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An innovative logistic opportunity and explain why, how and when it would deliver benefit across the Defence Support Network By Major Ben Reynolds is a Royal Marines

Fujitsu 2017 Future of Logistics Challenge – 2nd Prize

From the science and technology perspective, identify an innovative logistic opportunity and explain why, how and when it would deliver benefit across the Defence Support Network. Given the delegated Defence Operating Model, how would you ensure rapid and successful implementation?

Major Ben Reynolds is a Royal Marines officer currently serving in the South of England. His paper looks at the benefits on offer to Defence from adaptive manufacturing, enabling contracts and ‘last mile’ drone delivery. Rather than propose the acquisition of hard capability, Reynolds proposes establishing a contractual process whereby capability can be made available at short notice, and looks at current examples of capabilities that might be candidates for such a process. He has followed the remit of identifying why, how and when such capability could be delivered in easily understandable terms, and will undoubtedly offer a starting point for future discussion. Major Reynolds’ paper was runner-up in the 9th Fujitsu Future of Logistics Challenge annual Essay Competition in 2017.

INTRODUCTION

To innovate is defined as to “…bring in new methods [or] make changes”[1].  This essay examines Defence’s current logistic situation in order to justify the assertion that innovation is needed within the Defence Support Network (DSN)[2], specifically the Defence Supply Chain (DSC).  It then identifies the following innovative logistic opportunity: to forward base production and distribution, and thus fundamentally change how we sustain our deployed personnel.  The essay identifies 3-Dimensional (3D) printing and drone delivery as manifestations of advanced science and technology that could enable this innovation.  How, why and when each innovation would deliver benefit across the DSN is then considered before examining implementation alongside the Defence Operating Model (DOM)[3], outlining a quick and cost effective route to market for future capability sponsors.

WHERE ARE BENEFITS NEEDED WITHIN DEFENCE LOGISTICS?

The DSN is depicted at Figure 1.  It aims to achieve globally agile logistics founded on an optimised strategic base, enabled by well led logisticians, supported by effective information services and empowered to draw upon strong partnerships with allies and industry in order to fully exploit the benefits of a responsive and efficient support chain linking the strategic base to the front line[4].   This weighty aspiration, however, is set within a challenging context.

Figure 1The Defence Support Network

 

Logistic functions were by far the area of greatest annual expenditure throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts from 2004-2011[5].  Today the DSN is arguably under equal or more relative stress  due to pressure to do more with less: ‘more’ being the breadth of Defence’s commitments and ‘less’ being the money available to Defence.  Figure 2 illustrates that although operational expenditure and the number of personnel deployed have both decreased considerably in recent years, the number of isolated overseas commitments has markedly increased, with the Army alone now deployed in over 80 countries around the world[6].

Figure 2. Annual Audited Costs of Operations[7].

Due to these challenges, this essay focuses on easing the pressure on a stretched DSC whilst also identifying ways to heighten agility and save money.  It presents opportunities to utilise Defence’s relationship with industry in order to achieve these effects.

INNOVATIVE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY; WHY, HOW AND WHEN CAN THEY BENEFIT THE DSN.

End-user production and autonomous tactical distribution.  Logistics is one of the most costly aspects of operations.  Perhaps that is not surprising when Defence has been using the same fundamental concept of resupply for over 70 years since military freight planes first complemented distribution by ship, train and truck from the UK’s manufacturing base.  The concept is now ripe for review in light of recent technological innovations and the trend toward micro-campaigning.  Together, end-user production enabled by 3D printing, and autonomous distribution enabled by drones, could revolutionise the DSN.  These opportunities are considered in detail below.

3D printing (also known as Additive Manufacturing), an end-user or close to end-user production system.  In late 2016 the International Space Station housed an experiment into the use of 3D printing in zero-gravity.  According to NASA, “…a 3D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal or other material, building layer on top of layer to create 3 dimensional objects… [it]… offers a fast and inexpensive way to manufacture parts on-site and on-demand, a huge benefit to long-term missions with restrictions on weight and room for cargo”[8].  In order to produce an item, a 3D printer requires filling with an appropriate material and an electronic file of the item to being produced i.e. manufacturing instructions.  The concept is therefore reliant on effective communications and understanding of intellectual property rights.  The benefits realised by NASA were significant and would be equally beneficial to the DSN.

 

Figure 3. 3D Printer set up inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) in the Destiny U.S. Laboratory[9]. Figure 4.  NASA Astronaut Barry (Butch) Wilmore holds a 3-D printed ratchet wrench from the new 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station. The printer completed the first phase of a NASA technology demonstration by printing a tool with a design file that was transmitted from the ground to the printer[10].

Why can 3D printing benefit the DSN? In 2013 NASA manufactured and successfully tested a rocket engine injector; the component would normally have taken a year to make because of the exact measurements involved, but the manufacturing time was cut to less than four months and the price reduced by more than 70%[11] due to manufacture by 3D printing.  3D printers enable production of spare parts at or close to the point of use.  They offer agility, efficiency and cost savings.

How can 3D printing benefit the DSN? 3D printing can offer utility in the ‘Sustain’ phase of an operation[12].  The capability could remove the need to purchase, store, asset track and deliver components, and would provide what is needed in an incredibly short timeframe.  It would remove the guesswork from ordering spare parts and enable incredibly efficient use of freight transportation.  3D printer ‘cartridges’ are uniform in shape and size so delivering, for example, a pallet worth of cartridges is far more space efficient than delivering a pallet of miscellaneous spare parts: and the number of possibilities contained within the pallet are infinite as long as communications and computer systems support the transfer of e-files.   The use of 3D printers could also simplify customs clearance processes which often prevent timely supply of spares and encourage excessive storage at forward locations.  Reduced requirement for sustainment flights would allow strategic transportation to focus on commodity movements that exceed the capacity of 3D printers, most obviously in the Deploy phase of an operation and for assets that cannot be printed.

When can 3D printing benefit the DSN?  In 2014 the US Army established deployable containerised facilities that enable production of simple components in Afghanistan[13], and in 2016 the US Navy used a metal 3D printer to successfully manufacture a flight-critical component for an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft[14].  3D printing is also being utilised by NASA, private enterprises and elements of the MOD right now.   In late 2016 the RN and USN conducted an interoperability exercise in which both sides produced a drone and then produced critical spare parts for each other’s drones, thus demonstrating capability and interoperability.  The technology is generating great interest in the aerospace industry with BAE amongst many others utilising 3D printing technology.  In short, usable 3D printing technology is available, and rapidly developing, with clear utility to Defence now.

Drone[15] delivery, a low risk tactical system.  The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is nothing new for Defence in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and strike roles, but drone delivery is uncharted territory.  The Rwandan Government contracted Zipline in 2016 to deliver blood, plasma, and coagulants to hospitals across rural western Rwanda.  They do so with drones which air drop commodities thus helping to cut waiting times in the extremely mountainous and undeveloped region.  The company is now expanding to Tanzania[16].  Zipline demonstrate what is possible now, although rapid development is likely as the initiative expands.

Why can drone delivery benefit the DSN? In Rwanda, “The… drone system [is] capable of making 50 to 150 daily deliveries of blood and emergency medicine… based on a fleet of 15 small aircraft, [carrying a] 3.5-pound payload. The system’s speed makes it possible to maintain a “cold chain”… which is often not practical to establish in developing countries.  When they reach the hospitals, they … drop small packages from very low altitudes [using] simple paper parachutes [before returning]  to a home base, where they [are] prepared for a new mission”[17].

The Department for International Development (DFID) estimate that using Zipline drones to fly blood and medical supplies in Tanzania could save £47,400 a year compared to sending them by road[18].  In difficult terrain drone delivery can reduce delivery time and risk regardless of whether the difficulty is posed by the security threat or terrain: using drones removes lives from danger and delivers commodities fast.

How can drone delivery benefit the DSN?  Given the current range of Zipline, drones could reduce the necessity for support helicopters or ground transportation moves by delivering commodities from operational hubs to end users in the most forward locations.  Zipline is distributing lifesaving medical items, the very items that present Defence’s logisticians with some of the greatest supply challenges.  Use of a similar system could enable centralisation of specialist capabilities such as 3D printing and medical cold-chain storage.  Drone delivery could therefore allow rationalisation of commodities, storage and trained personnel in niche capability areas.

When can drone delivery benefit the DSN?  Drone delivery has utility in the DSN construct now and this would increase with greater forward production, notably 3D printing.  Drone delivery is being investigated by distribution giants such as Amazon, DHL and UPS but Zipline is the first commercial organisation to roll-out a fully functioning capability.  It has done so in a region with environmental similarities to areas in which many British Force Elements are deployed, and it is distributing commodities similar to those used by Defence.  Zipline has demonstrated that the capability is available now and DfID has already identified its cost saving and life-saving benefits.

THE DEFENCE OPERATING MODEL (DOM) AND ENSURING RAPID AND SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION.

The DOM encompasses Defence and all of its activity.  Defence is made up of a Government Department and the Armed Forces which together carry out six ‘core functions’ each of which relates to a specific area of the organisations as depicted in Figure 6:  direct policy and military operations;  operate our armed forces; generate and develop our armed forces; acquire the equipment, systems and other items our armed forces need; enable and allow Defence to work properly by providing supporting services; and account for and report on defence activity and spending[19].

Figure 6The Defence Operating Model.[20]

The DSN sits within the scope of the DOM; however, despite indicating which organisations ‘Enable’ and ‘Acquire’ and where industry and contracted support contribute, neither the DOM nor DSN give an insight into the strategic base process of Defence acquisition or procurement, though the DSN does refer to manufacturing.

In 2009, Bernard Gray (later Chief of Defence Materiel), in his Report ‘Review of Acquisition for the Secretary of State for Defence’ found that projects overran on average by 80% or five years and cost more than 40% or £300 million more than estimated[21].  Much was done to correct this situation but six years later Bernard Jenkin MP noted that Defence should not seek capabilities but the capacity to generate capabilities when we need them[22].  It is in the spirit of Mr Jenkin MP’s comments that the remainder of this essay considers how to ensure rapid and successful implementation of 3D printing and drone delivery in a cost effective manner.

Enabling contracts.  When Defence buys independently it risks incurring additional resource and process costs across the Defence Lines of Development[23] (DLOD).  An alternative approach is the use of an Enabling Contract which is a legally binding agreement between the MOD and a supplier outlining remuneration for a specified item, service or capability.  Subsequent orders are raised when required based upon the framework of the Enabling Contract but can be activated far quicker than would be the case if that framework was not already in place[24].

First and foremost, the appropriate sponsor for a given capability must be established; they will produce a Statement of Requirement (SOR) drawing upon stakeholder and Subject Matter Expert input, which will outline what is needed.  The sponsor will then ensure that a suitable Enabling Contract is not already in place by referring to the JSP 895 Contracts Database managed by DE&S Commercial.  If a suitable contract is not in place, the sponsor organisation’s commercial department will compose an Enabling Contract in accordance with the MOD-mandated Simplified Purchasing and Payment Process Flow Diagram[25] process.  The contract is then made available to industry via the MOD Contracting Portal and bids received for consideration.  Once established, the Enabling Contract remains dormant until needed and is activated as required to meet a specific need with minimal lead-in time.  This allows Defence to access cutting edge capability without prolonged design, through life costs or cross-DLOD implications.

3D printing.  This capability has applications across Defence and requires careful coherence to ensure that interoperability with partners and Defence-wide efficiencies are achieved from the concept phase onwards.  Sitting within Joint Force Command’s[26] (JFC’s) Command Group is the Director of Capabilities (DCap) who is responsible for delivering an affordable, balanced and prioritised portfolio of joint capabilities[27].  His team would be responsible for capability sponsorship including resourcing due to the concept’s Tri-Service application.  Defence would be advised against acquiring a core capability until the 3D printing commercial sector reaches a developmental plateau.  In the interim, investigation of an enabling contract is recommended until such time that a core capability would achieve cost saving benefits whilst providing the best service.  DCap would coordinate stakeholders, including the Single Service leads, that have investigated 3D printing to date.  As an emerging area the initiative may present a number of difficulties, especially those surrounding intellectual property rights and the production of patented items.  Legal and technological experts in these fields must be involved from initiation.  After non-operational testing a suitable operational theatre should be identified to prove the concept and allow cost-benefit analysis.  An enabling contract should be established to enable this activity and possible expansion of the capability in due course.

Drones.  Delivery by drones has obvious utility in the Land domain but may also present opportunities to transfer commodities between ships whilst in transit.  Initial scoping of the opportunity should include the Front Line Commands (FLCs)[28] and JFC, with representation from departments currently responsible for existing UAV capabilities and logistics.  Though the Royal Artillery are the capability lead for tactical UAVs, a delivery UAV capability may best sit with the Royal Logistic Corps in order to provide compliance throughout the Defence Support Chain: this is vital given that commodities are likely to be Time and Temperature Sensitive Products.  Input from Air specialists, however, will be essential to ensure compliance with Civil Aviation Authority and international legislation. Again, Defence would be advised against acquiring a core drone delivery capability until the emerging commercial sector’s technological advancement has plateaued.  In the interim, and until cost-benefit savings are clear, an enabling contract should be established to enable non-operational testing followed by operational trials within a suitable theatre, ideally alongside 3D printing.

CONCLUSION

Science and technology present many innovative logistic opportunities that could benefit the Defence Support Network in terms of supply, agility, efficiency and value for money.   Fundamentally, the current concept of sustainment from the Strategic Base has not changed since World War 2 although the trains, trucks, ships and aeroplanes have evolved, and systems have digitised.  End-user production and distribution would revolutionise sustainment and it is enabled by existing 3D printing and drone technology.

Difficulties currently encountered in operational theatres to achieve customs clearances and to predict spares usage could become a thing of the past by the use of 3D printing, whilst saving money and assets but achieving greater agility.  Similarly, the use of drone delivery in a cluttered and contested environment could save lives whilst improving tactical supply, enabling rationalisation of niche capabilities such as medical storage and/or 3D printing.  Drone delivery and 3D printing capabilities go hand-in-hand.

Enabling contracts rather than traditional acquisition offer Defence the ability to utilise cutting edge commercial opportunities when they are required.  They remove much of the complexity surrounding DLOD considerations whilst still realising operational benefits fast.  For drone delivery and 3D printing, Enabling Contracts present one of the most agile methods to obtain these innovations until cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that Defence should own the capability outright.

The innovations examined are commercially available now with numerous bids for Enabling Contracts likely to be forthcoming from industry.  In the case of both capabilities there are examples of UK Governmental Departments and highly respected organisations tentatively utilising the technologies in remote locations.  In each case, they have reduced costs and delivery times whilst providing more robust supply.  They also simplify activity throughout the DSN but most importantly they benefit our personnel on operations: heightening combat effectiveness whilst reducing risk.  They offer a golden opportunity for Defence Logistics.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ACDS (Log Ops), Defence Logistic Vision, 2016.

Amos, I., Article titled ‘After successful launch in Rwanda Zipline drones will now trial medical deliveries in Tanzania’, http://www.iafrikan.com, 6 Jan 2017.

Asclipiadis, A., Article titled ‘Rapid Equipping Force’, https://www.army.mil/article/129635, 2014.

BBC author, Article titled ‘Nasa tests 3D-printed rocket engine fuel injector’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23313921, 2013.

British Army website, https://www.army.mod.uk .

Coventry, L. and Nixon, M., The Oxford Dictionary, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, New York , 1999.

MOD author, Departmental Resources Statistical Bulletin, 2016.

MOD authored, Freedom of Information reference 2015 01104, 25 Feb 2015.

Gray, B., Review of Acquisition for the Secretary of State for Defence: An Independent Report by Bernard Gray, 2009.

Hall-Guy, E., Article titled ‘DARE to dream of a 3D future’, http://defenceintranet.diif.r.mil.uk/Organisations/Orgs/Navy/News/Pages/DAREtodreamofa3Dfuture.aspx, 2016.

HMG authored, House of Commons Standard Note SN/SG/3139, 5 Jul 2012.

Jenkin, B.,  Article titled’ Needed: A completely new approach to Defence acquisition’, http://www.defenceviewpoints.co.uk,  25 Jun 2015.

Markoff, J., Article titled ‘Drones Marshalled to Drop Lifesaving Supplies Over Rwandan Terrain’, New York Times, 4 Apr 2016.

MOD, How Defence Works version 4.2, 2015.

MOD, MOD Key Facts Slide Pack 2015/16, 2016.

MOD, JSP 895 The MOD Simplified Purchasing and Payment Process Manual Part 1 version 2.0, 2014.

MOD, JFC Operating Model, 2015.

National Space Agency website, https://www.nasa.gov .

Zipline website, http://flyzipline.com.

 

[1] Coventry and Nixon, 1999.

[2] The Defence Support Network is an evolution of the UK MOD’s  Joint Supply Chain and recognises the increasing complexity of logistics, information, and enabling activities for defence on operations, and preparing force elements for operations. It includes Regular and Reserve Forces, other government departments, allies and industrial partners.

[3] The Defence Operating Model has its origins in Lord Levene’s 2010 Defence Reform Review, and became fully operational on 1 April 2014. While Defence will continue to refine parts of the operating model, this is now the long-term basis on which Defence business is managed. The operating model is based on: simple structures; fair and transparent delegation of responsibility to those best able to deliver strong organisational leadership, coupled with practical business skills; a culture of innovation and efficiency, removing needless process and flushing out bureaucracy; and joined-up corporate thinking and behaviour, placing the best interests of Defence at the heart of business.

[4] ACDS (Log Ops), 2016. The Assistant Chief of Defence Staff for Logistic Operations is the Defence Authority for Logistics . This involves setting the boundaries and scope of the logistics process. They also make sure there is a link with other processes and that this is managed appropriately. They manage and improve the process, set rules and standards and identify when people are not keeping to them. They also manage risk, identify and manage the information needed for, or generated by, the process, and advise Head Office on strategic logistics issues, particularly related to current operations, supporting the Deputy Chief of Defence for Military Strategy and Operations.

 

[5] Based on ‘The cost of international military operations’, House of Commons Standard Note SN/SG/3139 dated 5 July 2012, I have assessed logistic functions to be: ‘Other costs and services’ consisting of utility costs, personnel and freight movements, transport hire, staff training, medical treatment, welfare services, food and administration costs; and ‘Stock consumption’ consisting of consumption of oil, fuel, medical, clothing, armament, general, engineering and technical stores.

[6] Army website https://www.army.mod.uk/operations-deployments/22753.aspx.

[7] Expenditure chart from Departmental Resources Statistical Bulletin 2016 within MOD Key Facts Slide Pack 2015/16.  Deployment figures taken from FOI 2015 01104, MOD, 25 Feb 15.

[8]NASA, 2016 located https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html .

[9] NASA, 2016, 3D Printer set up inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) in the Destiny U.S. Laboratory, located https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html .

[10] NASA, 2016 located https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html .

[11] BBC author, 2013 located http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23313921 .

[12] ie Prepare, Deploy, Sustain, Redeploy/Recover.

[13]Asclipiadis, A., 2014 located https://www.army.mil/article/129635 .

[14]Hall-Guy, E.,2016 located  http://defenceintranet.diif.r.mil.uk/Organisations/Orgs/Navy/News/Pages/DAREtodreamofa3Dfuture.aspx .

[15] Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

[16]Zipline, 2016 located  http://flyzipline.com/product/ .

[17]Markoff, J., 2016

[18] Amos, I., 2017 located http://www.iafrikan.com/2017/01/06/after-a-successful-launch-in-rwanda-ziplines-drones-will-now-trial-medical-deliveries-in-tanzania/ .

[19]MOD, 2015.

[20] MOD, 2015.

[21] Gray, B., 2009 located  https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmdfence/9/9.pdf para 11.

[22] Hon Bernard Jenkin MP is Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.  He was Shadow Defence Secretary (2001-2003) and sat on the Defence Select Committee (2006-2010). Article located http://www.defenceviewpoints.co.uk/articles-and-analysis/needed-a-completely-new-approach-to-defence-acquisition .

[23] Training, Equipment, Personnel, Information, Doctrine and Concept, Organisation, Infrastructure, Logistics, Interoperability.

[24] JSP895, 2014.

[25] JSP 895, 2014.

[26] Joint Force Command (JFC) provides the foundation and supporting framework for successful operations by ensuring joint capabilities like medical services, training, intelligence, information systems and cyber operations, are developed and managed. They also provide the command and control for overseas defence operations.

[27] JFC Operating Model,  para 5.d.iii.

[28] In line with Lord Levene’s report, and as part of the reorganisation of the top tiers of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Chiefs of Staff have been given many of the levers they need to generate and develop their service to deliver military capability. The Front Line Commands (FLCs) have been made accountable, through the Service Chiefs, for planned and in-service equipment and support across all years and will now set the detailed equipment and support requirements for their own Service’s equipment. As such, they act as the customer for Chief of Defence Materiel (CDM). In this case, JFC is considered separately; however, they are often considered to be one of the FLCs.

Fujitsu 2017 Future of Logistics Challenge

From the science and technology perspective, identify an innovative logistic opportunity and explain why, how and when it would deliver benefit across the Defence Support Network. Given the delegated Defence Operating Model, how would you ensure rapid and successful implementation?

Major Ben Reynolds is a Royal Marines officer currently serving in the South of England. His paper looks at the benefits on offer to Defence from adaptive manufacturing, enabling contracts and ‘last mile’ drone delivery. Rather than propose the acquisition of hard capability, Reynolds proposes establishing a contractual process whereby capability can be made available at short notice, and looks at current examples of capabilities that might be candidates for such a process. He has followed the remit of identifying why, how and when such capability could be delivered in easily understandable terms, and will undoubtedly offer a starting point for future discussion. Major Reynolds’ paper was runner-up in the 9th Fujitsu Future of Logistics Challenge annual Essay Competition in 2017.

INTRODUCTION

To innovate is defined as to “…bring in new methods [or] make changes”[1].  This essay examines Defence’s current logistic situation in order to justify the assertion that innovation is needed within the Defence Support Network (DSN)[2], specifically the Defence Supply Chain (DSC).  It then identifies the following innovative logistic opportunity: to forward base production and distribution, and thus fundamentally change how we sustain our deployed personnel.  The essay identifies 3-Dimensional (3D) printing and drone delivery as manifestations of advanced science and technology that could enable this innovation.  How, why and when each innovation would deliver benefit across the DSN is then considered before examining implementation alongside the Defence Operating Model (DOM)[3], outlining a quick and cost effective route to market for future capability sponsors.

WHERE ARE BENEFITS NEEDED WITHIN DEFENCE LOGISTICS?

The DSN is depicted at Figure 1.  It aims to achieve globally agile logistics founded on an optimised strategic base, enabled by well led logisticians, supported by effective information services and empowered to draw upon strong partnerships with allies and industry in order to fully exploit the benefits of a responsive and efficient support chain linking the strategic base to the front line[4].   This weighty aspiration, however, is set within a challenging context.

Figure 1The Defence Support Network

 

Logistic functions were by far the area of greatest annual expenditure throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts from 2004-2011[5].  Today the DSN is arguably under equal or more relative stress  due to pressure to do more with less: ‘more’ being the breadth of Defence’s commitments and ‘less’ being the money available to Defence.  Figure 2 illustrates that although operational expenditure and the number of personnel deployed have both decreased considerably in recent years, the number of isolated overseas commitments has markedly increased, with the Army alone now deployed in over 80 countries around the world[6].

Figure 2. Annual Audited Costs of Operations[7].

Due to these challenges, this essay focuses on easing the pressure on a stretched DSC whilst also identifying ways to heighten agility and save money.  It presents opportunities to utilise Defence’s relationship with industry in order to achieve these effects.

INNOVATIVE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY; WHY, HOW AND WHEN CAN THEY BENEFIT THE DSN.

End-user production and autonomous tactical distribution.  Logistics is one of the most costly aspects of operations.  Perhaps that is not surprising when Defence has been using the same fundamental concept of resupply for over 70 years since military freight planes first complemented distribution by ship, train and truck from the UK’s manufacturing base.  The concept is now ripe for review in light of recent technological innovations and the trend toward micro-campaigning.  Together, end-user production enabled by 3D printing, and autonomous distribution enabled by drones, could revolutionise the DSN.  These opportunities are considered in detail below.

3D printing (also known as Additive Manufacturing), an end-user or close to end-user production system.  In late 2016 the International Space Station housed an experiment into the use of 3D printing in zero-gravity.  According to NASA, “…a 3D printer extrudes streams of heated plastic, metal or other material, building layer on top of layer to create 3 dimensional objects… [it]… offers a fast and inexpensive way to manufacture parts on-site and on-demand, a huge benefit to long-term missions with restrictions on weight and room for cargo”[8].  In order to produce an item, a 3D printer requires filling with an appropriate material and an electronic file of the item to being produced i.e. manufacturing instructions.  The concept is therefore reliant on effective communications and understanding of intellectual property rights.  The benefits realised by NASA were significant and would be equally beneficial to the DSN.

 

Figure 3. 3D Printer set up inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) in the Destiny U.S. Laboratory[9]. Figure 4.  NASA Astronaut Barry (Butch) Wilmore holds a 3-D printed ratchet wrench from the new 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station. The printer completed the first phase of a NASA technology demonstration by printing a tool with a design file that was transmitted from the ground to the printer[10].

 

Why can 3D printing benefit the DSN? In 2013 NASA manufactured and successfully tested a rocket engine injector; the component would normally have taken a year to make because of the exact measurements involved, but the manufacturing time was cut to less than four months and the price reduced by more than 70%[11] due to manufacture by 3D printing.  3D printers enable production of spare parts at or close to the point of use.  They offer agility, efficiency and cost savings.

How can 3D printing benefit the DSN? 3D printing can offer utility in the ‘Sustain’ phase of an operation[12].  The capability could remove the need to purchase, store, asset track and deliver components, and would provide what is needed in an incredibly short timeframe.  It would remove the guesswork from ordering spare parts and enable incredibly efficient use of freight transportation.  3D printer ‘cartridges’ are uniform in shape and size so delivering, for example, a pallet worth of cartridges is far more space efficient than delivering a pallet of miscellaneous spare parts: and the number of possibilities contained within the pallet are infinite as long as communications and computer systems support the transfer of e-files.   The use of 3D printers could also simplify customs clearance processes which often prevent timely supply of spares and encourage excessive storage at forward locations.  Reduced requirement for sustainment flights would allow strategic transportation to focus on commodity movements that exceed the capacity of 3D printers, most obviously in the Deploy phase of an operation and for assets that cannot be printed.

When can 3D printing benefit the DSN?  In 2014 the US Army established deployable containerised facilities that enable production of simple components in Afghanistan[13], and in 2016 the US Navy used a metal 3D printer to successfully manufacture a flight-critical component for an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft[14].  3D printing is also being utilised by NASA, private enterprises and elements of the MOD right now.   In late 2016 the RN and USN conducted an interoperability exercise in which both sides produced a drone and then produced critical spare parts for each other’s drones, thus demonstrating capability and interoperability.  The technology is generating great interest in the aerospace industry with BAE amongst many others utilising 3D printing technology.  In short, usable 3D printing technology is available, and rapidly developing, with clear utility to Defence now.

Drone[15] delivery, a low risk tactical system.  The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is nothing new for Defence in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and strike roles, but drone delivery is uncharted territory.  The Rwandan Government contracted Zipline in 2016 to deliver blood, plasma, and coagulants to hospitals across rural western Rwanda.  They do so with drones which air drop commodities thus helping to cut waiting times in the extremely mountainous and undeveloped region.  The company is now expanding to Tanzania[16].  Zipline demonstrate what is possible now, although rapid development is likely as the initiative expands.

Why can drone delivery benefit the DSN? In Rwanda, “The… drone system [is] capable of making 50 to 150 daily deliveries of blood and emergency medicine… based on a fleet of 15 small aircraft, [carrying a] 3.5-pound payload. The system’s speed makes it possible to maintain a “cold chain”… which is often not practical to establish in developing countries.  When they reach the hospitals, they … drop small packages from very low altitudes [using] simple paper parachutes [before returning]  to a home base, where they [are] prepared for a new mission”[17].

The Department for International Development (DFID) estimate that using Zipline drones to fly blood and medical supplies in Tanzania could save £47,400 a year compared to sending them by road[18].  In difficult terrain drone delivery can reduce delivery time and risk regardless of whether the difficulty is posed by the security threat or terrain: using drones removes lives from danger and delivers commodities fast.

How can drone delivery benefit the DSN?  Given the current range of Zipline, drones could reduce the necessity for support helicopters or ground transportation moves by delivering commodities from operational hubs to end users in the most forward locations.  Zipline is distributing lifesaving medical items, the very items that present Defence’s logisticians with some of the greatest supply challenges.  Use of a similar system could enable centralisation of specialist capabilities such as 3D printing and medical cold-chain storage.  Drone delivery could therefore allow rationalisation of commodities, storage and trained personnel in niche capability areas.

When can drone delivery benefit the DSN?  Drone delivery has utility in the DSN construct now and this would increase with greater forward production, notably 3D printing.  Drone delivery is being investigated by distribution giants such as Amazon, DHL and UPS but Zipline is the first commercial organisation to roll-out a fully functioning capability.  It has done so in a region with environmental similarities to areas in which many British Force Elements are deployed, and it is distributing commodities similar to those used by Defence.  Zipline has demonstrated that the capability is available now and DfID has already identified its cost saving and life-saving benefits.

THE DEFENCE OPERATING MODEL (DOM) AND ENSURING RAPID AND SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION.

The DOM encompasses Defence and all of its activity.  Defence is made up of a Government Department and the Armed Forces which together carry out six ‘core functions’ each of which relates to a specific area of the organisations as depicted in Figure 6:  direct policy and military operations;  operate our armed forces; generate and develop our armed forces; acquire the equipment, systems and other items our armed forces need; enable and allow Defence to work properly by providing supporting services; and account for and report on defence activity and spending[19].

Figure 6The Defence Operating Model.[20]

The DSN sits within the scope of the DOM; however, despite indicating which organisations ‘Enable’ and ‘Acquire’ and where industry and contracted support contribute, neither the DOM nor DSN give an insight into the strategic base process of Defence acquisition or procurement, though the DSN does refer to manufacturing.

In 2009, Bernard Gray (later Chief of Defence Materiel), in his Report ‘Review of Acquisition for the Secretary of State for Defence’ found that projects overran on average by 80% or five years and cost more than 40% or £300 million more than estimated[21].  Much was done to correct this situation but six years later Bernard Jenkin MP noted that Defence should not seek capabilities but the capacity to generate capabilities when we need them[22].  It is in the spirit of Mr Jenkin MP’s comments that the remainder of this essay considers how to ensure rapid and successful implementation of 3D printing and drone delivery in a cost effective manner.

Enabling contracts.  When Defence buys independently it risks incurring additional resource and process costs across the Defence Lines of Development[23] (DLOD).  An alternative approach is the use of an Enabling Contract which is a legally binding agreement between the MOD and a supplier outlining remuneration for a specified item, service or capability.  Subsequent orders are raised when required based upon the framework of the Enabling Contract but can be activated far quicker than would be the case if that framework was not already in place[24].

First and foremost, the appropriate sponsor for a given capability must be established; they will produce a Statement of Requirement (SOR) drawing upon stakeholder and Subject Matter Expert input, which will outline what is needed.  The sponsor will then ensure that a suitable Enabling Contract is not already in place by referring to the JSP 895 Contracts Database managed by DE&S Commercial.  If a suitable contract is not in place, the sponsor organisation’s commercial department will compose an Enabling Contract in accordance with the MOD-mandated Simplified Purchasing and Payment Process Flow Diagram[25] process.  The contract is then made available to industry via the MOD Contracting Portal and bids received for consideration.  Once established, the Enabling Contract remains dormant until needed and is activated as required to meet a specific need with minimal lead-in time.  This allows Defence to access cutting edge capability without prolonged design, through life costs or cross-DLOD implications.

3D printing.  This capability has applications across Defence and requires careful coherence to ensure that interoperability with partners and Defence-wide efficiencies are achieved from the concept phase onwards.  Sitting within Joint Force Command’s[26] (JFC’s) Command Group is the Director of Capabilities (DCap) who is responsible for delivering an affordable, balanced and prioritised portfolio of joint capabilities[27].  His team would be responsible for capability sponsorship including resourcing due to the concept’s Tri-Service application.  Defence would be advised against acquiring a core capability until the 3D printing commercial sector reaches a developmental plateau.  In the interim, investigation of an enabling contract is recommended until such time that a core capability would achieve cost saving benefits whilst providing the best service.  DCap would coordinate stakeholders, including the Single Service leads, that have investigated 3D printing to date.  As an emerging area the initiative may present a number of difficulties, especially those surrounding intellectual property rights and the production of patented items.  Legal and technological experts in these fields must be involved from initiation.  After non-operational testing a suitable operational theatre should be identified to prove the concept and allow cost-benefit analysis.  An enabling contract should be established to enable this activity and possible expansion of the capability in due course.

Drones.  Delivery by drones has obvious utility in the Land domain but may also present opportunities to transfer commodities between ships whilst in transit.  Initial scoping of the opportunity should include the Front Line Commands (FLCs)[28] and JFC, with representation from departments currently responsible for existing UAV capabilities and logistics.  Though the Royal Artillery are the capability lead for tactical UAVs, a delivery UAV capability may best sit with the Royal Logistic Corps in order to provide compliance throughout the Defence Support Chain: this is vital given that commodities are likely to be Time and Temperature Sensitive Products.  Input from Air specialists, however, will be essential to ensure compliance with Civil Aviation Authority and international legislation. Again, Defence would be advised against acquiring a core drone delivery capability until the emerging commercial sector’s technological advancement has plateaued.  In the interim, and until cost-benefit savings are clear, an enabling contract should be established to enable non-operational testing followed by operational trials within a suitable theatre, ideally alongside 3D printing.

CONCLUSION

Science and technology present many innovative logistic opportunities that could benefit the Defence Support Network in terms of supply, agility, efficiency and value for money.   Fundamentally, the current concept of sustainment from the Strategic Base has not changed since World War 2 although the trains, trucks, ships and aeroplanes have evolved, and systems have digitised.  End-user production and distribution would revolutionise sustainment and it is enabled by existing 3D printing and drone technology.

Difficulties currently encountered in operational theatres to achieve customs clearances and to predict spares usage could become a thing of the past by the use of 3D printing, whilst saving money and assets but achieving greater agility.  Similarly, the use of drone delivery in a cluttered and contested environment could save lives whilst improving tactical supply, enabling rationalisation of niche capabilities such as medical storage and/or 3D printing.  Drone delivery and 3D printing capabilities go hand-in-hand.

Enabling contracts rather than traditional acquisition offer Defence the ability to utilise cutting edge commercial opportunities when they are required.  They remove much of the complexity surrounding DLOD considerations whilst still realising operational benefits fast.  For drone delivery and 3D printing, Enabling Contracts present one of the most agile methods to obtain these innovations until cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that Defence should own the capability outright.

The innovations examined are commercially available now with numerous bids for Enabling Contracts likely to be forthcoming from industry.  In the case of both capabilities there are examples of UK Governmental Departments and highly respected organisations tentatively utilising the technologies in remote locations.  In each case, they have reduced costs and delivery times whilst providing more robust supply.  They also simplify activity throughout the DSN but most importantly they benefit our personnel on operations: heightening combat effectiveness whilst reducing risk.  They offer a golden opportunity for Defence Logistics.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ACDS (Log Ops), Defence Logistic Vision, 2016.

Amos, I., Article titled ‘After successful launch in Rwanda Zipline drones will now trial medical deliveries in Tanzania’, http://www.iafrikan.com, 6 Jan 2017.

Asclipiadis, A., Article titled ‘Rapid Equipping Force’, https://www.army.mil/article/129635, 2014.

BBC author, Article titled ‘Nasa tests 3D-printed rocket engine fuel injector’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23313921, 2013.

British Army website, https://www.army.mod.uk .

Coventry, L. and Nixon, M., The Oxford Dictionary, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, New York , 1999.

MOD author, Departmental Resources Statistical Bulletin, 2016.

MOD authored, Freedom of Information reference 2015 01104, 25 Feb 2015.

Gray, B., Review of Acquisition for the Secretary of State for Defence: An Independent Report by Bernard Gray, 2009.

Hall-Guy, E., Article titled ‘DARE to dream of a 3D future’, http://defenceintranet.diif.r.mil.uk/Organisations/Orgs/Navy/News/Pages/DAREtodreamofa3Dfuture.aspx, 2016.

HMG authored, House of Commons Standard Note SN/SG/3139, 5 Jul 2012.

Jenkin, B.,  Article titled’ Needed: A completely new approach to Defence acquisition’, http://www.defenceviewpoints.co.uk,  25 Jun 2015.

Markoff, J., Article titled ‘Drones Marshalled to Drop Lifesaving Supplies Over Rwandan Terrain’, New York Times, 4 Apr 2016.

MOD, How Defence Works version 4.2, 2015.

MOD, MOD Key Facts Slide Pack 2015/16, 2016.

MOD, JSP 895 The MOD Simplified Purchasing and Payment Process Manual Part 1 version 2.0, 2014.

MOD, JFC Operating Model, 2015.

National Space Agency website, https://www.nasa.gov .

Zipline website, http://flyzipline.com.

 

[1] Coventry and Nixon, 1999.

[2] The Defence Support Network is an evolution of the UK MOD’s  Joint Supply Chain and recognises the increasing complexity of logistics, information, and enabling activities for defence on operations, and preparing force elements for operations. It includes Regular and Reserve Forces, other government departments, allies and industrial partners.

[3] The Defence Operating Model has its origins in Lord Levene’s 2010 Defence Reform Review, and became fully operational on 1 April 2014. While Defence will continue to refine parts of the operating model, this is now the long-term basis on which Defence business is managed. The operating model is based on: simple structures; fair and transparent delegation of responsibility to those best able to deliver strong organisational leadership, coupled with practical business skills; a culture of innovation and efficiency, removing needless process and flushing out bureaucracy; and joined-up corporate thinking and behaviour, placing the best interests of Defence at the heart of business.

[4] ACDS (Log Ops), 2016. The Assistant Chief of Defence Staff for Logistic Operations is the Defence Authority for Logistics . This involves setting the boundaries and scope of the logistics process. They also make sure there is a link with other processes and that this is managed appropriately. They manage and improve the process, set rules and standards and identify when people are not keeping to them. They also manage risk, identify and manage the information needed for, or generated by, the process, and advise Head Office on strategic logistics issues, particularly related to current operations, supporting the Deputy Chief of Defence for Military Strategy and Operations.

 

[5] Based on ‘The cost of international military operations’, House of Commons Standard Note SN/SG/3139 dated 5 July 2012, I have assessed logistic functions to be: ‘Other costs and services’ consisting of utility costs, personnel and freight movements, transport hire, staff training, medical treatment, welfare services, food and administration costs; and ‘Stock consumption’ consisting of consumption of oil, fuel, medical, clothing, armament, general, engineering and technical stores.

[6] Army website https://www.army.mod.uk/operations-deployments/22753.aspx.

[7] Expenditure chart from Departmental Resources Statistical Bulletin 2016 within MOD Key Facts Slide Pack 2015/16.  Deployment figures taken from FOI 2015 01104, MOD, 25 Feb 15.

[8]NASA, 2016 located https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html .

[9] NASA, 2016, 3D Printer set up inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) in the Destiny U.S. Laboratory, located https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html .

[10] NASA, 2016 located https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1115.html .

[11] BBC author, 2013 located http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23313921 .

[12] ie Prepare, Deploy, Sustain, Redeploy/Recover.

[13]Asclipiadis, A., 2014 located https://www.army.mil/article/129635 .

[14]Hall-Guy, E.,2016 located  http://defenceintranet.diif.r.mil.uk/Organisations/Orgs/Navy/News/Pages/DAREtodreamofa3Dfuture.aspx .

[15] Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

[16]Zipline, 2016 located  http://flyzipline.com/product/ .

[17]Markoff, J., 2016

[18] Amos, I., 2017 located http://www.iafrikan.com/2017/01/06/after-a-successful-launch-in-rwanda-ziplines-drones-will-now-trial-medical-deliveries-in-tanzania/ .

[19]MOD, 2015.

[20] MOD, 2015.

[21] Gray, B., 2009 located  https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmdfence/9/9.pdf para 11.

[22] Hon Bernard Jenkin MP is Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.  He was Shadow Defence Secretary (2001-2003) and sat on the Defence Select Committee (2006-2010). Article located http://www.defenceviewpoints.co.uk/articles-and-analysis/needed-a-completely-new-approach-to-defence-acquisition .

[23] Training, Equipment, Personnel, Information, Doctrine and Concept, Organisation, Infrastructure, Logistics, Interoperability.

[24] JSP895, 2014.

[25] JSP 895, 2014.

[26] Joint Force Command (JFC) provides the foundation and supporting framework for successful operations by ensuring joint capabilities like medical services, training, intelligence, information systems and cyber operations, are developed and managed. They also provide the command and control for overseas defence operations.

[27] JFC Operating Model,  para 5.d.iii.

[28] In line with Lord Levene’s report, and as part of the reorganisation of the top tiers of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Chiefs of Staff have been given many of the levers they need to generate and develop their service to deliver military capability. The Front Line Commands (FLCs) have been made accountable, through the Service Chiefs, for planned and in-service equipment and support across all years and will now set the detailed equipment and support requirements for their own Service’s equipment. As such, they act as the customer for Chief of Defence Materiel (CDM). In this case, JFC is considered separately; however, they are often considered to be one of the FLCs.

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