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life cycle logistics

Lead-Turning Change

 Was reading a rather interesting and thought-provoking April 2012 report issued by IBIS World simply entitled, “Dying Industries.” In it the authors share insights into what they deem “dying…

Lead-Turning Change


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Bill Kobren

 Was reading a rather interesting and thought-provoking April 2012 report issued by IBIS World simply entitled, “Dying Industries.” In it the authors share insights into what they deem “dying industries”, which they define as “a declining life cycle stage, a decline in revenue and in industry participants between 2002 and 2012, and continued declines in these metrics through 2017.”


Several industries you’d expect to see on their list include such former powerhouses as photofinishing and video rental. One in particular they cited that caught my eye was the appliance repair industry. The authors contend that that particular industry is struggling for three primary reasons:


·         “…a rising tendency among consumers to purchase new household appliances rather than repair them…

·         …the increasing trend among manufacturers to offer warranties on new appliances…

·         …improving appliance technologies have also resulted in lower demand for repair services; as manufacturers revamp product performance, appliances break down less often and last longer between repairs.”


Intuitively this seems to make sense. After all, for most of us, it’s likely been some time (if ever, depending on your age!) since you last took a cell phone, a microwave oven, a television set, or a digital music player to a repair shop to be fixed or overhauled. Whether we recognize it or not, increased product reliability, coupled with obsolescence and diminishing manufacturing sources & material shortage (DMSMS) challenges, decreasing product life cycles, evolving technologies, the commoditization of large swaths of individual products and entire industries, advances in nanotechnologies and the increasingly ubiquitous nature of advanced diagnostics and prognostics are rapidly changing how we Americans view the products we use in our everyday lives, and how we support, sustain, and replace them.


Agree or disagree with the authors’ contention, this article got me to thinking about how DoD, given the extensive investment made over the last seventy years in the infrastructure needed to maintain, repair, and overhaul our weapon systems in order to to ensure system availability and readiness, might continue to proactively lead-turn the realities of an increasingly resource constrained environment, increasingly software-intensive systems, more capable (and reliable) weapon systems, and ever-more effective (and efficient) product support strategies. Or perhaps a better  question is whether there are lessons to be learned from the potential demise of repair requirements for several hundred dollar household appliances that could potentially extend to – and impact -- the sustainment of multi-million dollar weapon systems.


We often say in our business that “weapon systems should be designed, maintained, and modified to continuously reduce the demand for logistics.” If DoD is ultimately successful in reducing this demand, the question then becomes: how should the DoD maintenance enterprise have to evolve in the coming years to in response to a changing reality that includes, but is by no-means limited to:


·         the global economic and geopolitical environment, fiscal constraints, and associated budgetary implications

·         requirements for and weapon systems designs with supportability as a primary consideration

·         reliability gains outlined in the DoD Reliability, Availability, Maintainability-Cost (RAM-C) Report Manual,

·         working with our industry partners to conduct increasingly effective supportability analysis and related Level of Repair Analysis (LORA) decisions,

·         best-of- breed capabilities of both the industry and organic sectors through effective public-private partnerships (PPP),

·         incentivizing industry to invest in the quality, capability, and reliability of their systems

·         assisting Program Managers successfully execute their DoD Directive 5000.01 Life Cycle Management responsibilities,

·         facilitating Product Support Manager (PSM) success in fulfilling their Directive Type Memorandum (DTM) 10-015 requirement to “develop and implement appropriate product support arrangements…to meet warfighter needs and optimize implementation of the product support strategy,”

·         leveraging the power of evolutionary acquisition strategies outlined in paragraph 2 of DoD Instruction 5000.02, as well as open systems architectures

·         implementing highly effective Performance Based Logistics (PBL) product support strategies that significantly drive system availability improvements (while simultaneously driving O&S costs down) as the DoD Project Proof Point studies have clearly indicated


In the process of proactively anticipating and shaping our capabilities, strategies, and organizational constructs to meet the challenges of warfighter support in a increasingly resource constrained environment, we must also wisely – and proactively -- seek to avoid following in the footsteps of appliance repair industry in the process.


Don’t get me wrong. You're not hearing me say requirements to maintain military weapon systems and materiel is going away anytime soon. Pretty much anything that can be produced or manufactured will ultimately fail, and repair or replace decisions will continue to have to be made as part of the maintenance planning and maintenance management process (one of the 12 Integrated Product Support [IPS] Elements). Same goes for decisions regarding preventative or conditioned based maintenance. My point is simply that the environment in which we operate is changing rapidly, particularly from an affordability and a technology perspective, and we must proactively think about, anticipate and lead-turn how we will effectively and efficiently support our weapon systems in this new environment going forward.


The good news is the DoD Maintenance Policy & Programs office has subject matter experts assigned and is chartered to proactively “direct focused studies of new technologies and management approaches that offer significant potential to improve the productivity and effectiveness of DoD maintenance activities.” In addition we also have a DoD workforce possessing the expertise, intellect, initiative, vision, and enthusiasm to aggressively tackle these challenges. We also have a golden opportunity and good sense to recognize, anticipate, and lead-turn the realities of the rapidly evolving environment we face. If the lessons of America’s appliance repair industry do indeed extend to DoD weapon system maintenance, we must continue to apply every bit of creativity, innovation, initiative, leadership and audacious out-of-the box thinking we can to ensuring we successfully – and proactively -- lead-turn the changes that in many cases are already well underway.


Agree? Disagree? Does this make sense? What do you think?