Ministries of defence face a number of challenges which put requirements on how product information is managed, communicated and shared with different stakeholders during the lifecycle of products. This Paper highlights the main requirements, trends and business drivers; all derived from Eurostep’s experience.
The objective of this paper is to provide:
- An overview of the requirement for Defence Ministries to manage information around their weapon and other systems, i.e. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM);
Overall the paper is intended to provide input to the creation of a strategy/roadmap for Defence industry organizations to take forward, both in terms of requirements and examples.
The scope addressed is the information generated by the acquisition and through life use of defence systems and related assets (such as land vehicles, planes, ships and their spare parts) and the activities which ensure those defence systems perform and deliver value over time. The paper does not address tactical or strategic information appropriate to front-line commands and military decision-makers, such as intelligence, command and control, etc.
This paper has been written by Eurostep based on insight from working with Defence organizations and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) mainly in Europe and USA. We will examine the general trends seen in Defence in order to highlight key requirements for the management of product information. For convenience, the trends are divided into Budgetary, Technical and Security.
Defence budgets are being reduced or kept at historically low levels in many countries and less new equipment is being acquired as a result. The result is:
- Longer life cycles for existing and new equipment;
- Increasing use of Industry as maintainers, often through performance-based logistics style contracts;
- Pressure to reduce stocks of spares held;
- Accounting has an important role to keep control.
All of these have consequences for the way in which product information is, or at least should be, managed.
Longer life cycles: There are several examples of major items of military equipment in use that are older than the personnel operating them. The expected life duration for equipment is also increasing. This means that more changes occur, equipment is updated, obsolescence has to be managed and more. With long life cycles, there is time in which to gather feedback on the system and support system performance and make changes to both to reduce operating costs, increase availability and improve performance. All of these require consistent and effective recording of the product’s usage, maintenance and configuration.
REQ-001: The collection of comprehensive records related to defence systems is necessary.
Use of Industry: Once the role of the OEM was to provide systems that were maintained by Defence organizations. Now a wide variety of different contracting approaches are employed to involve industry in support activities, many times close to the front line. Typically, these contracts are based on key performance Indicators (KPIs). This changes the nature of the interface between Defence and Industry and often requires Defence to provide information to Industry which then contributes to the KPIs. Furthermore, in the case of large systems (such as Naval Vessels), the industry is forming consortia to take on such support (and also do design/manufacture).
REQ-002: Defence must consider itself as a provider of information to industry which may be represented by a collection of partnering companies.
REQ-003: Approaches for sharing information between Defence and Industry must be flexible to allow for different contract types and KPIs and process change over time.
Inventory management: Most Defence organizations have large holdings of spare parts and equipment. This represents a major value (and cost) and as budgets are being cut, these holdings are coming under increasing scrutiny. This pressure has been enhanced by the return of deployed inventory from Afghanistan and other missions. The management of (and therefore information concerning) individual items is increasingly common, as evidenced by the USA IUID initiative to mark all significant items.
REQ-004: Product information management must deal with individual items as well as types of items and maintain the relationship between individuals and their associated designs and other data (such as Technical Publications).
Accounting: Pressure on budgets together with accounting standards now being applied to Defence are leading to the need to track individual items both from the availability perspective and from the accounting (financial) perspective. Defence equipment is often mobile in terms of geography and in terms of organisational responsibility.
REQ-005: Product information must deal with the locations and the actors (people or organizations) with responsibility for individual items and designs.
As identified earlier the life cycle of defence systems is increasingly longer. One consequence is that IT (hardware, operating systems and applications) now has a shorter life cycle than the products it is being applied to. Thus IT obsolescence is an issue and change in IT has to be a possibility:
REQ-006: Minimize lock-in to commercial/proprietary systems.
REQ-007: Maximize the use of standards and other means to render information independent from applications.
One response to this is to reduce the number of IT systems involved. Some IT vendors have pushed their system as the only one that is needed. Multiple Defence organizations have accepted (at least in large areas) this message. However, the risks involved in this strategy are increasingly clear as multiple countries have found their large ERP systems to be challenging to the point of failure. Even where such projects have been successful, they do not cover the full scope of information appropriate to though life management of complex systems.
REQ-008: Plan for a heterogeneous IT environment.
Modern Defence systems are complex. Increasingly they are designed using systems engineering techniques and involve systems of systems and many software-controlled elements. Thus the ability to assess potential changes of function becomes a complex business in its own right. Assessment of issues requires knowledge of the configuration and the ability to trace back to design decisions, trade-offs and initial requirements.
REQ-009: Enable tracking of changes to the design and produce individual configurations.
REQ-010: Enable traceability from requirements through into all aspects of product information.
Industrial collaboration is a complex process. It can even become a nightmare if one relies upon a delicate choreography of data exchanges because the status of the product in focus is not clearly established at all times. Sharing information instead of just exchanging it drastically simplifies integration, configuration management and traceability.
REQ-011: Wherever practicable, prefer information sharing to information exchange.
There are massive concerns over cyber-security across the global defence community. At the same time, joint Industry/Defence projects potentially increase the need to have Industry access to Defence product information. Allowing the Industry direct access to Defence information systems increases the risk.
REQ-012: Minimize external usage of Defence IT systems.
REQ-013: Use IT systems that have flexible security control related to content as well as network and system-level access.
The US Government pursues ITAR regulations, both within its borders and beyond. Other countries also pursue export controls. Yet Defence is increasingly international. As a consequence, ITAR-like controls over access to data must be applied.
REQ-014: Fine-grained control over access to information is needed.
Activities such as the Transglobal Secure Collaboration Program/TSCP (which was set up after the recognition that projects such as Joint Strike Fighter risked breaking national rules) have highlighted the need for Trusted Identity management.
REQ-015: User Identity has to be managed effectively.
In Part 2 we will follow up with the reasoning behind the requirements.
Abbreviations, Terms, and Definitions
CLS – Contractor Logistic Support (also known as Performance Based Logistics in the USA).
ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning (as characterized by IT systems such as SAP and Oracle).
ITAR – International Traffic in Arms (a set of US Government regulations governing both Arms and the information describing those Arms).
KPI – Key Performance Indicator (a measure used to determine performance which often determines levels of payment).
PBL – Performance-Based Logistics (also known as Contractor Logistic Support).
PLCS – Product Lifecycle Support is the Application Protocol AP 239 of the ISO 10303 Standard for the exchange of product model data. PLCS is in effect an information model for the complete lifecycle of complex products.
PLM – Product Lifecycle Management.
TSCP – Transglobal Secure Collaboration Program.