2023 CTMA Partners Meeting and NCMS Technology Showcase Ignites Innovation and Collaboration

The 2023 CTMA Partners Meeting and NCMS Technology Showcase were exceptionally productive events. Along with hosting the Joint Robotics Organization for Building Organic Technologies (JROBOT) Summit VI and determining the 2023 CTMA Technology Competition winners, this year’s Partners Meeting featured the first-ever “Show Us Your Technology Workshop,” where participants collaborated on solutions to pressing DOD maintenance and sustainment needs. What’s more, attendees marked the 25th anniversary of the CTMA Program.

From June 6 to 8, nearly 200 NCMS members and partners gathered in New Orleans, with dozens of exhibitors demonstrating their maintenance and sustainment solutions each day in the NCMS Technology Showcase.

Stellar Speakers

NCMS was honored to feature three speakers: Dr. Vic Ramdass, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Materiel Readiness, who keynoted the event; Steve McKee, Director, Enterprise Maintenance Technologies, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Material Readiness (ODASD-MR); and Mike Kelly, Sustainment Director, Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works®), Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company.

In his keynote address, Dr. Ramdass defined success in materiel readiness. “Success is getting capabilities into the hands of the warfighter, and seeing them used,” he said. “CTMA is doing that…that’s why forums like this are absolutely where we need to continue to go.”

He emphasized the importance of integrated deterrence in order to operationalize the national defense strategy. Further, he highlighted current materiel readiness opportunities in data analytics, tele-maintenance, quantum information science, blockchain for supply chains, technology insertion, digital twins, robotics, automation, cold spray, and more.

Steve McKee discussed the second iteration of the Hermes’ Sprint—the Rapid Sustainment Improvement Process (RSIP)—an integrated approach to develop, evaluate, and implement sustainment innovation ideas, products, processes, and technology to optimize weapons systems’ performance and readiness. He said the objective of RSIP is to maintain a process for coordinated sustainment improvements; to rapidly implement transformative solutions; and to enable ready solutions that can impact multiple MILDEPs and agencies and incentivize them to coordinate.

McKee highlighted several RSIP examples of currently approved projects: CBM+ on the CH-47 and on USAF airframes; the application of approved coating systems onto compressor turbine blades to prevent erosion and corrosion with opportunity to increase fuel efficiency; electrical intermittent fault detection; the Naval Autonomous Data Collection System (NADACS); PLS HEMTT digitization; rapid rivet removal; and Stryker digitization.

On Day Three of the meeting, Mike Kelly, Sustainment Director, Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works®), Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, discussed engineering for sustainment. He identified the four pillars of model-based sustainment: logistics support analysis (LSA), technical data presentation, visualization, and digital flight line feedback.

Kelly provided an overview of Lockheed Martin’s internal MBSE strategies, then concluded with a discussion of the current composition of the M&S workforce, emphasizing the need for digitally enabled technicians.

“Every system is more complex and, in many cases, requires complex dispositions, he said. “We need to figure out how to do maintenance in a swift manner. CTMA is the kind of team that makes it happen.”

Cutting-Edge Technologies

At the 2023 NCMS Technology Showcase held in conjunction with the Partners Meeting, world-class companies demonstrated how their state-of-the-art technologies and services are revolutionizing maintenance and enhancing warfighter readiness.

Leveraging the latest in emerging technologies, including sustainment robotics (SR), Boston Engineering, one of three meeting sponsors, demonstrated two solutions: BEEP and the Family of Sustainment Robotics. BEEP is a highly configurable multi-module platform that allows an organization to combine technologies to optimize the return on investment in workforce and operational optimization and efficiency. The Family of Sustainment Robotics is a modular robotic platform that allows the addition or reduction of add-ons to support several unique use cases while utilizing the same robotic body.

Another meeting sponsor, Naval Systems, Inc. (NSI), exhibited their Reliability Control Board (RCB) Readiness Degraders solution that accurately automates the creation of readiness degrader lists for USN and USMC aviation platforms using readily available data sources to equip maintainers with a data-driven, decision-making tool. NSI created the RCB solution via highly automated, reproducible, and fault-tolerant data pipelines and extract-load-transform (ELT) procedures.

To help solve today’s supply chain and engineering design challenges, meeting sponsor Solvus Global featured three enterprises serving the aerospace, defense, and energy industries. Powders on Demand evaluates, optimizes, and qualifies highly vetted and controlled powder feedstock to expedite large AM adoption. Mammoth Metalworks provides cost-effective fabrication of large parts using AM techniques. APEX is an all-in-one workflow and data management system for cold spray to help automate the planning and execution of coating and repair projects.

Many other companies exhibited capabilities in multiple focus areas. To see the complete exhibitor directory with detailed information about each technology, visit https://www.ncms.org/wp-content/uploads/2023-PM-Showcase-Directory_FinalDraft2.pdf.

Breakthrough Initiatives

Several educational sessions covered ground-breaking initiatives through panel discussions and presentations. The event kicked off with an informational panel about the CTMA Program moderated by Debbie Lilu, Vice President, Maintenance and Sustainment, Business Development, and director of the CTMA Program.

In the panel “CTMA Success Stories/Case Studies – Keys to Technology Transition,” moderated by Frank Schuster, four CTMA partners highlighted CTMA projects that have successfully transitioned into the DOD. Presenters included Rob Willis, Vice President of Andromeda Systems, who discussed the project “Leveraging Data Analytics.” Next was Dr. Aaron Birt, Co-Founder and CEO of Solvus Global, who discussed the need for additive manufacturing (AM) in shipyards, along with the solution developed by several CTMA collaborations that included Solvus Global, Materials Resources LLC, Carver Pump, NAVSEA, VRC Metal Systems, DEVCOM, SPEE3D, Penn State Applied Research Laboratory, Northeastern University, and Temple University. Presenting third was Dave Davison, Chief Growth Office of Naval Systems, Inc., who discussed two CTMA projects: one delivered a low-cost maintenance scheduling and execution management system, and the second created a digital model to analyze flight line maintenance requirements and associated task training, prioritized to highest aircraft readiness degraders. Finally, Robert Appleton of R.W. Appleton, Inc., discussed the Joint Enterprise Data Interoperability (JEDI) project, which has transitioned to 21st Theater Sustainment Command, US Army, Africa and Europe (USAREUR-AF). In February 2022, at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, team JEDI provided on-site support at the NATO command for the NATO Response Force, initiating data translation efforts for US force contributions. The team began training efforts on the Logistics Functional Area Services (LOGFAS), a suite of tools supporting NATO logistics.

These initiatives show how the CTMA Program’s flexibility and agility directly contributes to project success and technology transition by providing access to DOD facilities and equipment for demonstrations, reducing time between innovation and commercial production.

Award-Winning Solutions

Two previous award-winning technologies were featured in a session about the impact of technology competitions. Discussed first was Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Lab’s (ARL’s) Multifunctional Automated Repair System (MARS), which won the Overall Award in the 2021 CTMA Technology Competition. Dr. Tim Eden and Tony Naccarelli of Penn State’s ARL, discussed MARS’s robotic capabilities for inspection, preparation, and repair operations. They were followed by Perfect Point EDM Corp’s E-Drill, which won the Overall Award in the 2022 DOD Maintenance Innovation Challenge. Jim Becker of Perfect Point EDM and Jared Wright of NAVAIR discussed how E-Drill uses a semi-automated, plunge-cut EDM tool to remove fasteners in seconds.

Highlighting Day Two of the meeting were the six finalists of the 2023 CTMA Technology Competition. Following presentations by each finalist, the judges met to select the Overall Award winner. Concurrently, attendees voted to select the People’s Choice Award winner. The US Air Force won the Overall Award for “Ultrasonically Activated De-Paint (UADP) Technology,” which offers an environmentally friendly, aqueous-based process that completely removes top-coat and primer without damaging underlying anodized coatings. Cumulus Digital Systems won the People’s Choice Award for “WeldScout™: Intelligent Welding Inspections for Critical Infrastructure,” an image recognition technology that ensures quality welding by using artificial intelligence to rapidly identify defects in weld inspection scans. NCMS will provide each award winner $50,000 in CTMA project support funding. For more details about the competition, including an electronic booklet showing all entries, see: https://www.ncms.org/wp-content/uploads/2023_CTMA_CompBook_FINAL-E.pdf.

Identifying Transition-Ready Technologies

Additional panel discussion sessions highlighted some ground-breaking ways that NCMS has catalyzed the transition of technology solutions to the DOD through demonstration, evaluation, and validation initiatives. A panel discussion titled “Expeditionary Repair – REPTX and UNREP” covered the first and second runs of a new initiative called the Repair Technology Exercise (REPTX), held for two weeks in the summer of 2022 and three days in the spring of 2023. These events allowed industrial maintenance solutions to be demonstrated onboard a Navy Self Defense Test Ship. The panelists discussed the logistics of having nearly 70 organizations participating in 2022 REPTX, the steps taken to protect intellectual property, and the overall lessons learned from this initiative.

“What we found with that long duration is that chance to not just validate what was there but to hone and perfect,” said Janice Bryant, NAVSEA 05T1 Sustainment Technology Program Manager and moderator of the panel. “We’re really not just looking at a technology. We’re working on how to solve Navy problems.”

Another panel featured the Airfield Autonomy Initiative (AAI), another new set of collaborative events whose purpose is to develop/demonstrate the first airfield-specific multi-agent autonomy command and control system(s), to establish a minimum viable product (MVP) of lawn mowing, Foreign Object/Debris (FOD) sweeping, and perimeter patrol systems. Dr. Al Lowas, Chief Scientist, Air Force Sustainment Center, Air Force Materiel Command, discussed how MVPs are being tested at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) and the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC). There have been two successful industry days providing a forum for partners to meet each other, to learn that none has the solution alone, and to determine how they can partner to accomplish the goals.

Additional panel discussions included “Overview of Military Service Maintenance and Sustainment Needs and Active Initiatives to Execute Maintenance and Sustainment Innovation,” which reviewed recent work of the Joint Technology Exchange Group (JTEG), and “Robotics and Automation in Maintenance and Sustainment (JROBOT),” which covered recent efforts toward the JROBOT objective: to maximize asset availability across the DOD and allied partners using robotic capabilities.

On-the-Fly Problem Solving

On the last day of the meeting, the first-ever “Show Us Your Technologies Workshop” was held to encourage collaborative solutions for maintenance challenges. Nearly 100 maintenance and sustainment (M&S) technology experts from the Department of Defense (DOD), industry, and academia broke into teams to develop solutions for one of four scenarios.

Each of the four teams had 45 minutes for a technology development and integration exercise. After collaborating on solutions, each team presented theirs to the group. Each participant was able to cast a vote for two solutions, excluding the one they helped to develop. The winning team worked on applying Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM+) and Predictive Maintenance for Marine Corps Ground Vehicles. NCMS has awarded $25,000 to this team to develop a proposal for a CTMA collaboration based on their solution. The team working to solve this scenario included experts from the USMC, Army, and Air Force, along with industry partners Andromeda Systems, Astrolabe Analytics, Edlore, and Redhorse Corporation. Be sure to see the next issue of the CTMA Connector for a follow-up on this new initiative.

For more information about the 2023 CTMA Partners Meeting and NCMS Technology Showcase, please visit: www.ncms.org/ctma-partners-meeting.