Electronic Parts Catalog Exchange Standard | Foreword


Document Purpose

This document has been prepared by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Rail Industry Forum (RIF) Subcommittee on Information Standards (SoIS) Electronic Parts Catalog Task Team. The document is the result of a two year effort to develop a standard for the exchange of electronic parts catalog data within the North American railroad industry. The standard’s intent is to provide a method of transferring information that is hardware and software independent and facilitates the exchange of catalog information, not to restrict or exclude any railroad or supplier’s normal business relationship within the railroad industry.


The Rail Industry is an asset intensive industry. Over half of the current asset base consists of locomotives, freight and passenger cars, and large construction machinery. Utilization and cost containment of these assets is a primary railroad objective. Typically, a significant portion of a Transit Authority’s or a Railroad’s operating expense is devoted to maintenance and repair of these assets.

All personnel responsible for the maintenance of this equipment struggle to identify the exact replacement components for this equipment. Until recently, each railroad or authority has used the parts catalogs from the original equipment manufacturer which has historically been a paper-based document. This hard-copy format presents problems with distribution, storage, availability, linkages to internal systems, updates and product configuration changes.

Currently, many of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Passenger Car Builders and Freight Car Builders produce hard-copy parts catalogs on some type of electronic publishing system. The intelligence of these electronic systems terminates with the production of the hard-copy parts catalog.

Over the past few years, a number of Transit Authorities and Railroads moved toward the use of image-based computer systems to display parts catalog information and then link the parts data with internal requisitioning and accounting systems. These systems currently depend on some combination of manual scanning and independent services to provide electronic formats of the data.

The intent of this document is to develop a standard that will allow the intelligence of the electronic publishing systems to directly feed the electronic image display systems of the railroads with a minimum of manual intervention.

Specifically, the standard prescribes the unique coding requirements to enable the exchange of parts catalog information for all suppliers to the Railroad Industry. It will further specify data structure, information requirements, and technical illustration configuration.

A survey of best practices of similar industries was performed and as a result, this standard has been developed by generously using other currently-available standards, rather than by developing new ones.

This industry standard, which will govern the electronic exchange of information, will facilitate the growth of electronic parts catalogs and reduce overall implementation costs to the industry. Representatives of all North American roads, a number of Transit Authorities and a number of key suppliers, have participated in the development of this standard. Key individuals and companies that have participated in the development of this standard are identified later in this foreword.

Definition of a Parts Catalog

A parts catalog is normally produced in conjunction with the sale of a new or rebuilt product. It is considered a publication that will provide the customer with aftermarket component ordering information. It is regularly used by the mechanic to understand how a component can or should be disassembled and to identify replacement parts.

As a product’s manufacture is completed, a document describing the physical content of the equipment is produced. A typical parts catalog is a document that combines some type of technical illustration with descriptive text relating to an item in the illustration. The technical illustration can be a graphic or picture of parts of the product. These illustrations also generally have callouts that further identify detailed replaceable parts of the item. These graphic callouts are numbered and relate to textural data on an adjoining page or a different section of the page. Text data typically includes some type of part number, quantity per assembly, the related item number of a graphic, and often, further text that descriptively identifies the part. There are many formats and combinations of catalogs currently produced by suppliers to the rail industry.

It is the intent of this document to specify the format of the data elements of the catalog information into an electronic format that can be interchanged.

This initiative will not specify changes to current production of paper-based catalogs, though it is expected that this standard may eventually obsolete their need.

Definition of a Standard Exchange (EPCES)

The acronym “EPCES”, for Electronic Parts Catalog Exchange Standard, will be used throughout the document to be this standard.

Specific, structured requirements for all electronic data elements within a parts catalog will be specified. This will involve a specific data element tagging scheme, as well as file configuration requirements for technical illustrations. Definitions, conventions, standards, effectivities, change control, media exchange, samples and document navigation (linking) will be specified.

This structure is intended to be an independent interface (exchange) standard between the hardware and software of the producers of the parts catalogs and the users of the catalogs.

The standard is not intended to restrict catalog producers from continued use of their current (or any) publishing software. It is also not intended to restrict railroads or authorities from their own selection of display software options. The Rail Industry Forum is attempting to standardize the way data is exchanged, not standardize how the data is created or used.

Benefits Of A Standardized Exchange

Successful application of this information standard permits the entire industry to adopt a single data exchange medium.

As railroad use of electronic information increases, this single exchange standard will permit all suppliers to focus on the design of a single support systems, thereby eliminating potentially redundant unique preparation and delivery costs for each customer.

Railroad maintenance practices will improve as better and faster information is delivered to the mechanics in the field. Links to supporting functions, such as purchasing and warehousing can be integrated to shorten order cycle time between the recognition of the need for a some part and the delivery of the proper replacement part. This directly supports the plan to reduce asset shop time.

Maintenance of Revisions to the Standards

In addition to being an electronic exchange standard for maintenance information, the EPCES will be maintained electronically on the Internet under the auspices of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Rail Industry Forum (RIF) Subcommittee on Information Standards (SoIS). This will allow the ISM RIF SoIS Task Team to manage the revisions to the standards on-line.

Revisions to the standard will be divided into two types: minor changes and policy changes.

Minor changes of a clarification or technical type should be submitted to those designated by the ISM RIF SoIS Task Team with the responsibility to manage the home page on the Internet. Should the nature of the recommended revision be deemed more substantive by the administrators of the home page, it will be handled as a policy change.

Any recommended policy change that might result in revisions to the standard will be should be submitted in writing to the Task Team. The Task Team will meet a minimum of once a year to review such changes. During the initial roll out of the standard, it is anticipated that any critical change will be handled through emergency meetings of the Task Team.

All changes to the standard, whether minor or policy, will be tracked in an attachment to the standard. Each change will be footnoted in the document itself. The attachment will be a full listing of all revisions by footnote number with the date and the reason for the change. This will provide full accountability and traceability for revisions to the standard.

Rail Industry Forum Subcommittee On Information Standards

Many rail industry related companies have supported the completion of this standard. The following key individuals have been the primary interface to this committee on behalf of their organizations, and can be contacted for further clarifications about the standard and its application: List of RIF Members