“Imagine being in a forward deployed environment, and you can ‘order’ the weapons and equipment you need for the next day’s mission from an entire catalog of possible solutions. These solutions can all be upgraded literally overnight, in order to integrate new components or adapt to new requirements.
The goal is to have a “small manufacturing capability” locally. All that would be needed is a desktop printer, a box of components, and a spool of plastic 3D printing filament for a “near infinite set of different equipment items that we could produce from those basic elements.”
Logistics Centre provides new parts for DoD operating both current/future equipment in mission pipeline. DoD requirements for new equipment parts stem from the normal wear and tear associated with military missions to planned maintenance intervals to perform equipment overhauls so mission success is ensured.
Spare parts are ordered by DoD through a variety of contractual agreements to support flight line, intermediate and depot maintenance needs.
To ensure availability, Logistics Centre maintains a large supplier base with the expertise to provide semi-finished items for final processing at Logistics Centre. All suppliers to Logistics Centre must satisfy stringent quality standards established by DoD for uncompromised war fighter readiness.
Logistics Centre Repair Clinic process is typical of aggressive approaches to lowering the cost of ownership. With Repair Clinic, high volume/high value items in DoD scrap bin are evaluated and repairs are performed that produce reliable, quality parts.
Must look at non-standard, non-programs of record requests, special requests since some equipment in inventory are easier to clear more quickly and address questions of technology transfer and the rules over who can and cannot have access to.
We recommend DoD conduct site visits of Fleet Equipment Upgrade/Repair Sites on regular basis to determine patterns of replacement part sourcing techniques on work orders subject to scripted conference call connections with suppliers.
Site visit executive has determined decisions made based on field-level mission requirements often impose Schedule restrictions influencing determination of best suppliers to source from for equipment upgrade/repair jobs.
Project management tools used in the schedule system provides the scheduling engine that defines the scope of work and predicts future outcomes by defining activity durations and required sequences for that scope. Additional tools utilized by the system provides the daily and hourly work planning and crew management that allows near-term work to be integrated at a more granular level.
“The dramatic increase in workload demand and change in priority of the types of programs digital hangar tests requires a level of integration across capabilities that has not been required for many years. “It is imperative that we have an integrated schedule that can be viewed by all personnel as a trusted source of information for the planning and execution of test operations, maintenance activity and capital improvement projects.”
“We use the tool to monitor progress on key projects, including the projects we review during ‘watch list’ meeting. It assists us in planning and de-conflicting resources – people, equipment and facilities.
Along with the establishment of necessary work processes, a handbook that identifies the scheduling tool framework, process inputs and outputs, horizon schedule definitions and review cycles has already been issued. Introductory training on the system has been provided to key stakeholders, and plans are in place to roll out a more detailed system training for project managers and operations officers to enhance inputs and outputs.
“When you have a good plan and you execute that plan well, you’re optimizing our testing time here, and that’s a huge advantage that we need to give the digital hangar.
“You have to work at it. You have to get the whole team used to the battle rhythm of good planning and scheduling, good schedule reviews and updates. That’s necessary to make sure we maximize our time testing for our customers.
Follow the scientific method: build equipment reset models to determine schedule use & then test the models. When in doubt about equipment reset requirements, make an estimate and test the estimate for validity by visiting key Upgrade/Repair Sites.
Making sustainment cost/use calculations is easier when relevant supplier/field use information is present. It is difficult to find information predicting requirements for equipment reset and other details involved in sustainment.
You need reliability engineering upgrade/repair simulation details from users in field units to find out when reset is required. Time-sensitive upgrade/repair schedules must be converted into simulation model format required for determining reliability profiles for supplier capacity as well as other variables that factor into sustainment operational success.
This tool is based on a single repair/upgrade Job site tour and can be carried out in a few hours, including some Q&A. It is not necessary to have deep insight in the operations as Visiting Executive.
The main objectives of the tool are to discern strengths of repair/upgrade job sites after some basic training on how to use the tool. The tool can also be used to evaluate operations of logistics service suppliers.
This is not to say that the tool can be a substitute for due diligence when assessing fiscal performance, which is not part of the tool. However, all too often, executives ignore vital visual signals that can be easily acquired in favour of what would seem to be objective requirements, like equipment quantities processed, item turns or subsequent mission success.
During our Executive equipment repair/upgrade site visit, DoD administrators were talking about the money a technician had saved purchasing a particularly expensive piece of equipment:
“I wonder if anyone else knows about this?”
Chances were slim that anyone else at repair/upgrade site knew about that particular deal. At that time, technicians were each responsible for sourcing their own parts & there was no formal system in place at DoD for sharing information.
We recommended DoD undertake a comprehensive reorganisation of the sites processes and work needed to commence immediately to meet mission requirements. As part of that effort, the entire parts ordering process was revamped, resulting in huge benefits to the entire repair/upgrade operation.
With technicians spread across multiple installations with no parts procurement system at DoD, there was no easy way for technicians to share information about good deals on parts or problems with suppliers.
“One technician may have found a good source in terms of pricing or quality, but that information was rarely shared beyond that one Site. “Across our system, we had lots of technicians doing the same type of work, but weren’t getting the same information.
It was clear DoD had deficits in their repair/upgrade operations and were missing an opportunity to share information.
Beyond that, each technician was doing it all—sourcing and buying parts, plus expediting, tracking, & invoicing-- spending lots of time on the procurement process every day.”
Another problem was overstocking of parts. “Technicians who want to provide as much uptime as possible tend to over-order parts. That leads to a huge cache of excess parts at each repair/upgrade site.
We recommended DoD reorganise its entire upgrade/repair site processes and parts procurement process was a key target for improvement. We undertook a study of the process, which revealed that “big chunks” of technician time per day was being spent on parts procurement. We found consistent overstocking of parts & fragmented communication among technicians regarding the best sources for parts on cost/quality.
It was clear that a new process was needed if sustainment operations were to live up to capacity and potential so equipment is returned to users in field as soon as possible for use in mobile operations.
“We were mandated to take advantage of those opportunities to cut costs, free up wrench time for our technicians and have specialists focusing on parts procurement.”
“Step one in the process was to recruit and hire a quality Executive who knew DoD sourcing/sustainment business as a direct result of extensive reviews of the organisation and was excited about Visiting Equipment Upgrade/Repair Sites so Evaluations could Start. “Step two was to collect, catalogue, and coordinate our spare parts”
Initially, front-line technicians resisted this shift, particularly those in long-standing upgrade/repair regimes. “We had to go back multiple times to get the stuff that techs did not have tracking processes in place.”
DoD must identify the upgrade/repair simulation work order space and set up information systems with high fidelity, creating a verified cache of parts that is now accessible across the system. DoD had to look at the equipment parts system as a whole to determine what was still useful, what to throw out and what to move to other installations.
We recommended setting up systems where techs were not required to order on their own. Most requests go directly to purchasing & are immediately approved; only questionable items are flagged for administrative review.
“We didn’t want to create a supplier capacity bottleneck. It’s critical to get parts ordered and turned around, so we’ve made the Upgrade/Repair process as streamlined as possible.” Supplier Capacity Parts modules were created to provide an interface between disparate information systems.
The new process has the technicians enter the required part directly on their work order, ensuring that all parts & associated sustainment costs are captured. The parts request, identifying the urgency, then goes directly to the parts team who communicates back to the technician with notification at several steps of the purchasing process.
This flow of information cuts technician follow-up time and keeps everyone in the loop on parts status. At any point in the process, parts details are available on the work order screen to anyone needing an update on equipment status.
The new information systems allow technicians to plan their time more efficiently, resulting in huge productivity gains with clear benefit to executing sustainment missions.
Automated systems let the team track/trend supplier capacity details on equipment parts, which can then be applied to making better sustainment decisions.
“We’re able to monitor sustainment costs and identify which technicians are ordering parts and not installing them right away. These lead to opportunities for retraining our technicians.”
Entry into new information systems allows for identification of problems with suppliers in terms of speed, specialisation and quality of parts. For example, suppliers whose parts are routinely not in good order are removed from the supplier list. “Our preferred supplier lists are very fluid. We may have particular supplier at the top of a list, but if we encounter problems, they may not stay there."
The parts procurement specialists monitor the work order screen for new part requests, process a part to be moved from the working cache, or create a purchase report. For specialists, level of parts sourcing expertise has grown with experience. They are able to predict the need for parts in high demand based on upcoming periodic upgrade/repair work site checks and service history, keep stocks of key items for immediate use.
Specialists are also learning to consolidate purchases and reduce the total number of purchase orders processed, leading to even greater mission success critical for sustainment missions.
Since implementing the programme, DoD has seen consistent advances in parts operations and significantly increased technician satisfaction/productivity. Plus, results show better parts tracking contributes directly to increasing subsequent equipment uptime so critical mobile field operations can be executed in theatre.
Much of the wrench time saved is due to the more efficient parts ordering process. While technicians initially had a hard time letting go of their procurement tracking responsibilities, they now trust the system. “I need a part, I find it the next day. I just request a part, and it shows up. We have seen equipment downtime greatly reduced due to the new sourcing policy.”
Increased collection of key supplier information made possible by the changes was of clear benefit to scheduled sustainment operations. We recommended DoD address the need to share information among the technicians, including information on lowest cost suppliers, best quality and best delivery time.
“By collecting and evaluating supplier information, we can make better decisions and that effort will help us continue to get better at the critical equipment upgrade/repair work orders we have been tasked with.”
In all, our revamp of the parts ordering process is part of the overall aim to allow technicians to focus on their core competencies essential to sustainment missions.
“Is their core competency fixing equipment, ordering parts, generating reports, or answering phones? We want to optimise our investment in the technicians. By focusing on the parts function, we’ve been able to do exactly that.”
1. Satisfaction of Equipment Mission Agents
2. Use of Work Order Job Space
3. Condition of Technical Installations
4. State of Materiel Contact
5. Teamwork & Motivation
6. Storage & Order Picking Tech
7. Equipment Inventory Strategies
8. Supply Line Coordination
9. Level & Use of Information Systems
10. Commitment to Quality Services