Every asset used to support military operations has a vital role – even the humble boot is useless if it doesn’t fit either the user or the task properly. As equipment becomes more complex, the task of capability management for defence departments gets a whole lot more complex. Brendan Viggers, of the Aerospace & Defense Center of Excellence at IFS, looks at the key developments that will impact asset management and takes a glimpse of sixth generation logistical support.
Military doctrine and warfare have changed significantly over the past 20 years. Equipment is no longer being pre-positioned forwards at Main Operating Bases, MoDs now provide engineering across first, second line and third line support, with industry only becoming involved in the fourth line, where they provide maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities. The change of emphasis from a static force to the need for capability projection and expeditionary warfare now requires rapid deployment and flexibility, demanding a new operational model for equipment acquisition, management and ownership.
The capability management challenge
Organisations are focused on capabilities that balance through-life costs and operational effectiveness. This means leveraging the cost savings and process improvements enabled by a whole new set of disciplines and business processes with new business models such as Contractor Logistics Support, Performance Based Logistics, and Product Support Agreement programs. The result is that irrespective of whether the support environment is undertaken by uniformed personnel, by a third party or an OEM, suppliers have to deal with the increasing complexity of product, contract and supplier relationships.
Information systems used must be functional enough to gather the data required to monitor key performance indicators and review activity but also deliver visual insight to understand enterprise performance and enable better decision-making.
Where will we go from here?
From an operational perspective, there are four key developments, which I predict will have a significant impact on long-term strategies:
- Self-Analysis and Reporting – Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) is a capability that has been used consistently for a number of years but, the change we are likely to see in the future is how it integrates into the enterprise solution. Equipment will report its current configuration in real-time, and usage information analysed, providing drivers for an overall enterprise solution to start delivering practicable and realisable business case benefits.
- Mobile – Tailoring mobile apps to meet the specific needs of solution users is where mobile has the potential to do something significant. Mobile apps offer a solution of gaining essential feedback of specific operational information without inundating the user with functionality, in a format optimised for specific equipment, easily customisable, and devoid of superfluous overhead.
- Context Aware – Solutions will automatically tailor their operation through recognition of the maintenance environment they are in. Being aware of unique environments in the field will enable tailoring in more effective ways, making life easier for the user.
- Augmented Reality – Sophisticated technology will move into practical utilisation. Augmented reality solutions are able to provide expertise and instruction on-demand. For example, using a live feed from an engineer’s headset, an expert can guide and instruct maintenance that may well be taking place in a difficult to reach location. We will see solutions move to being interfaced with the enterprise solution, with feeds of maintenance information being two-way in real time.
The future – Sixth Generation Logistical Support Enterprise (GLSE)
Over the next 20 years, we will see the full integration of operations, maintenance and the supply chain into a ‘logistics support enterprise’ alongside the continuation of the current move towards more modular applications-based ERP software. This new agile breed of solutions is removing the time and pain required to adapt processes using the more traditional, monolithic ERP systems.
This future generation of logistics solutions will see support optimisation through probabilistic methodology with the capability to dynamically interact with the in-service support solutions. Also embedded within it is workforce scheduling and planning capabilities built to respond in real time to real-world events.
Technology will increasingly be used to create an environment to better enable the user to do their job, reducing solution overheads, while also providing the always-essential feedback loop. Advanced equipment must be matched by an advanced model for asset acquisition, management and ownership. Ministries of Defence must embrace these new technological developments – or face being caught flat-footed when asset availability is mission-critical.