The Air Force is preparing for the next generation of maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) enterprises, keeping pace with advances in weapons systems and increasing world-wide demand. This challenge involves improving MRO performance while correspondingly reducing costs, utilizing technicians in a more optimal fashion, and capturing opportunities for making more effective use of limited resources.
At its core, industrial and systems engineering seeks to optimize production throughput while operating within a system of scarce resources. Parallelism of tasks—simultaneity of work—is the key industrial engineering principle required to achieve optimal throughput. For the simultaneity principle to be realized, tasks must be clearly defined from a production process perspective reflecting the work to be performed, the resources required for its accomplishment, its relation to other tasks, its priority, the quality standards to be met, etc.
High-velocity maintenance (HVM) is an approach that has largely been successful in some aircraft systems (e.g., the C-130). However, other, more highly integrated aircraft systems like the B-1, are less amenable to HVM principles. In HVM, repair requirements are defined along with the set of tasks to meet those requirements in the allotted time. The tasks are organized into task groupings designed to be released in such a way that shop floor activity can proceed efficiently. As the work begins, mechanics inevitably encounter unpredictable or over-and-above work. In aircraft systems like the B-1, where it is difficult or impossible to identify many problems in isolation, the final or post dock stage of MRO is where this work collects.
As a consequence, the HVM concept, when applied to a complicated weapon system like the B-1, can actually exacerbate what is already a difficult MRO problem. Understanding these physics is key to figuring out how to create meaningful changes to improve depot MRO system performance. Task definition (thorough definition, from the perspective of industrial and systems engineering rather than MRO accounting), process scripting, and careful resource loading are at the heart of what must be done to support any overarching performance improvement, whether based in HVM or traditional PDM.
In this initiative, KBSI is addressing these challenges by providing essential, closed-loop planning, scheduling, and execution (ECLiPSE) support tools. The ECLiPSE technology will provide collaborative task planning (scripting) support along with collaborative, simulation-based dispatch planning and scheduling. In addition, the technology will allow users to capture data at the shop floor and perform execution management. The ECLiPSE initiative will also develop metrics designed as part of a comprehensive organization architecture strategy supporting enterprise performance optimization.
The ECLiPSE initiative will break new ground in maintenance planning, scheduling, and dispatching support with a specific focus on maintenance concept analysis and definition refinement, staffing and training needs estimation, organizational architecture alignment, and warrior centric sustainment operations. The results will address the gap in advanced planning and scheduling support for the depots by providing solutions that address the unique characteristics of the sustainment domain.