Accelerating Technology Transition: NCMS Expands its Impact

This feature article appeared first in the 2023 issue of the CTMA Magazine. CTMA’s annual publication highlights advancements in military maintenance and sustainment, as well as reviews of NCMS Technology Showcases, symposiums, workshops, and a growing list of virtual and in-person events.

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NCMS generates continuous advancement and success with our willingness to forge new paths through the exploration of the unknown. When you’re in the business of accelerating the development and transition of innovative solutions, “the road less taken” is familiar to us. We recognize that in meeting our government customers’ needs, new technologies must be adoptable and adaptable to become solutions. Our success arises by fostering environments that enable our network of innovators to work collaboratively with our government customers, testing and verifying demonstrated new technologies that result in readiness.

For over three decades, NCMS has been catalyzing the global competitiveness of US manufacturers through collaboration, innovation, and the proven ability to accelerate the development of critically needed solutions. Throughout that time, we have applied our strengths in building an ever-expanding network of trusted, next-generation developers and the capability to enable collaboration amongst our partners to deliver transition-ready technologies. Our established framework is designed with agile, flexible processes that lead to streamlined development, demonstration, and validation of results. Furthermore, our industry and academic partners recognize that our government customers want more than viable solutions—they want ones that end-users will be able to quickly utilize within their present-day work environments.

NCMS’s expansive network—consisting of thousands of innovators, manufacturers, and research universities—has strong depth and breadth in multiple advanced technologies. Notably, two-thirds of our partners have expertise in one or more of the following: additive and advanced manufacturing, integrated business processes, robotics and autonomous systems, manufacturing 4.0, and next-generation hardware. With so many varied capabilities represented, we are proud to say that one quality shared by all is their openness to combining forces to develop right-sized solutions. Our network partners know that our collaboration framework comprises a protected environment where proprietary information and intellectual property will remain secure.

A willingness to collaborate is key when the end goal is rapid implementation of innovative solutions. Rarely does a stand-alone technology represent a field-ready capability. A component of adoptability and adaptability is finding the right improvements to deliver on the speed to use—results must be based upon the specific requirements of the end-user. Having sufficient time and funding lends itself to high-volume, precision production environments, where significant technical training is a mainstay. Conversely, the speed necessary to support our maintainers and warfighters can clash with the time needed for training. Some new improvements may bring about such monumental changes that implementing them would require substantial re-training. The cost and schedule for this alone could outweigh the benefits of the proposed technology.

Successful transition in such cases could entail collaboration among multiple partners who can deliver intuitive innovation supported and continuously reinforced by a combination of on-the-job, augmented, remote-access, and other training resources. A key part of getting solutions into the hands of maintainers involves ensuring they are part of the process and that their confidence and subject matter expertise are quickly built around their newly acquired tools.

NCMS continues to invest in resources that cultivate mutual success for our government customers and our network partners. As a result of those many successes, NCMS has been able to reinvest in our mission. We have expanded our infrastructure to better equip our customers and network partners with advanced collaboration facilities. Two new locations, as well as our state-of-the-art digital collaboration capabilities, are readily available and have been utilized by our network for prompt starts to many initiatives. We want to ensure that we can enable the most effective work that leads to trailblazing, transition-ready solutions.

Through NCMS’s Commercial Technologies for Maintenance Activities (CTMA) Program, our investments ensure we have a highly effective strategy for swiftly identifying, evaluating, and delivering technology innovations for the DOD’s most crucial maintenance and sustainment (M&S) challenges. Now in its 25th year, the CTMA Program’s partnership with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Materiel Readiness (ODASD-MR) enhances warfighter readiness at highest value and lowest risk. Using our proven processes, our network partners have demonstrated time and again that they have the capabilities to adopt and adapt effective, ready-to-implement solutions at the speed of relevance.

Furthermore, NCMS invests in multiple outreach approaches. For instance, last summer we facilitated a unique NAVSEA effort: the Repair Technology Exercise (REPTX) where over 60 of our network partners were brought together to demonstrate advanced maintenance solutions onboard a Navy Self Defense Test Ship. This two-week event provided a new venue for technology providers to collaborate and innovate on-the-fly, adapting their tools to the extent that several demonstrated readiness for fielding. A continuation of that initiative this past March allowed our Navy partners to further vet a specific subset of technologies designed to support remote training and access to cloud-based engineering resources for maintainers at sea. Such new approaches offer benefits to all, enabling the Navy to rapidly field new M&S solutions, and giving NCMS and our network a more nuanced understanding of what is needed now and into the future for our warfighters and sustainment community.

NCMS would like to thank our entire network of government, industry, and academic partners for their willingness to come together, collaborate, and develop tools and processes that make a real difference for our DOD maintainers. We appreciate that our partners are committed to going the extra mile for our government customers and for taking innovation to new heights. NCMS is fortunate that our network encompasses organizations that recognize the end goal of our mission stretches far beyond providing novel technologies, to searching for better and faster ways to transition those technological advancements into end-users’ hands.

Delivering upon successful results spanning the maintenance life cycle is possible thanks to our strong partnership with Mr. Steve McKee, Director of Enterprise Maintenance Technologies. His enterprise view and deep understanding of what makes for transition-ready solutions are facilitating faster results. Our gratitude extends to the entire chain of command in the ODASD-MR. It is through their efforts to move the mission forward that NCMS is able to bring about next-level results.

In these perilous times of multiple global threats, the critical impact of our network becomes clear. Our entire network shares the goal of accelerating technology transition within the DOD. By speeding up the life cycle of vital improvements, it’s easy to see that we can have a global effect. By breaking out of the traditional constraints of development time, rapid innovations can transition into the hands of our maintainers and create the edge our US warfighters need to meet these threats and prevail.