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  • A New Frontier in Military Maintenance and Repair


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  • Executive Summary

    If Napoleons army marched on its stomach, then todays military manoeuvres machines Abrams, HMMWVs, Blackhawks, Apaches, C-17s, C-130s and numerous other end items that require constant maintenance and repair to keep our military forces moving masterfully with maximum might and acute agility.

    The core of any organization is its resources the combined human and physical assets necessary to produce and perform at peak levels. In todays military services, keeping major end items in mission capable condition has been a tremendous challenge in theatres of operation. The harsh conditions and extended deployments unplanned for in original designs have put extensive wear and tear on equipment. Without exception, throughout all branches of military services, there is substantially diminished slack in the system to provide support and help units maintain readiness.

    Microsoft, and our partners Tectura, Intercim and NGRAIN, have come together to introduce a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) solution designed to reduce repair cycle time and costs. Together our team is strategically focused on assembling the ideal components that meet functional requirements, and add efficiency and a higher level of excellence to military maintenance facility operations.

    We will briefly summarize the key issues for each opportunity for improvement and propose the features of a comprehensive solution to address it. This is not intended to be a lengthy technical whitepaper, or a brochure focused only on technical features, but a summary of capabilities matched against pressing challenges. Following the challenges, we discuss the technical architecture to provide an overview of how the solution will be sustainable, cost-effective and meet the requirements of defense departments.

  • Key Areas of Improvement

    Microsoft and our partners have been afforded the opportunity to work with maintenance facility customers to analyze their key problems. We developed solutions to address these problems in an integrated way, and have identified six common key areas of potential improvement in the following categories:

    Parts Ordering one of the major pain points and highest priorities identified through our work with depot customers is the parts ordering process. One Lean study with the United States Armed Forces revealed a complicated process of manually checking inventory from multiple sources while trying to keep track of contractual commitments with key Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). The process is frustrating for those using it and produces poor results. In many cases, soldiers working at the depots are unsure what exact parts to order, and end up ordering more parts than they require, in the hope of receiving the few parts they actually need. The study showed that automating the process could conservatively save $35M over five years.

    Integrated Scheduling providing an integrated scheduling capability would have the greatest impact on the daily operation of the maintenance facility. These tools however, are primarily standalone for the areas that they serve and are not integrated into a master schedule. A master schedule incorporates requirements, parts, equipment, human resources and program schedules. Without a schedule that integrates all major inputs, it is difficult, if not impossible, to manage facility capacity. Further, a comprehensive solution must have an integrated scheduling tool that will provide maintenance facilities with the process visibility to implement effective schedule performance monitoring.

    Improved Bill of Materials Management Bill of Materials (BOM) for assets are often inaccurate resulting in the wrong number of the wrong items being ordered to perform a repair activity. The reasons for this vary cumbersome legacy systems discourage users from routinely updating BOMs or National Stock Number (NSN) changes are not captured in BOMs automatically, unclear personnel processes or confusion around job accountability (its someone elses job). Any work execution system is dependent upon the quality of the BOM master data for each individual asset production line. Technology alone will not correct bad data. A comprehensive solution must facilitate a culture for personnel to identify repair BOM discrepancies experienced on the shop floor and establish a process for communicating those problems for resolution to a maintenance planning activity which is assigned to maintain the accuracy of the repair BOM.

    Electronic Technical Data although technical data exists at many maintenance facilities in electronic form, it is often contained in silo-like systems used solely for lookup on the shop floor. The data is constantly under update as the configurations of assets undergo engineering changes. The opportunity is to integrate and link technical data into the BOMs utilizing Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) to help improve productivity and eliminate a silo.

    Reporting monitoring shop floor operations and analyzing progress and results is largely done through a mix of legacy applications and departmental databases. Many systems were originally developed to track program costs or to track maintenance activities performed. They were designed for this sole purpose and therefore are limited to capturing data related to that purpose. With the advent of process improvement and quality methods such as Lean/Six Sigma and Theory of Constraints in the materiel commands across the services, the need to capture detailed data is greater than ever. Several sites Microsoft has worked with have developed 300 to 600 Excel and Access repositories derived from source system data to manage schedules and other processes. In order to manage the portfolio of maintenance activities within the military services, a more comprehensive approach needs to be adopted to provide leaders and strategic decision makers with increased visibility of maintenance to

  • support budgeting and planning. This will, in turn, provide them with the ability to prioritize maintenance activities based on force generation needs. In addition, it will better support a reporting infrastructure where key performance metrics for a maintenance facility is sourced directly and seamlessly from system data, rather than manual manipulation through external spreadsheets and other data analysis programs.

    Complete Asset Life Cycle Management Maintenance data is kept on assets, of course, but is not kept in all cases electronically or in an integrated system. Enabling the capture of repair activities not only provides a feedback loop to increase the accuracy of BOMs, but enables the military to reduce costs and increase equipment availability through predictive maintenance. Given how maintenance work on major end items is distributed across field and maintenance operations, developing the ability to track maintenance activity and link it to the parts that were used and particular suppliers is of major importance. Also, within the Life Cycle Management area is the requirement to provide tracking, management, and replacement of the limited life components in the asset. The historical maintenance data is used to project the effective life of those components that are limited by either time or exposure to events (e.g., some landing gear components are limited to a fixed number of take-offs and landings).

    Key Areas of Improvement, continued

  • Parts Ordering

    Parts ordering is the process for placing orders for the parts required to complete a specific maintenance activity. The measure of success is that the right parts are present at the right workstation and at the right time. A complex source of supply can make this very challenging, forcing the production controller or item manager to act as a router, looking up parts against OEM contract lists, checking inventories from multiple spreadsheets or faxes, or checking parts against engineering updates.

    As this plays out, the opportunity for errors is high resulting in the wrong parts being ordered, which is costly and unnecessarily increases the repair turnaround time. Updated information is not always available causing further delay. To address this systemic issue, a solution must simplify the act of placing a parts order so that the production controller can get back to managing their primary work.

    A comprehensive solution needs to have a single screen for ordering. A solution we developed for Army depots provides:

    Single screen ordering solution with built-in business intelligence

    Data driven business rules running behind the scenes invisible to the requestor

    Validation of the quality of material data input (FedLog) resulting in increased accuracy of material ordered by minimizing the number of material rejects

    Manage excess stock at the depot by checking Work In Progress (WIP) inventory first

    Identify the material provider of choice

    Online integration with key suppliers has the potential for elimination of a key bottleneck paper forms for processing orders

    The parts ordering process can be further enhanced by integrating an interactive 3D model of the equipment. The 3D model can be used as a visual index to the parts, whereby the user can interact with the 3D model and visually select the parts that require ordering. This can further reduce the number of errors, and increase the speed of the parts ordering process.

  • Bills of Material (BOMs)

    Maintenance facilities typically use available replacement part data supplied by the OEM or data thats been gathered historically by