Change Tracking of Document Versions

Change History

Id Subject Date
Latest Commit Published V2.1.0 2024-01-08
KBLFRM-1007  Implementation Guideline for Modification-Tracking & Versioning 2022-07-29

As described in detail in the Implementation Guideline “General Structure / Usages of the DocumentVersion” one use case of the DocumentVersion is to serve as a payload data container within the VEC, either for the digital representation of an external document or for native digital data. This Implementation Guide is about the possibilities to track changes and modifications of this payload data within the VEC. Be sure to read Parts, Documents and Resources before, as it also contains important information about this topic.

In the VEC, data is organized in DocumentVersions and those are unambiguously identified by CompanyName, DocumentNumber and Version. Those attributes are identifying an entity relevant for the process as the single source of truth for this information, for example a drawing, a data sheet or even an entity in a database. The handling of those attributes and the corresponding change procedures are driven by the process and not by technical requirements. In many cases the VEC only contains a digitally readable representation (an export) of that information.

Consequently, the identifying attributes and in particular the Version are only changed, when the relevant process entity has changed, according to rules applied by the process (e.g. a new version of a drawing has been created and approved). However, there are numerous scenarios (described in detail below) where the payload content in a VEC DocumentVersion can change, without a change of the underlying process entity. To allow the content of a DocumentVersion to be marked as changed in such scenarios, the DigitalRepresentationIndex was introduced. If the DigitalRepresentationIndex has changed, the content of the DocumentVersion must be checked for changes, otherwise the content can be assumed unchanged (see Parts, Documents and Resources for a definition of “unchanged”).

Application of the DigitalRepresentationIndex

When to Use

The DigitalRepresentationIndex is an optional feature of the VEC that softens the requirements for the change semantic of CompanyName, DocumentNumber and Version in cases where the content of a DocumentVersion in the VEC changes, without being able to at least adjust / increment the Version-attribute.

When to Modify

A reading system can assume the payload content of a DocumentVersion unchanged, when the DigitalRepresentationIndex has not changed between two VEC files. The DigitalRepresentationIndex shall be different, whenever the payload content of a DocumentVersion with the same CompanyName, DocumentNumber and Version is different. If a clear statement is not possible, a change is to be assumed in case of doubt. As mentioned before, there are multiple scenarios where such a situation might occur. The illustration below is intended to explain some examples of such scenarios.

Different Representations of the same Information
Different Representations of the same Information

In all scenarios, the content of the DocumentVersion in a VEC files might be different, resulting in a modified digital representation index, for the same (unchanged) source document. For the example, assume the document entity in the process is an approved component drawing as PDF (highlighted in blue on the left hand side of the figure). This is the document identified by CompanyName, DocumentNumber and Version. The following situations might occur that result in different digital representations without changed source document:

  • In a first step (marked with (1)), the information from the drawing is transferred manually into an IT-System (e.g. a component database). A first digital representation is created. However, this representation might be changed at a later point for multiple reasons:
    • A mistake / typo occurred during the manual data transfer and is corrected.
    • Data management guidelines or the underlying IT-System changed and more information from the original document has to be transferred.
  • This data is exported into a Component Data VEC (marked with (2)). If this is done multiple times, different digital representation might be created due to:
    • Added features of the exporter resulting in more information in the export.
    • A bug fix for the exporter component or the exporting system.
    • An update of the underlying VEC version.
  • The component data is used to create other artifacts in the development process (marked with (4)). For this, at least parts of the original information might be embedded in the new artifact for traceability reasons. Another digital representation is created.
  • A system might provide different export flavours with different content levels depending on the recipient. For example a VEC for external partners might contain less information as a VEC for internal use.
  • The source document might contain various information. E.g. a single component drawing can define a complete family of components (e.g. a family of terminals). When creating a VEC file per component (recommended approach for a component database), the resulting VEC file should only contain the information relevant to exported component and not all components defined in the drawing. Therefore, you might have different DocumentVersions containing different information slices of the same source document (illustrated in the figure below).
VEC files with partial content
VEC files with partial content

An indication of change with DigitalRepresentationIndex is mandatory only if the payload data content of a DocumentVersion has changed (e.g. changed, added or removed attributes or contained objects). It does not require that the resulting XML serialization is binary identical.

Changes related to the technical aspects of XML representation do not require a DigitalRepresentationIndex. This includes, but is not limited to changes of XML ID & IDREF elements (assuming the referenced objects are the same), ordering of XML elements and XML Meta elements like XML Comments ("<!-- ... -->") or XML Processing Instruction (<?target instructions?>)

How to Create

The VEC does not define any specifications for the construction of the DigitalRepresentationIndex (e.g. syntax, order). The only requirement is, that two values can be checked of equality. If the values are equal, the payload data can be assumed unchanged, if the values are different, the payload data might be different as well.

It is up to the discretion and capabilities of the generating system to define a suitable and possible algorithm to generate the index. However, it should always be taken into account that an unnecessary change indication creates needless overhead on the side of the reading systems.

Possible approaches include:

  • An internal change tracking index of the creating system (e.g. revision number)
  • A checksum created over the relevant payload data
  • A timestamp, either of the last change in the creating system or the time of the VEC creation.
  • A UUID identifying a specific digital representation. Each time a new digital representation is created a new UUID is generated.