The Paperless Procedure System (PPS) is a computer-based, semiautomated electronic system for collection and management of quality-assurance data in a large organization. The original version of PPS was designed for use by Kennedy Space Center personnel engaged in inspection tasks during test and assembly procedures that are part of preparing the space shuttle and its payloads for flight. The PPS was also designed to be adaptable to nonaerospace commercial applications.

The PPS serves a need to increase productivity and improve the availability of inspection data while maintaining the safety and quality of service in the face of reductions in the number of workers. Heretofore, data from inspections have been written on paper forms, from which the data are subsequently scanned into an archival computer memory in a central database-management system. In the PPS, on the other hand, there is no need for paper forms and the attendant manual processing steps; instead, inspection data are recorded on compact, portable data terminals (pen-based computers) and thereafter processed automatically.

Portable Data Terminals take the place of paper inspection forms. These terminals communicate with the CDS subsystem.

The portable data terminals communicate with a central database server (CDS) subsystem, which includes computer hardware and software performing the functions of a network host and database server (see figure). The PPS makes electronic forms, work-flow-management software tools, and network communication resources accessible to mobile personnel. The most innovative components of the PPS software are the Intelligent Forms Converter (IFC), Data Format Converter (DFC), Inspector's Smart Stamp (ISS) modules.

The IFC module automates the development of electronic (as distinguished from paper) representations of test and assembly procedures. Unlike in typical other pen-based computer systems, there is no need for a software engineer to reprogram the system and its electronic forms each time the requirements for test and assembly procedure change. Instead, the IFC module accepts, as input, an electronic representation of a test and assembly procedure prepared in a commercial word-processing program. The IFC module then automatically converts the input into the proper electronic format for execution on a pen-based computer.

The DFC module satisfies requirements for preserving all test data, images of inspectors' stamps, notes, deviations, and constraints recorded during a test and assembly procedure that has recently been executed. The DFC converts this recorded information into a final electronic document in a prescribed format. This electronic document is designated an official record of the procedure and is not permitted to be altered subsequently.

The ISS module provides an electronic means of authentication analogous to an inspector's ink stamp. The ISS module is executed with the help of silicon-based memory devices that store the information necessary for electronic generation of stamp images similar to the ink versions. An inspector causes a stamp image to be generated by touching one of these memory devices to a probe on a portable data terminal.

This work was done by Eric A. Adolphe and Mark Sullivan of Optimus Corp. and Patrick Xantus of Sentel Corp. for Kennedy Space Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com under the Electronic Systems category, or circle no. 147 on the TSP Order Card in this issue to receive a copy by mail ($5 charge).

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to

Sentel Corp.
225 Reinekers Lane
Suite 500
Alexandria, VA 22314

Refer to KSC-11943 , volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.