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Written by Chinmay Das
on 04 May 2018

At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security.
Jodi Rell, former Governor of Connecticut

Safety has been one of the biggest concerns in the railways-a no-brainer given that more than 500 major and minor rail accidents have occurred across the world in the past ten years alone. Despite constructive and comprehensive measures to reduce mishaps, news of deadly rail accidents continues to be splashed across front pages of global newspapers. The question that rail operators and OEMs must ask is: what can be done to move toward a future of zero accidents?

One of the key factors impacting rail safety is effective, standardized communication-or the lack of it. Failure to accurately and succinctly communicate critical information has often resulted in complete process breakdown or worse-catastrophes. For instance, the 1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision on the outskirts of New Delhi made the aerospace industry realize the need for standardization of communication language.

Standards are the fundamental building blocks for organizations to facilitate seamless communication, measurement, commerce, and manufacturing. It offers an established norm, a set of rules or requirements related to a specific system which is usually documented to signify uniform criteria, methods, processes, and practices.

Standardizing a technical document outlines the specifications, procedures, and guidelines that are essential to reliable, safe, and consistent use of products, services, and systems.

Such standardization of processes is especially relevant in the current technology-driven world. While it may seem like a daunting task to create a standard, the result is a valuable contribution to all engineering stakeholders.

The aerospace industry was a pioneer in using standardized technical documents back in 1956 when the Air Transport Association introduced a numbering system called ATA100, a common referencing standard for all commercial aircraft documentation.

While currently there are no defined standards for technical publication in the railway system, the need is clear. There is also growing consensus across the industry that if such standardized processes were available, all stakeholders would eventually use it.

Railsponsible is one such example of industry-wide collaboration. An initiative to promote sustainable procurement practices, Railsponsible aims to continuously improve environmental and social practices of companies of the railway sector and promote greater transparency to meet increasing stakeholder requirements.

Here are eight compelling reasons why standardizing technical documents is a must for the rail industry:
1. To ensure reliable, high-quality output by reducing unnecessary variations
2. To build a modular system across the industry by assigning unique identification codes
3. To facilitate streamlined operations for maintenance staff and other stakeholders
4. To promote content reuse by all the stakeholders without any ambiguity
5. To minimize complexity in creating documents for new equipment/machinery
6. To significantly reduce possibilities of accidents and improve overall safety
7. To enhance customer satisfaction and passenger experience
8. To reduce costs by bringing down the effort in planning and training staff

Now that the need to deliver world-class technical publications in railways has been established, what if we devised a way to modify the S1000D to suit the railway industry specifications? Could it be evolved to build a formal standard for technical documents in rail transportation? How will this impact the future of standardizing technical documents altogether?

Our blog 'An Approach to Standardizing Technical Documents in Railways'  shares insights on how we can drive standardization of technical documents in rail.

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