Guideline for Technical Documentation: VDI 2770

Opportunities and Challenges for Suppliers in Plant Engineering

Guideline for Technical Documentation: VDI 2770

Parts lists, circuit diagrams, test reports, and maintenance instructions:
The wealth of technical documentation is enormous, which manufacturers deliver to their customers with every new machine. If the documentation is also made available digitally, manufacturers can often be faced with the question: How can the multitude of files be conveyed to the operator in a meaningful and usable structure? Until now, it was common for manufacturers to compile the file packages according to an individual procedure – often in-line with the operator's specific requirements.

The problem here is that the lack of uniformity in file management significantly reduces the number of benefits associated with digital documentation. This makes it unnecessarily difficult to access and classify the supplied documents. Often, each individual document has to be painstakingly selected from a confusing folder system and then manually transferred to the structure of the operator's system.

How can this be done better?
The Association of German Engineers (VDI) has taken an important step towards standardising digital documentation and has developed a guideline for the provisioning of documents. The result is the Guideline VDI 2770 Part 1 "Operation of process engineering plants - Minimum requirements for digital manufacturer information in the process industry; basic principles" or VDI 2770 for short.


What is the specific objective of Guideline VDI 2770?

With the specification of file formats and metadata (as well as the definition of a fixed filing structure), the transfer of manufacturer information to operators is to be standardised. Although the guideline originated out of an initiative of the process industry, its scope of application is basically independent of the industry. Particularly in plant construction and process engineering, with their sometimes very complex overarching systems, the guideline promises a significant improvement in the organisation of documents.
Another advantage of VDI 2770: The uniform metadata model forms the basis for the automated transfer of files into the operator systems. This not only saves time, but is also less error-prone than manual access to the transferred files, especially in the case of very complex plant documentation.
Since its publication in 2020, the guideline has quickly become an important tool for the digitisation of technical documentation in industry. It's therefore also intended to serve as the basis for future international ISO/IEC standardisation.



What exactly does VDI 2770 regulate?

In essence, the guideline specifies the following aspects for the digital provisioning of technical documentation:

  • Classification of the documents
  • Sets of fixed metadata for each document
  • Structure of the digital documentation package
  • File formats

A clear classification of documents considerably facilitates their storage and subsequent retrieval. For this reason, VDI 2770 defines four specific document groups for classification, which in turn are then sub-divided into twelve categories. The categories are based on the product life cycle of technical goods. The content/documents typically contained within technical documentation can thus be classified without difficulty.


© VDI 2770

The VDI 2770 provides an independent metadata file in XML format for each individual document. Each document is uniquely specified with the aid of a predefined set of metadata.
Essentially, the following types of metadata are involved:

  • Metadata for the identification of the document
  • Metadata for the classification of the document
  • Metadata for the identification of the product being described
  • Metadata with other version and management information



© kothes GmbH

In which specific structure must the files be both stored and delivered? At least two physical files are provided for each document:

  • A PDF/A file with the actual document content (e.g. maintenance schedule)
  • The associated XML file with the metadata

Optionally, the document can also be stored as an additional file representing the source format of the document, such as the Excel file for a BOM (Bill Of Materials).
For each document, the individual files are now combined in a ZIP file, to form the so-called document container.
The overall documentation thus consists of many individual ZIP files. These individual containers are in turn stored in their own ZIP main container. At the first level, this also contains a main document which, like the other documents, consists of a PDF/A file and the associated metadata file. The PDF/A file contains a human-readable listing of the individual documents. The XML file, in turn, references all sub-documents by their Document ID. Incidentally, this procedure also allows the manufacturer's manuals for the individual sub-systems of a plant to be integrated both quickly and easily into the entire collection of documentation.

File format
The technical documentation of machines and systems must be readable and searchable in the long-term. For this reason, VDI 2770 prescribes the PDF/A format, which was specially developed for the long-term archiving of digital documents. Data provision in accordance with VDI 2770 thus fulfills the relevant regulatory and normative requirements placed on the long-term availability of information.


What efforts are there for manufacturers?

Of course, this depends on the complexity of the technical documentation and the specific document management within the manufacturing company. In any case, a central point will be the practical application of the specified metadata model of VDI 2770. Some of the metadata, such as the Document ID and the language and title of the document, can in the vast majority of cases be extracted from the operator systems without major effort. Other metadata, such as the classification of the documents, on the other hand, must be newly documented and maintained in the future.
From a technical point of view, it can be stated: The obstacles for implementing the guideline were deliberately kept to a minimal number by the VDI. For example, the XML format in which the metadata file must be created is very common. This provides the option for direct-editing by humans without the need for special software. Nevertheless, it can mean an enormous amount of work (especially in plant engineering), to classify thousands of documents in accordance with VDI 2770 and file them in the prescribed structure.


How can kothes support you?

From the assignment of metadata to the complete technical implementation of your digital documentation container in accordance with the VDI guideline: Our team of experts can support you in all phases of your document management. The special advantage: we use the potential inherent in the metadata of your documents and enable a mostly automated creation of your documentation package. Thanks to an AI-based process, the metadata required by VDI 2770 is recognised semi-automatically in your dataset. The final file package of your documentation is also generated both quickly and easily in this way.
Would you like to learn more about the requirements of VDI Guideline 2770, or do you need specific support in implementing the guideline? Then please feel free to contact us!


Steffen Vorderstemann
Blog post Steffen Vorderstemann
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