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How Digital Standards Enable Digital Transformation

Posted: January 11, 2023
Part 2 of our series on digital transformation in mobility.

When mobility companies transition from PDF standard documents to integrated standard data, they gain impressive efficiencies and a host of other benefits.

Digital Standards Integrate Crucial Information at Critical Moments

Lockheed Martin integrates many diverse data threads from its connected systems, calling this process a “Digital Tapestry” for design and development of components and entire programs. One crucial aspect of making a system-wide “digital tapestry” solution work is the integration of outside data assets, like consensus engineering standards, which are an important part of design, development, certification and maintenance processes.

Engineering standards, the documents that provide accepted material, part, and process specifications and requirements, are used throughout the course of product design and development and into maintenance, repair, and update operations. These historically reach engineers as paper documents or PDFs. For digital threads and digital twins to achieve their full potential across the enterprise, this crucial information must be available on demand, integrated with accuracy, and presented in the most recent versions. How do we get there?

Common Problems with Existing Digital Systems

In current SAE International research on standards use across the aerospace industry, engineers noted these following shortcomings with their existing digital systems:

  • Transcription errors resulting from the manual extraction of data from standards.
  • Difficulty finding standard parts to drive down materials costs, remove redundancy, and limit low-volume orders.
  • Insufficient system integration to capitalize on cost synergies, especially in companies with high acquisition strategies.
  • Challenges improving workflow performance and operational efficiencies dependent on the exchange of normalized data.

“Use of standards and looking up guidance is a large part of the work we do. Mechanical testing, materials specification and comparison to proposed supplier standards is a common topic.” –Engineer, SAE Research Participant

The Benefits of a Digital System in Aerospace

Sikorsky Aircraft says that today, its design engineers interact digitally with maintenance personnel to share perspectives on servicing, accessibility, ergonomics and parts replacement for new designs. This allows for the development of maintenance procedures on aircraft at the design stage. The ability to reference applicable engineering standards data throughout a process like this can be critical to its success. A digital standards system, and the benefits it can provide, is the intelligent solution.

The use of a digital standards system as part of an overall digital design and development process can offer several benefits and significant productivity improvements to the enterprise, including:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Improved quality and compliance with easier change management
  • Reliable accuracy
  • Intelligent search
  • Ease of integration

Let’s take a look at each of these benefits in the context of a digital standards system

Digital Standards Boost Efficiency

Engineering teams are challenged with developing, building and testing product designs that must meet requirements in one or more standards that are documented in static PDFs. It’s difficult to cross-reference and trace requirements, and engineers may not be aware of updated standards. In a digital standards system, engineers can pull digital standards (text, figures, and tables) directly into their engineering tools and documents, reducing the number of cross-references to account for in design documentation. Directly feeding digital standards data into an existing ERP or PLM system can streamline workflow and minimize searching for data, thus freeing time for users to focus on other development work. Notifications of standard updates eliminates the need to manually monitor. Digital standards also significantly streamline the creation and traceability of test cases to requirements. Access to the newest standards covering emerging technologies can also save research time.

Improved Quality and Compliance with Easier Change Management

When using traditional standards, engineers must either cross-reference requirements in standards documents or transcribe requirements into their existing documents, ERP, or PLM systems. This can lead to costly errors. Digital standards can reduce transcription errors or using out-of-date standards, ensuring the accuracy of designs prior to manufacturing. Access to consistent standards data can also benefit quality improvement systems.

Digital standards can provide a more auditable record to ensure compliance to industry regulations and testing. During the lifespan of a vehicle, maintenance and safety updates may be numerous. It requires maintenance of standards information. Service or repairs must be documented, and traceability in an audit is critical. A digital standards system includes automatic updates to the latest version, plus a history of document changes, so the data required is readily available.

Reliable Accuracy

Engineering standards in a digital standards system are reliable, accurate, and kept up-to-date by authoritative sources (like SAE International). This helps support fully auditable digital threads by integrating the standards content into the product development tools that engineers use every day.

Intelligent Search for Standards Data

Digital standards systems with robust search engines quickly find the right standard, whether interfacing through the system or an API. Users can easily locate applicable standards for new designs, parts, materials, existing system upgrades, or ongoing maintenance.

Ease of Integration

A robust digital standards system is interoperable and can be integrated into any system to exchange and use information without restrictions, saving up-front programming time and cost. This could include website-based content downloads or API integrations that interface directly with the tools engineers are using.

SAE OnQue Delivers on the Promise of Digital Transformation

SAE International is a standards development organization that works closely with the aerospace industry to develop and maintain robust standards with highly integrated usage. The SAE OnQue™ Digital Standards System delivers. This cloud-based, centralized digital standards solution offers access to a library of SAE International digital technical standards that can be fully integrated into digital twin and digital thread workflows.

OnQue can also be extended to house internal standards for customers. It is compatible with multiple operating systems and can be available across the various functional departments of an enterprise. All textual content, figures and table within the individual standards are included and are fully searchable.

To learn more about SAE OnQue™, visit