There is an ongoing study looking at actual maintenance costs of individual types of equipment over periods of time to find out what the right duration is for a system.
The data being collected and crunched is helping the service understand the relationship between when a vehicle is truly is no longer maintainable, and when it is cost effective to continue evolving them.
“What we're doing now is putting real hard data behind it because frankly, the advancement in some of our computing capabilities is now allowing it.
The model is starting with vehicles they have a lot of them and therefore, a lot of maintenance data available.
The model will give the Army deeper understanding of the year-to-year costs of operations and maintenance.
“If I buy a Humvee this year, how much on the first year will I spend on maintaining it? How much will I spend on driving it? How does that change in the second year, third year, fourth year, etc.
“When does it make the most sense to rebuild them? At what point does it make no sense to rebuild them, but instead just to go ahead and absorb the increased expense of repair or instead replace them?”
Putting together a separate costing model where the data can be applied to different platforms and equipment. The model will give pricing and ownership figures for the fleets and equipment.
The costing model is generic and can be applied to any platform. “It's also useful for building a truck model and a tank model and a Bradley model … so it just becomes a building block that we feed data into, and it gives us an ability to see the cost model over time.”
Teams have laid the groundwork by collecting logistics data and putting them into sets. Capturing that data and putting it in a coherent fashion where it can be applied “has been a bit of a challenge."
AI can span across data management, predictive maintenance, supply and inventory forecasting, optimizing tactical and technical proficiency and even using prescriptive analytics to better inform the selection of vehicle condition. And more AI use cases could easily be found in monitoring command post, aligning training, certification and deployment requirements.
Technical publications supporting the operations and maintenance of complex assets in the aerospace and defense industries play an instrumental role in operational enablement and mission achievement. These tech pubs represent the organization’s institutional knowledge.
As senior staff retire and take a wealth of knowledge with them, these organizations realize technical publications are critical to sustaining newer team members’ productivity. Luckily, modern technologies are enabling new ways to utilize tech pubs in productive and innovative ways.
The term “efficiency” keeps coming up – efficiency across the entire technical content supply chain. It’s about efficiency in the creation, delivery, understanding and utilization of the technical knowledge in every step in the product and service lifecycle.
What are some examples of efficiency? Perhaps by starting with what is meant by the “efficient utilization of technical knowledge”?
Historically, tech pubs have been used passively in the maintenance process. An issue or task arises, a work order is generated with the parts and tools required and the tech is assigned to complete the effort. The technician accesses the tech pub as a reference, either on paper or in the IETM. In other words, the information is passively pulled into the process, not proactively pushed.
As we move further into the digital revolution, assets are becoming more intelligent with innovations like AI, big data analytics, remote diagnostics and other emerging technologies.
Proactive delivery of technical knowledge is possible as the assets themselves can now communicate intelligently with digitalized content. For example, our customers have embedded our technology into asset platforms so the diagnostics data in the tech pub can work with the onboard monitoring systems to identify emerging issues.
What about further up the content supply chain - the creation and delivery process. How are these becoming more efficient? This is really focused on defense manufacturers and how they can streamline and standardize across programs throughout the enterprise, and even across their supply chains.
Consolidating their tech pubs applications on a common software will result in several benefits, including improved agility, quality and security across programs. Content collaboration and reuse will increase and IT support costs will go down.
Consolidated reporting becomes possible, providing deeper insights. These capabilities can then be expanded to their providers to streamline data exchange throughout the extended supply chain.
Both the US Navy and the US Air Force have seen the value of rationalization and consolidation. The Navy with their Standard NAVSEA Integrated Publishing Process, or SNIPP, and the Air Force with their Technical Order Authoring and Publishing, or TOAP, solutions.
AI is frustrating to maintenance officers. The special AI "task forces" and their massive budgets are great, but it's time to get honest about the rest of the military. Ask any every day soldier, sailor, airman or Marine their opinion of how things run on a daily basis and you will hear complaints about pay, lost orders or awards, broken gear, outdated software or perhaps the blue screen of death that happens when Outlook is open along-side too many websites.
That doesn't mean that AI isn't a good fit or shouldn't be pursued. But it does mean that AI success requires a force readiness approach. First, AI isn't new and it isn't new to the military. Marketing hype around the term has experienced a surge lately but the fact that something wasn't tagged as artificial intelligence historically does not take away the fact that it was actually AI.
Groups and organizations lauding artificially intelligent solutions are popping up everywhere with promises to create the next battlefield advantage using next generation weapons, gear, or satellites. The term artificial intelligence (AI) splashes the headlines with promises that we're moments away from revolutionizing the battlefield.
Despite the hype, AI is simply a field of science that trains systems to perform some human task through learning and automation. There are varying degrees of sophistication but most of the data mining, network analysis and mapping technology used over the past decade or more have all been forms of AI.
Weapons systems and combat vehicles have been leveraging AI for many years as well. So don't let the noise change the focus from the mission need.
There are varying degrees of sophistication but most of the data mining, network analysis and mapping technology used over the past decade or more have all been forms of AI.
Weapons systems and combat vehicles have been leveraging AI for many years as well.
Soldiers on the front lines need their supporting forces to be trained and armed with the appropriate technology to support the advances being operationalized on the battlefield.
If we look specifically at the maintenance field, the vast majority of military maintenance planners/crews are still using the same products and systems from a decade ago.
Efforts around collecting maintenance data are ripe for sophistication, but what about the analysts that have to sift through and make sense of that additional data? How has their training changed to account for a more technologically advanced battlespace? How have their products and solutions integrated requirements and workflows with real time information to truly augment their efforts?
The majority of data mining and visualization tools on the market have flashier interfaces than we saw a decade ago, but the true sophistication of what the vast majority of maintenance analysts have been offered doesn't really reflect the decade of advancements seen in the commercial market.
Monitor human developed courses of action (COAs) beside computer generated courses of action including the criteria for suitability, feasibility, acceptability, uniqueness and completeness. A machine will see information differently than its human counterparts and may identify behavior differences present in data that human analysts may miss due to the sheer volume and complexity of reporting maintainers are presented with. Like-wise, humans have strengths of experience, intuition, rules of engagement and the context of real world dynamics that a computer generated COA cannot interpret. Comparing both options helps find the best COA.
You don't have to be a part of a high profile AI initiative to find value in the science for nearly all areas of the military.
At the Defense Digital Service, we often hear stories about quagmires created by the services when approaching modern software development. The services want to begin building software solutions in commercial cloud environments, but struggle with where to begin. The Defense Department’s first instinct is to pay a vendor to “transfer” current software to the cloud, rather than redirecting talent internally to build applications in a cloud-based environment.
Earlier this year, the Defense Digital Service and the Marine Corps had an opportunity to address the modernization of the software development process.
.It was clear to Defense Digital Service engineers that the Marine Corps had accepted that any software update or acquisition would be infuriatingly slow, potentially insecure, and expensive.
The Defense Digital Service engineers and product managers convinced the Marine Corps that it not only has the talent to code, but by developing software internally rather than purchasing cloud software from a commercial vendor, so Marine Corps could actually acquire a product of even greater quality and security.
Marines developed the System for Operational Logistics Orders, or SOLO. The joint project became an opportunity to reimagine software development in the department. We leveraged internal talent, we built the application in the cloud, and we tested a novel software authorization process to deliver a new cloud-based software application much more quickly than anticipated.
The Defense Digital Service and the assembled talent wanted to develop a software prototype that would both solve an existing problem and serve as a pilot for cloud-based development.
The Global Combat Support System was an ideal test case. It serves as a single point of entry for all logistics requirements and is known to be a big pain for Marines to work with. many marines’ existence. Every transaction involving a DoD-approved item, from motors to uniforms to ammo, goes through the Global Combat Support System. The system is essential.
The system is supposed to allow for rapid and flexible operations. In reality, it suffers from poor user experience: timeout issues during the login process, latency issues as more users log in during the day, and data errors that must be corrected regularly by support services. Because the system was built more than a decade ago, it has not kept up with improved software, web, and infrastructure capabilities.
Processing the receipt of goods at a supply house became our focus area after observing firsthand the pain of processing deliveries at a military workforce supply house.
Three drums of motor lubricant came into the warehouse for the motor pool that day. It took a marine 20 minutes to log the receipt of the drums. When an officer walked the 100 yards from the motor pool to the warehouse for the drums, it took the two of them 15 minutes to file the hand-off.
Once the officer was back at the motor pool, he logged into the same system to acknowledge the drums were delivered. Essentially, it took two marines the better part of an hour to manually do the work of a barcode.
It was settled: Receipt of goods was a daily task that impacted lots of users, fixing it allowed us to tackle the issues of logging into the system, it would not require changes to the legacy product, and it looked feasible to deliver in 90 days.
After meeting with users, the team sketched out a project workflow, information architecture, and the journey map for both the user and data.
After multiple Defense Digital Service development, security, and operations experts reviewed the infrastructure and security for the proposed system architecture, the team spent some time building out the software application.
User experience discussions, design interviews, and individual storyboard exercises helped the team develop wireframes — or basic outlines — that were tested by users at the supply house.
With the infrastructure built and the front-end designs fully tested, it was time to combine the robust infrastructure with the web-based software application. Then, the team encountered a roadblock.
Even with the receipt of goods functionality finished, the team was unable to integrate the software application with the Global Combat Support System until the “authority to operate” was released by an authorizing official for the Marine Corps.
An authority to operate is a permit to use a product issued in DoD when implementing new technologies. Today, technology systems are put into production only after such an authority is issued. This process requires a technology team to respond to hundreds of security questions, or risk management framework controls. The process usually only begins when a system is complete or near-complete, resulting in a long lead time to implement new technologies.
The team planned to circumvent the slowdown by initiating the authority to operate at the same time as the software application functionality. The Marine Corps software compliance team decided to use SOLO to test out these parallel software development and compliance review processes, known as a rapid authority to operate. Following a successful demo, the authorizing official issued the authority to operate.
Having delivered SOLO, a secure cloud-based application that improves the “receipt of goods” function in the Global Combat Support System, we dramatically reduced the steps it takes to receive goods into a warehouse and distribute them to the ordering unit. SOLO combined more than a dozen steps into a single process, trimming the task down from 20 minutes to a matter of seconds.
More than a function in itself, SOLO was a pilot to prove a process of developing cloud-based software for the military. The application itself addresses one problem — receipt of goods — but it also contains a software-based server, database, and network infrastructure that can support up to a thousand functions. The Marine Corps can add on functions at a pace set by its needs and resources, without having to wait. The authorization to operate for SOLO was built around its infrastructure, so as long as the infrastructure stays intact, additional functions or changes need no further authorization.
The Team built SOLO within 90 days — an unheard-of feat for federal government software development. It represents a significant reduction of the multiyear timelines usually required to field a product from conception to completion to delivery.
The Defense Digital Service took on the SOLO project to prove a few points. First, the Marine Corps does have the technical talent in its ranks needed to build first-class software. Second, the Department of Defense can build software quickly and with greater flexibility for the future by looking inward, instead of to vendors. Third, modern software development requires adapting cumbersome processes like the Authority to Operate so engineers can work fast and iterate quickly to user and security needs.
This project should shape not only future Marine Corps efforts, but future Department of Defense projects for years to come. The team demonstrated a cost-effective, iterative procedure that can quickly field a precise capability needed to accomplish a task.
Now is time to empower military talent to build the modern software development capabilities the Pentagon so desperately needs. There is much work to be done.
- Commit resources to recruit, grow, and retain experienced leaders who understand the battlefield, are technologically competent, and can manage risk like battlefield commanders
- Create places to practice where they will learn by failing before the risk of failure becomes too great.
- Find, advance, and reward those who prove to be highly adaptive and creative in addressing emerging problems across the force—especially in the absence of guidance.
- Support this cadre of leaders with the resources required to execute their mission
- Develop a doctrine for innovation
- Establish a common language for communicating results of efforts
- Connect outcomes of their actions to warfighting objectives.
- Develop and resource a professional military and civilian roadmap for lifelong learning
- Embed this doctrine in the skill sets of its entire workforce: operators, developers, acquisition officials, etc.
- Establish workshops to provide guidance for practical, everyday problems