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Life Cycle Logistics

Designing Systems with Maintainability in Mind

Designing Systems with Maintainability in Mind

Bill Kobren

I had the opportunity to hear perspectives at last week’s DoD Maintenance from keynote speaker US Navy Captain William M. Shepherd (Retired), Senior Researcher at the Systems Engineering Research Center at Stevens Institute. A former Navy SEAL, NASA Astronaut, Program Manager, and senior government official with the Department of Defense (DoD), Captain Shepherd also commanded the “First Expedition” to the new International Space Station (ISS) from November 2000-March 2001. He gave a fascinating presentation, including sharing a number of important points about the criticality of designing for reliability and maintainability. Several points that particularly resonated with me included:

  • When developing and fielding support equipment and tools, be cognizant of how they will be used, the operating environment in which they will be used, what kind of training might be required, and avoid proliferation of common support equipment (CSE) wherever possible, and whenever possible, maximize use of common hand tools with multiple applications prior to developing new tools, and wherever possible strive to combine the functions of multiple tools into existing, or as few (or just one) common tools as possible.
  • ​Additionally, designing for maintainability, be acutely cognizant of the human systems interface. Start with “simple designs, simple interfaces.” Ensure maintenance considerations are part of the early design process. “Allow for adequate margins for volume, power, weight, and access.” Ensure “integration of technical standards, drawings, displays, other elements of technical data packages across all components”, and most importantly plan with the user in mind.
  • When we think of maintenance, we think of preventative maintenance and proactive servicing requirements, however we also must be cognizant of maintenance actions as a response to failures or perhaps a system that is not functioning as required (or as designed). Causes might include “wear and material changes, subsystem failures, damage, environment, contamination, poor design, improper operation, improper repair”, as well as improper testing, misdiagnosed or undiagnosed failures.

Food for thought, and important considerations for all of us as life cycle logistics and product support professionals. For additional insights on the vitally important topics of maintenance and maintainability, see also: