CTMA Magazine’s 10th Anniversary: Technologies Past, Present, and Future

This year, on the tenth anniversary of the CTMA Magazine, we celebrate CTMA’s role in accelerating the development of many incredible technologies for the maintenance and sustainment communities. We showcase some consequential successes in CTMA projects.

And we highlight a timeline of technological developments that have advanced maintenance from being primarily reactive, to increasingly proactive, to ultimately predictive.

“Looking back over the past decade, we started off with condition-based maintenance (CBM+) projects,” says Greg Kilchenstein, NCMS’s chief technologist. “Next, we moved into streamlining the process of executing maintenance and ensuring that all technical information was readily available to decision-makers and maintainers. Right now, we are fusing data and transactional information to help people make smarter maintenance decisions. As we move into the future, the key technologies are going to be 3D metal printing, predictive maintenance, and ‘smart’ industrial-based maintenance.”

While CTMA has collaborated on many important projects, the seven highlighted here present an overview of where we have been, where the program currently stands, and where we are headed.


Expeditionary Fluid Assessment Capability (EFAC)

The EFAC project advanced condition-based maintenance (CBM+) for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard through a collaboration with Spectro Scientific, now AMETEK, an electronic instruments manufacturer. The team produced a portable fluid testing and diagnostic tool that provides maintenance personnel with real-time assessments of equipment fluid conditions. By virtually connecting oil analysis laboratory technicians with the maintenance community, the device delivers fast go/no-go results for fielded personnel under urgent conditions.

This project’s three phases were completed from 2006 to 2017. Currently, the team is evaluating the performance of two models of a new device: the Spectro FieldLab 58. The devices are catching all failures as expected, and data collection will be completed in 2022. Ultimately, the team plans to implement the devices across all weapon systems, including ground and aviation systems.

“What’s really important in aviation,” says Bob Wopperer, AMETEK’s government lead, “are the bearings inside the gas turbine engine. The FieldLab 58 can start to pick up the metal shavings in the oil long before the bearing will fail. This technology alerts maintainers to change out those bearings before they fail, preventing a potential crash.”


Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

CTMA partnered with the digital industries division of Siemens to bring Teamcenter—the preeminent product lifecycle management (PLM) suite of digital tools—to support the NAVAIR fleet readiness centers (FRCs). Teamcenter integrates all the technical data for airplanes, helicopters, and support equipment.

NAVAIR uses Teamcenter as a digital/virtual depot, which equips stakeholders with a proven, reusable process for all maintenance and repairs, reducing cycle times and costs. Since the project’s completion in 2020, three FRC locations—Southeast, Southwest, and East—have been sharing data, resources, and manufacturing capabilities through the life cycle of their products.

“CTMA was the prime mover for enabling the PLM in the FRCs in NAVAIR,” says Kilchenstein. “The project we executed through CTMA led the way for the entire Department of Defense. Every major DOD activity and service now has their information migrated in PLM suites of tools.”


Intermittent Fault Detection and Isolation System (IFDIS)

Almost everyone has experienced an intermittent fault while using electronic devices, which the DOD defines as a “momentary discontinuity, a malfunction of a device or system that occurs at irregular intervals.” Intermittent faults are a huge problem in the DOD because modern weapons systems contain complex electronics, which often move into extremely harsh environments. Detecting faulty electronic systems can save service members’ lives.

Yet intermittent faults are notoriously difficult to identify, due to nano-second fault durations and the many thousands of circuit paths in complex electronics. Intermittent faults typically result in no fault found (NFF), due to conventional test equipment’s inability to detect them, requiring equipment removal and testing that has cost the DOD $3 billion annually.

To solve this problem, a CTMA collaboration with Universal Synaptics, an electronics diagnostics manufacturer, advanced the Intermittent Fault Detection and Isolation System (IFDIS). The IFDIS correctly identified intermittent faults in the F-16’s central air data Computer (CADC) chassis circuitry, enabling technicians to repair, rather than replace, the CADCs. The project paid for itself in less than one year. A subsequent project, Development of Intermittent Fault Detection Technology Implementation Procedures Guidance and Training, completed in 2019, expanded the IFDIS’s success to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division.

“CTMA has rolled out IFDIS capability across the Navy, the Air Force, and we’re currently working with the Army,” says Ed Taylor, former NAVAIR Wiring Division head. “It is a paradigm shift in the way we perform electronic maintenance because we’re able to see short-duration intermittent faults.”


Platform as a Service (PaaS)

The Marine Corps’ Logistics Information Technology (Log IT) system had some problems to solve: the portfolio’s 200 independently developed applications did not communicate with each other; Marines were forced to enter the same transactions multiple times into different systems; and data was not accessible for mining, analysis, and visualization.

To resolve these issues, NCMS collaborated with One Network, a multi-party network platform design company, on the project Platform as a Service (PaaS) Enterprise Logistics Data Warehouse Review and Evaluation Proof of Concept (2014-15). PaaS is a cloud-based development and deployment environment that includes application development tools, business analytics, and database services. PaaS fuses and federates information so that the supply system and the maintenance management information system communicate on one network platform. After three years and four months of implementation, using PaaS in the Marine Corps’ IT system saved $9.9 million.

“Platform as a Service is now being transitioned to all the military services to enable information-based decisions,” says Debbie Lilu, vice president of Maintenance & Sustainment, and Business Development, at NCMS.

3D Metal Printing

NCMS has been accelerating the development and implementation of additive manufacturing (AM) since its inception in the late 1980s. Beginning with the Rapid Access to Readiness Essential (RARE) parts initiative in the 1990s, to the newly developed highspeed metal printing capabilities, NCMS has been key to advancing this game-changing technology.

In 2019, CTMA kicked off a collaboration with the Marine Corps and Parmatech, an AM solution provider. The project, called High Speed Metal 3D Printing for Improved Sustainment is scheduled to conclude in 2022. The project uses AM to rapidly produce mission critical components and quickly return weapons systems to fighting forces.

Parmatech conducted monthly trainings for Marines to produce metal replacement parts and develop materiel readiness solutions. Marines now have the 3D printing capability to sustain weapons platforms expeditiously and cost-effectively, with the downstream objective of eliminating the logistical burden of moving a “steel mountain” of repair parts.

“Fulfilling supply requisitions for complex metal parts can often take upwards of 18 months,” says Brett Conner, OSD’s Joint AM Working Group (JAMWG) Coordinator. “But now, with 3D metal printing capabilities, we’re able to print readiness-critical parts on-demand to execute maintenance rapidly. The JAMWG is supporting efforts to speed up qualification and certification for responsive readiness.”


Shipyard Industrial Optimization Program (SIOP)

The SIOP digitally modeled infrastructure improvements for four of the Navy’s public shipyards: Pearl Harbor, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Puget Sound. All these shipyards require upgrades to maintain twenty-first century aircraft carriers and submarines.

NCMS partnered with several technology and engineering services providers: Siemens, EngUSA, and Bechtel National, and a logistics and inventory services company, Orbis. The team used digital software to create the optimal configuration for industrial processes, infrastructure, and equipment at all four shipyards. The team also produced the documents required for two new Pearl Harbor projects: a dry dock and a dry dock production facility, which will streamline submarine repairs. The completion of these documents is necessary to the construction phase.

The SIOP project has been extended into the Infrastructure Analysis and Optimization Plan (IOP), which will be completed in 2022. This project will improve industrial operations at all NAVAIR’s FRC’s, which are critical for the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, engines, components, and support equipment. The team will use digital simulation to identify optimal industrial processes, facility layouts, and necessary equipment upgrades.

“We started the digital modeling with shipyards. Based on that success, Naval Aviation joined the effort. Now the Army is using this same ‘green field’ process to stand up a new production line for Abrams tank engines at Anniston Army Depot,” says Lilu.


Predictive Maintenance (PMx)

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is partnering with NCMS and industry to advance predictive maintenance (PMx) that provides advanced notification of impending maintenance and sustainment requirements across the utility helicopter fleets operated by the Army, Air Force, and Navy. However, all three organizations maintain disparate maintenance information systems (MIS), which results in supply chain delays, cost overages, and inefficiencies.

To solve these issues, it is essential to integrate data sources, which requires developing an ontology—a common understanding of terms and the relationships between them. In 2019, CTMA began the Aviation Maintenance and Supply Ontology project, a collaboration between the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Army Forces Command, along with Tamr, a data services company, and the Logistics Management Institute (LMI). This project is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

The ontology focuses on the H-60 helicopter because it is used in all military branches. This ontology, which will be leveraged across the DOD, establishes the groundwork for using artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytic capabilities to advance PMx solutions.

“This project is moving us into the future,” says Kilchenstein. “From reactive, to proactive, to predictive maintenance, CTMA is helping to lead the way.”