Maintenance Symposium Identifies the Future of Maintenance and Sustainment

With almost 1,300 participants, the 2020 DOD Maintenance Symposium brought together maintenance and sustainment leaders from all branches of service and industry, as well as maintainers who daily maintain warfighter readiness. This year’s theme, Ready Systems @ The Speed of Relevance was echoed throughout the event by keynote speakers, panelists, and breakout leaders.  

Steven Morani, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Materiel Readiness summed up the numbers. The DOD spends $86 billion each year on maintenance and sustainment work and employs 611,100 maintainers. There are 14,883 aircraft, 330,150 vehicles, and 239 ships that all need to be repaired, maintained and sustained. That’s a herculean task.  

Said speaker Warren Berry, “We have an exquisite sustainment enterprise, but it won’t be adequate for the near future considering our peer or near-peer adversaries.” 

We won’t get any more money or people—so how do we adjust? 

The DOD has diminishing manufacturing resources and an ever-enlarging problem. As an example, it took 1,400 hours to repair a structural issue with the B-1 Bombers. That’s just one issue with one platform. More data: 50% of the non-available time for weapons systems is due to maintenance, 20% is a break in the supply chain and 5% due to not having enough engineers.  

Other important topics were: 

  • The fragile supply chain needs to be more resilient. 
  • The need to utilize machine learning to translate an immense amount of data into meaningful information to assist with predictive maintenance. For example, each ship has between 3,000-6,000 sensors generating six years of data. 
  • Low or nodemand parts comprise 36% of repair needs. 
  • Should the DOD consider using and acquiring used as well as new parts? 

Readiness at the speed of relevance, not decades 

The U.S. has been building ships since 1794. It’s still a heavy industrial environment but keeping up with the changing technology is a challenge.  

Within the DOD it is crucial to tie together our digital tools with the digital thread. There should be a product lifecycle model for every ship we build, said Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, U.S. Navy. Now eight ships that have an advanced manufacturing laboratory on board. Through HACKtheMachine events, the Navy also encourages students, industry partners, and others to try and break into 3D printers, and their cybersecurity networks. This helps the Navy solve potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  

The U.S. Army has identified Strategic Support Areas for their maintenance and sustainment needs.  

  • People 
  • Installations 
  • Industrial Base 
  • Munitions Readiness 
  • Supply Availability
  • Logistics Information 
  • Strategic Power Projections 

Additive Manufacturing is becoming central to the Army’s maintenance and sustainment future. They have a Center of Excellence at Rock Island Arsenal and several facilities in the field. Currently, 218 items have been approved for 3D printing.  

The U.S. Air Force is also using advanced manufacturing to accelerate sustainment technology as they look to teams to help solve problems such as evaluating processes and infrastructure. 

Their focus is on the following topics. 

  1. Supercharge the Acquisition Engine 
  2. Create Big Ideas Pipeline 
  3. Increase Sustainment Innovation 
  4. Expanding Industrial Partnerships  

In order to include as many traditional and non-traditional industry participants, the Air Force has instituted Pitch Days to try and find solutions to a broad breadth of needs. At the last event they received 705 responses that were whittled down to an eventual 18 who were invited to pitch to senior leadership and end-user; 17 were awarded $1 million contracts.  

*Just announced: The Air Force will host the Advanced Manufacturing Olympics July 7-10, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah in partnership with the State of Utah. NCMS will provide more details as they become available.  

Lisa Strama, NCMS President and CEO, noted that the DOD has strong partners who can look across a wide depth and breadth of industries and academia for solutions to technology gaps for adaption and adoption. These partnerships can assist the DOD with Blockchain, virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, and data analytics to create a culture of looking forward rather than backward disseminating results to create best practices across the entire enterprise. 

It’s not Star Trek’s Replicator—Yet!  

With modeling and simulation, digital threads and twins, data collection, and additive manufacturing, the DOD is on the cusp of entering Industry 4.0. In the last 10 years, the DOD has transitioned from 70% mechanicallydriven to now 70% digitallydriven. With the data tsunami that’s approaching, figuring out how to prepare and harness it will be the key to efficiently surpassing our peer or near-peer competitors. 

The DOD is investing in the future and preparing for a surge in production. Between designing the shipyards of the future, forward operating base manufacturing labs, predictive maintenance using data, and virtual reality with enhanced optics and voice recognition, it may seem like something out of science fiction, but it’s here today and the DOD is eager to use it.  



NCMS had one of the most popular booths with six innovative companies or projects:  

Atmospheric Plasma Solutions PlasmaBlast 

The PlasmaBlast system removes coatings using no media, requires no containment and does not change the surface profile. The process is safer for the mechanic and the environment. The non-thermal plasma beam converts organic components of a coating into mainly carbon dioxide and water vapor. It is ideal for precision removal for NDI, weld prep and other MRO jobs. 

Lockheed Martin – M2A1 Machine Gun 3D overlay 

Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems is evaluating augmented reality (AR) maintenance and logistics applications for the Marine Corps that include machine gun assembly and disassembly instructions with 3D overlays, shopping cart, and BOM capabilities and progress tracking, as well as LAV25 inspection capabilities, on multiple edge devices, that directly link to external databases to provide automatically-created work instructions and inspection status. 

Michigan Research Institute and Oasis Engineering – Bradley Fighting Vehicle Task Trainer 

Michigan Research Institute (MRI) and Oasis Advanced Engineering are collaborating on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle Task Trainers. Part Task Trainers (PTT) are training systems that provide training in critical field-level maintenance tasks required for a tactical vehicle. PTTs are physical mockups of the vehicle and vehicle subsystems. They simulate the operational and functional capabilities of the vehicle and vehicle subsystems to enable training on maintenance and troubleshooting tasks. 

Siemens – Digital Industries Software 

Siemens Digital Industries Software is working together with the DOD to plan, execute, and realize their digital transformation. Our solutions enable a digital thread that connects engineering, manufacturing, and sustainment. Together we’re streamlining the acquisition and maintenance processes, improving readiness and supporting the warfighter. 

The passing of suitable technical information to users requires extensive manual processing, numerous format translations, and physical movement of the data across multiple disparate networks. This less-than-ideal process introduced risk into the manufacturing value stream and was a major contributor to a degraded fleet readiness posture. 

Tamr – Unification System 

For military maintenance and readiness missions Tamr delivers decision-maker information that is up-to-date, accurate and unified across a myriad of sources for more granularity. Tamr connects and integrates data that is siloed across services and across their enterprises. This data unification platform surfaces more comprehensive insights faster. Tamr is used for automation of entity resolution, record deduplication and classification of lists of information into a desired enterprise-wide ontology. 

Zoller ZidCode 

The ZOLLER »zidCode« is a device that makes fast, reliable, error-free transfer of tool life and tool offset data from the presetter to the machine controller not only possible but extremely simple. It ensures 100% correct tool offset and tool life information at the machine controller, improved productivity and reliability, all in a paperless process, plus flexible, low-cost integration to any machine tool controller, without the use of a network connection. All users will get the right information to the machine controller, every time, which guarantees accuracy and helps provide more efficient manufacturing.