e-Collaborative Maintenance for Depot Repairs and Manufacturing

NCMS Project #: 140167

Problem: Obsolete or hard-to-find parts are a problem that plagues all Maintenance Depots in all branches of the military services. Electronic parts are particularly troubling. Semiconductor manufacturers scrap or sell process equipment when the manufacturing process advances render an old fabrication plant uneconomical to run, and “old” usually means less than a decade. With defense electronic equipment lifetimes of 20 years or more, almost all such systems will, before the end of their useful life, encounter a situation where a component needed for repair is no longer available from routine stock.

Before a semiconductor manufacturer ceases production of a given component, known users are offered the opportunity to make a “lifetime buy,” or to purchase and store a quantity considered sufficient to meet all future requirements. Clever component suppliers recognizing that a lifetime buy of components present significant economic opportunities, purchase them to make them available at a demand-driven price. Furthermore, enterprises have emerged that specialize in reverse engineering to make replacement parts. Either source could offer a solution for hard-to-find parts. The problem for Depots that perform electronic maintenance is how to locate them.  Typically, estimators spent a disproportional amount of their time trying to identify potential suppliers rather than estimating requirements.

Identifying the suppliers for the last 5% of obsolete or hard to find components is extremely difficult and not being able to identify suppliers often leads to a maintenance depot having to No Quote close to 50% of the RFQs. This project study piloted a web-based solution for supplier and part identification and sharing for future needs.


  • Cycle Time: Reduction in delays in finding problem parts translates to reduction in repair cycle times
  • Reliability: Supplier list constructed from known good companies
  • Availability: Repair cycle time reduction results in greater system throughput with same repair resources
  • Cost: Competition lowers unit cost

Solution/Approach: Specifically, this feasibility study sought to develop a web site to which Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD) estimators could post lists of parts sought, listed by project, and broadcast notifications of new posts to a list of potential suppliers. It was envisioned that suppliers would survey the parts list and enter budgetary estimates of part prices for any parts they could supply. The estimator could then provide a much more accurate and timely estimate of the cost to repair a given system. TYAD procurement could use the budgetary price responses to create Request for Quote (RFQ) lists. The overall result would be greater productivity for all – estimators, suppliers, and TYAD procurement.

This project tried a new approach with a minimal project team where the matching funds from industry were to be documented from the web site itself by collecting metrics on industry usage during the pilot trial. BRL, Incorporated created the web site using requirements provided by TYAD. BRL hosted the site during the pilot trial, and TYAD was to host it for production operation.  BRL was to host the site for the pilot trials. Once the system was built and launched by BRL, a small business, it proved difficult to conduct a pilot due to limitations in expectations:

  • BRL expected users to have an adequate understanding of web-based tools to navigate the site without much assistance
  • Estimators (users) expected on-line Help to navigate a web site they perceived as complex and difficult to use.
  • Supplier (users) wanted ease of use functionality that was not envisioned for this prototype site.

DOD Participation:

  • U.S. Army – Tobyhanna Army Depot

Industry Participation:

  • BRL
  • NCMS

Final Report