12 Feb 21. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) announces SkyGuardian® Global Support Solutions (SGSS), a new service and support program for GA-ASI customers operating the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and the maritime variant SeaGuardian®. SGSS provides operators with reduced lifecycle costs and low risk by providing a guaranteed full-sustainment solution that allows for maximum system availability, commonality, and access to crew training at an affordable cost-per-flight-hour.
“We’re drawing on our past experience with Performance Based Logistics programs,” said Vice President of Sustainment Sam Richardson. “SGSS will maximize fleet lifecycle savings by leveraging the economy of scale created by the expansion of the global fleet of MQ‑9B aircraft.”
SGSS will lower lifecycle costs for customers by leveraging the cost of sustainment across all MQ-9B operators. The plan merges resources, especially for regional operators, to create synergies in procurement, management, and depot repairs. This “Big Fleet Approach” provides collective buying power that incentivizes suppliers and subcontractors to create long-term contractual arrangements and innovative solutions to provide increased customer support and cost savings that are passed down to the customer. MQ-9B users who operate either a large fleet or small fleet will collectively realize significant cost savings.
Services provided by SGSS include spare parts and depot-repair management, engineering field support and program sustainment engineering. SGSS has a customer-led governance structure that coordinates operator requirements and directs priorities for allocation of combined resources, making sustainability more affordable and predictable for customers.
11 Feb 21. Customer Interaction Center Connects Customers With Supplies. Day, night, weekend or holiday, Defense Logistics Agency customers are only about seven seconds away from speaking to a representative who can answer supply questions that range from an order’s delivery status to equipment availability. No voice-activated responses. No frustrating prompts or holds.
”The Customer Interaction Center is one of DLA’s hidden gems. A lot of what the team does goes unnoticed because they do it so well. Supporting customers is their priority, and they take it seriously,” said Andy Monday, director of DLA Logistics Operation’s Customer Support Division.
Open 24/7 and located in Battle Creek, Michigan, the CIC is DLA’s ”one-call resolution center.” The staff receives 1,200 to 1,600 customer contacts a day via phone at 1-877-DLA-CALL or online queries; Monday said the team’s quest to answer all calls in under 30 seconds is well above industry standards.
In 2020, agents processed 463,878 actions with an average handling time of 12 minutes, 19 seconds. About 75% of those actions were done by CIC agents at the lowest level, said Shannon Calhoun, deputy director of customer support.
”That’s a pretty large percentage of calls that we were able to resolve quickly and didn’t have to escalate for what we call level-two research by DLA employees at the major subordinate commands,” she said.
The rest of the contacts involved more complex matters, including contractual issues and backlogs. In each case, a response describing how those service tickets were being processed was sent to customers within 24 hours.
Though military operations decreased some in 2020 due to the pandemic, Calhoun said the number of contacts agents handled remained similar to those of previous years due to an intense wildfire season and the need of troops for personal protective equipment.
”There are always ebbs and flows, but our work stayed steady with DLA providing COVID-related supplies to all the services. We also supported all the wildfires in California and beyond,” Calhoun said.
Firefighters typically place emergency orders via email and follow up with a phone call to CIC agents, who alert DLA Distribution San Joaquin in Tracy, California, with the order number, line items and quantity requested before finalizing the order in DLA’s Distribution Standard System. Agents completed 1,466 emergency orders worth over $47.2m during the 2020 fire season compared to $10.8m in 2019.
On the weekend of Aug. 21, CIC agents processed four emergency orders for 105 items. One order called for 7,000 radio batteries, said Megan Krueger-Youmans, a CIC customer support specialist, in an August interview.
”Every time the firefighters go out into the field and come back, they replace their batteries even if they only used them for an hour because they don’t want to go back out and not have communication,” she said. Equipment was further strained by firefighters inability’ to share personal protective equipment, such as helmets, due to COVID-19.
Data the agents collect during customer contacts is compiled by the CIC Customer Analytics Team to provide an overview of interactions specific to geographic location; for military customers, the information is sorted into categories, such as installation, unit and service branch. Data reports are shared with senior leaders to inform them of local interactions with DLA before they visit customer locations. A Customer Analytics Report and Engagement Summary is also shared monthly with customer support representatives co-located with military units, as well as DLA liaison officers for geographic combatant commands or federal agencies and military national account managers at DLA Headquarters.
”These reports give our forward-facing DLA employees a complete breakdown of who’s calling the CIC the most and what their top issues are,” said Jim Croyle, analyst team lead.
A January summary capturing CIC interactions with Navy customers, for example, lists 10 units with the most tickets initiated in December. Reasons for contact are broken out, as well as the National Stock Numbers most frequently involved.
”This helps them identify their customers’ pain points and areas where customers may need some additional help,” Coyle added.
Customers repeatedly calling to ask ”Where’s my stuff?” can signal the need for formal, hands-on FedMall training, Calhoun said. And DLA trainers frequently use the data to customize instruction for specific audiences by including examples from the calls to teach customers how to navigate online tools with document numbers they’re familiar with.
”On top of the formal training, when agents find answers from a tool customers have access to, they’ll take the time to train the customer right there on that call to find the information themselves,” said CIC Chief Penny Young.
Teaching customers to be self-sufficient frees agents’ time so they’re available to help with more complex issues, Monday added.
New agents get five to six weeks of training that familiarizes them with DLA’s business portfolio, requisition types and automated systems for placing and tracking orders. Each has immediate access to systems that help them answer customers’ questions, and information technology modernization now in progress is expected to increase agents’ capability for communicating with customers.
”Our current modernization efforts will bring us into the current age so we’re able to use things like online chats that we already have access to in our personal lives,” Calhoun said. ”Our new service tool will also have more of a portal feel that allows customers to ask simple questions on the web.”
The goal is to simplify the customer and agent experience using new technology, not eliminate agents. Instead, they can work through more involved issues.
”Without the CIC, our ever-shrinking, customer-facing force would be inundated with all these phone calls and questions that our agents are trained and available to address. Our customer support representatives and LNOs are there to provide more in-depth assistance as customers plan for future operations or look for creative solutions rather than help them solve simpler issues,” Monday said.
The CIC is a consolidation of what was once several help centers with different phone numbers operated by each of DLA’s supply chains. It became a 24/7 operation the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Source: US DoD)
11 Feb 21. First German Tornado to pass through life-extension programme makes maiden flight. Germany has flown the first Panavia Tornado combat aircraft to have its service life extended with the goal of seeing the wider fleet out to its 2030 retirement date.
The Luftwaffe announced on 10 February that the first Tornado, serial 43+42 from Tactical Air Force Wing 33, had flown following the process that had seen its airframe life extended to 8,000 flight hours from the type’s current 6,000 flight hours.
“A decision by the Federal Ministry of Defence was decisive for the laborious step of dismantling the fuselage,” the Luftwaffe said. “According to this, all 85 Tornados should remain in service until the end of 2030. This can only be achieved if such extensive work is done.”
As noted by the Luftwaffe, the upgrade involves the near-complete dismantling of the aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space’s Manching facility in southern Germany. The analysis and test engineering company Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft (IABG) in Ottorbrunn then determines which parts have reached the end of their lives and need replacement, which then have to be built and installed.
“The exchange of important structural parts, such as the ring frame, was a first,” the Luftwaffe said. “Originally it was never planned that this connecting element between the front and middle part of the fuselage would ever have to be replaced. Therefore, the civil-military team could not simply order replacement parts. Each of the 400 or so structural parts required was reproduced and reinstalled for the first time – there is no such thing off the shelf.” The Luftwaffe added that approximately 2,000 steps are necessary to dismantle and reassemble the Tornado. (Source: Jane’s)
10 Feb 21. WFEL Ltd now sole bidder for Project Tyro bridging. UK-based WFEL Ltd is now the sole contender for the major British Army bridging programme known as Project Tyro, after the withdrawal of Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) from the competition.
RBSL and WFEL completed the Assessment Phase (AP) of the programme and were in line to participate in the Invitation to Negotiate phase for Project Tyro, which was issued in September 2020.
But late last year, RBSL notified the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation that it would be withdrawing from the competition before the anticipated start of negotiations for the production phase, which will now commence in the summer of 2021 with WFEL only.
The aim of Project Tyro is to upgrade or replace the two bridging systems currently deployed by the Royal Engineers (RE) to cross wet and dry gaps on the battlefield.
These are the Close Support Bridge (CSB) systems currently in use by the British Army, deployed and launched from RBSL’s Titan armoured vehicle-launched bridge (AVLB) and its General Support Bridge (GSB). The Titan AVLB is based on a modified Challenger 2 tank chassis while the GSB is currently deployed and launched by Unipower 8×8 platforms.
Production of the latter was completed many years ago and Unipower is no longer in existence.
In a statement, the DE&S said, “demonstration, manufacture, and initial support contracts, subject to approvals will be awarded in March 2022 with one contract for a CSB and a GSB capability.
“Planning Assumption for Service Entry for each system will be dependent on the solutions taken forward to contract but will be from Q4 2024,” the statement added.
WFEL confirmed to Janes that they have offered their Leguan bridge system as the replacement for the bridges currently transported and launched by the Titan AVLB.
BATTLESPACE Comment: This confirms our 2020 story (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.22 ISSUE 49, LOGISTICS AND THROUGH LIFE UPDATE, Tyro goes sole source to WFEL?)
09 Feb 21. Patria fulfilled its Industrial Participation obligations in Croatia. Patria has successfully fulfilled its offset and industrial participation obligations related to Patria AMV 8×8 delivery programmes in various countries. The latest took place in Croatia where Patria´s offset performance was approved by the Croatian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development in December 2020. Fulfilling all obligations completely on schedule proves once again that Patria carries out its duties as agreed.
The Croatian vehicle project covered 126 vehicles in total and it created top-level capability for the Croatian Defence Forces. The offset project lasted until the end of 2020 and involved several Croatian companies from different industry sectors. Various export activities from Croatia, and transfer of knowledge in the field of metabolomics are examples of successful offset projects which will benefit Croatian economy long after Patria´s obligation there is finished.
“Patria systematically fulfills its promises in all projects. Industrial participation creates new jobs in the target country and helps the customer to create security of supply locally. Industrial participation activities bring benefits and growth to the participating countries and at the same time help countries to build industrial network and efficient cooperation in various ways”, says Jussi Järvinen, President of Patria’s Land business unit. In addition to Croatia, Patria has previously successfully implemented industrial participation obligations e.g. in Poland and Sweden.
Patria’s customers can be confident that all projects will be completed as promised and on schedule, and that Patria is a trustworthy partner also in the field of industrial participation.