchical information organisational structure).
Classification schemes and thesauri are used to organise information so that humans
can make sense of the arrangement and locate information. In contrast, formal ontologies

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are designed to promote interoperability between computer systems and enable advanced,
automated reasoning. The Semantic Web has been proposed as a means of allowing
machines to understand Web documents through the use of semantically enriched
languages and ontologies (Ding et al., 2002; Fensel and Munsen, 2001). Future
developments in TLIM are likely to build on developments in the Semantic Web, in
which the computer-interpretability of data will be extended through the use of metadata
linked to ontologies that will allow the modelling of relationships among data.
Developments may also build on exploitation of understanding the processes and
activities by which information has been created to assist in the retrieval of information,
through links to workflow and to extended process models.

4.2 Information provenance


Issues of provenance apply to both physical artefacts and to information. For example,
Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) aims to ensure that products can be
robustly identified and details of their history verified. Radio Frequency Identification
(RFID) technology has been developed for use with supply chains to enable the tracking
of a whole range of assets within supply chain management (Landt, 2001) and the
introduction of RFID based stock control by all suppliers has been mandated by the US
DoD (Jones et al., 2004). In the identification of information provenance, an explicit
reference is made in the OAIS standard, through the use of Preservation Description
Information (PDI), which contains descriptive details of documents, including
provenance (the source, custody and history (including processing history) of a
document) and context (why the document was produced, and other supporting
documents). Provenance is also seen as increasingly important in large information
collections, with Knowledge Provenance (KP) (Fox and Huang, 2003) a recent
development that seeks to identify the accuracy of documents made available on the
Internet, considered in the context of dynamic change and information uncertainty. Data
Provenance may be considered the database equivalent of KP (da Silva et al., 2003),
addressing the problem of ensuring the veracity of data both by describing the source of
the data and the process by which it came to be in a database.
Where provenance aims to ensure that the history of a document (or product) is
known and traceable, it can only be usefully deployed if the precise identity of a
document can be deduced, and the content of that document is as the originator intended.
Research into such issues has revealed a range of methods that could be implemented to
ensure such document veracity.

4.3 Document protection


The environment in which the document will be made available steers the form of
digital document protection that is required, in terms of compliance and enforcement
(Shaw, 1999). A compliance environment assumes that the recipient of a document will
respect copyright and will only require information regarding their access options,
whereas an enforcement environment is an area where measures are needed to actually
prevent unauthorised access or modification, usually in the presence of high value
content. It is suggested that a grey area may exist between these two extremes; however,
it is clear that the environment in which the document is made available will influence
the specific method of document protection.

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These methods of digital document protection must cater for 3 scenarios, copyright
protection, tamper proofing and authentication (Deguillaume et al., 2003). These methods
have slightly competing requirements, where means of copyright protection require a
robust means of identification that will still remain visible to the viewer after any
resizing, reformatting or general manipulation. In cases where the authenticity or the
veracity of the content must be ensured, it is perhaps necessary to use a fragile identifier
which is rendered illegible upon alteration of the original document. There is also an
argument that the depth of information that can be stored as an identifier within a
document is compromised by a need to ensure that the identifier has a degree of
invisibility and robustness to attack (Voloshynovskiy and Pun, 2002). Whilst, on a
cursory level, this is only important in areas of fraudulent copyright abuse, it is feasible
that the identifier might be inadvertently damaged if there is insufficient robustness.
Several approaches have been proposed for digital document protection,
notably digital watermarking, fingerprinting and digital signatures. The first two methods
share many features (and are often confused) where both seek to embed a unique
identifier within the document. These identifiers, if well constructed, may be configured
in such a way as to create no impairment to document use. Fingerprinting extends this
identifier to include information regarding the recipient of a document, thus reducing the
risk of a third party recipient reproducing the document en masse. These two methods
allow for the source (and in the case of fingerprinting, the recipient) to be linked to a
document. Whilst a well designed identifier should not be vulnerable to manipulation,
there is nothing to prevent unauthorised modification to the contents of the document
itself, save for ingraining the identifier within the document in such a way that
manipulation of the document damages the identifier.
Digital Signatures address this shortcoming explicitly, using hashing or other means
of uniquely describing the document coupled with public and private key encryption.
The decision regarding which method of digital document protection to use comes down
to the environment (either enforcement or compliance) in which the document will be
made available. While the exact nature of the environment in which TLIM will operate is
unclear, it is argued, however, that the general use of digital signatures on documents will
act both to provide unique identification of the source and content of a document, and act
to prevent any inadvertent modification of documents that are protected in this manner.

4.4 Future research agenda


The research domain that has been described is very dynamic, driven by the impact of the
Internet, e-business and the World Wide Web. We believe that there is substantial scope
for work to explore how the emerging technologies of the Semantic Web, federated
information systems, classification systems, taxonomies and ontologies may be applied in
an engineering context to address the information organisation problems of TLIM.
We also believe that issues of trust, security and provenance in an engineering context
merit substantial investigation.
We also note that extended models of product designs, involving combining and
developing aspects of product modelling, process modelling and rationale capture, may
provide a mechanism to assist in information organisation through record of the context
in which information has been created, which may be used to assist in its organisation
and retrieval, especially when matched onto planning for future application contexts.

38

C. McMahon, M. Giess and S. Culley

Management and human issues

In addressing the management and human issues of TLIM, the key is to identify the most
appropriate strategic and organisational approaches both within individual organisations
and throughout the value chain. It is necessary to establish how people and communities
work with information collections, and how working practices may change in the future.
The management and human issues are first and foremost impacted by the change to a
product-service business model, and by the implications of this change. It is noted that
changes to these model imply changes to the governance of projects and of
the relationship between purchaser and supplier, especially in the case of public
procurement. It also implies that issues of product performance assessment become more
important the move to a product/service mode of delivery allows much improved
feedback about product performance and impact to the product designers and producers,
owing to the service relationship. There are two aspects of this feedback that are
important: feedback about the physical performance of the artefact (e.g., the reliability of
the mechanical parts, the behaviour of the fabric of a building) and about the impact of
the artefact on the work patterns and behaviour of the users (e.g., the impact of a building
on those who work in it).
Other impacts of product-service systems are on human resources policy, in particular
issues such as outsourcing and use of contract staff, training and staff development,
professional and occupational roles, and roles and boundaries in the supply chain,
including issues of responsibility, autonomy and authority. New decision support models
will need to be developed to reflect the changed circumstances of through life product
support, and the information system life cycle will have to be considered as well as the
product life cycle, including issues of systems governance and human and cultural factors
in the support and operation of the system.
Finally, two important strategic and managerial issues in TLIM will be risk
management and communication. An important part of the identification of a framework
for through life information planning will be the identification and collation of risks and
opportunities in TLIM, and then application of techniques of risk mitigation and
contingency planning to reduce probability of impact. Contingency plans are triggered
and tradeoffs are identified. Contingency planning will be an important part of a TLIP
framework. During application of the framework, risk monitoring of the identified risks
will take place. Probabilities and impacts will be updated but new risks will arise,
existing risks will be eliminated and trigger events will be monitored. The risk
monitoring activity in turn contributes to the next cycle of risk identification,
prioritisation and monitoring, so closing the feedback loop. The research in risk
management for TLIM will principally involve aspects of the risk identification and
contingency planning, together with the incorporation of risk into the framework.
Minneman (1991), Bucciarelli (1994) and Henderson (1999) have studied large scale
engineering processes as participant observers, and conclude that design development
occurs largely through a driven process of negotiation, where information is actively
communicated and made sense of, rather than simply filtering through an organisation.
There may be merit in extending study of issues of team communication in design to
explore communication throughout the product life cycle, in particular feedback from the
product in service to the design process, issues of viewpoint dependency, integrity and
trust, the role of different representations, skill and professional development
requirements and so on.

Information management for through life product support

39

Concluding remarks

The process of full through life support depends crucially upon the integration a network
of organisations (both private and public). The network itself is subject to change and has
a life cycle of its own. In the space of 30 years there is a natural turnover of staff and
organisations; the environment within which the network operates is subject to change,
for example due to evolving customer requirements, environmental contexts and business
needs; and the software and hardware infrastructure upon which both the product and the
network are built is constantly shifting. In the context of this new environment, products
are upgraded, remanufactured and used for different purposes, and, more importantly,
systems are persistent they outlive products and the information associated with
products or particular subsystems is reused for future generations of products. The
challenge is how can products be best designed and supported in this dynamic, network
centric environment. This paper has reviewed the product representation, systems, data
organisation and management issues involved in the provision of through life information
management, and has made suggestions for the research agenda for the future.

Acknowledgements
The authors are grateful for the support of their academic and industrial collaborators in
carrying out the work described in this paper. The funding provided by the UK EPSRC as
part of the Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (grant GR/R67507/01), and by
members of the UK Council for Electronic Business, is also gratefully acknowledged.

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