This is one of a series of live blog posts directly from the site of the 2013 IFS World Conference in Barcelona. Business journalist Adam Tinworth is a veteran of Reed Business Information and a lecturer on digital journalism at City University in London. His first-hand impressions are accompanied by illustrations of Matthew Buck, cartoonist for Drawnalism.
In 2012, worldwide defense spending fell for the first time in a decade. The largest falls were in NATO nations – and there’s not much chance of that changing. Forces need to maintain their capability in that context. New equipment isn’t coming online, and that means older equipment is being used across a longer lifecycle – by necessity and by design. What can technology do to help in this situation?
- Host: Stephen Pritchard, journalist
- David Andersson – IFS Labs director
- Brendan Viggers – head of product management, IFS in A&D
- Anthony Hall – defence journalist, ADS Advance
- Kevin Deal – VP for A&D, IFS North America
- Mats Ran – Deputy CIO, Group ICT, SAAB
- Graham Grose – Global Industry Director for Aerospace & Defence, IFS
Brendan: In the US, Lockheed Martin is busy developing the next generation of multi-role fighter jet. It can land in a number of situations, and will be sold to 10 to 15 countries. It is available with a logistics package as well. That includes support over the 30- to 35-year life span. The F35 fighter jet has HUMS – Heath Usage and Monitoring System that performs self-diagnosis and can tell the engineers repairs or service are required.
Another interesting area is additive manufacturing. A number of components can be generated through 3D printing on demand when the plane reports a problem.
Engineers used to have to pull manuals from back end systems – now they can have them on the device.
Host: The world’s moved on since the ’70s and ’80s. The focus is less on acquisition cost, but more on total cost of ownership. The pilots who will fly the next generation of planes haven’t been born yet.
Graham: The F35 is one of the most advanced example of autonomic logistics information we have. It has the potential to reduce costs on a huge whole life basis. It’s right at the cutting edge. If we can get feedback from an ERP logistics system, we can get better feedback and analysis.
Mats: Saab has a long-term history of building low cost of ownership into our aircraft. We’re on the third upgrade of the current fighter we build. We’re looking at in-flight sending of data back to ground staff. Can we make in-flight decisions based on this data? Do I have enough fuel or stress left for this fight?
Kevin: It’s a trend to buy the systems with the equipment. There’s a poor history in the US of buying the data they need along with military equipment. They’ve moved from a specification-based systems, to much simpler briefs to the manufacturers.
Anthony: Avionics are changing. Weapons are changing. These will be costs down the line. You need to take account of that. Western military organizations are talking about network-enabled vehicles. You can’t communicate through wing-waggling any more.
Brendan: Submarines are a classic – a nuclear sub can stay underwater as long as there is food and water. How do you predict what parts you’re going to need? Can machines help provide support in difficult maintenance situations?
David: From an IFS Labs perspective, this is like Christmas morning. Context-aware technologies will allow us to understand the situation a problem is being reported in.
Civilians in theatre
Anthony: Civilian deployment has become key. It’s part of contracts for civilian workers to go into theatre now. You will see civilian crews going into theatres to maintain their equipment.
Graham. It’s a contract paradigm shift. They’re contracting for availability. It’s one way of coming to terms with austerity.
Kevin: If you understand the likely problems, you can have more confidence going into a contract – or back out if it’s too risky. You need the information systems to get that information and make informed decisions.
Mats: We focus on offering training on-site for our staff and contractors, and systems that are easily maintained by non-trained staff. We have to prepare for situations where the maintenance contractor changes – even to our competitors.
Graham: As we move towards performance-based logistics, we’ve had to play to an openness mandate. Now the systems we provide give visibility at a multi-echelon level.
David: We have role-based security. The system understands what each user needs to see. We need to be very careful around aggregation of data. It needs to be a decision support system, with just enough data for an individual to perform their job.
Brendan: The way forward is just exposing the function the user needs, not the whole of the system. Airlines have a similar set of needs as air forces. The 100th seat on the plan is what makes the profit. You have to reduce the costs on the other 99.
Graham: There’s a lot of pressure around usability in the civil aerospace industry. This also means showing less data in a given interface.
Brendan: In commercial aviation there’s more openness to connectivity. You don’t need multiple ERPs to manage everything.
Anthony: Extended equipment lifespans are bringing up new issues. Chieftain tanks are going to be in service for 15 years more. They’ll be 45 years old at the end of that.
Kevin: Condition codes assigned to different values on leasing programs can have a huge impact on tax.
- India is edging towards performance-based logistics. The issues are about data exchange and openness. Performance-based logistics is one of IFS’s core capabilities.
- Is IFS learning lessons from the commercial world and applying them to defense? Yes, the synergies are enormous, especially around mobility. Rationalizing of warehouses is important, too. We have tools to reduce the cost of them
- There are both security and procurement issues around mobility for defense. On security, you need to think of the device as a phone, in the sense that you don’t put sensitive information on it, only what’s needed to do the job, just as you wouldn’t have non-essentail phone conversations in the field. The maintainers are younger and familiar with the technology. Soon, there will be 30,000 reservists who are trained. It’s going to make an awful lot of sense to give them mobile devices so you can mobilize them. Otherwise, there’s no point in having them. The risk lies at the aggregation level, not at the handheld device level.
- How does IT technology help lower defense costs? Prediction. You can perform what-if scenarios on the information coming through the logistics system. Saab sees using commercial technology in the planes as key. That, and risk-sharing in design and operation. You’re pushing the OEM to get closer to the operational data.