The naval support chain is getting bigger. Just consider the scale of the US Navy.
This article was submitted by Evan Butler-Jones, Director, Defence Product Line, Aerospace & Defence Business Unit at IFS, more can be found about Evan at the end of this article.
The 250+ strong fleet contains everything from the massive Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, which stretches more than 1,000 feet, to the nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines whose time at sea is only limited by food and maintenance requirements. And over the next 30 years the US Navy plans to expand both its fleet of ships and aircraft.
An already complex network is growing, driven by new factors including next generation equipment, longer asset lifecycles and changing support agreements.
Achieving a cross-organizational visibility can be difficult
Keeping a naval force ready relies on military personnel, OEMs and in-service support providers working together in harmony–but the sheer size of naval assets and the fact they are deployed around the world in all types of environments makes tracking and monitoring equipment status a difficult task.
A lean and efficient supply chain is vital to keep costs down and readiness up, but this can no longer be achieved with disparate management and legacy IT support systems. Different assets and divisions are often run by separate systems, designed to act as stand-alone applications. The result is that important transactional, technical and performance data can get locked into these ‘functional domains’ making it difficult to provide crucial visibility across the entire support chain—crucial because this can pose readiness challenges but also compromise compliance and safety.
The devil is in the detail – and which detail matters
Yet imposing a single ‘one-size-fits-all’ system to manage all naval equipment and divisions can cause just as many readiness issues. The same processes required to manage spare parts for on-board kitchen equipment will certainly not be able to manage the ship-board maintenance requirements of an F-35.
It’s about choosing the right software partners and a small set of specialist software tools that, when combined, provide capability to gain an enterprise-wide view of performance and force readiness. This means interoperable asset and support chain software designed to work within a large naval ecosystem that understands its complex needs around engineering, configuration and maintenance.
Any selected solutions will still require specificity—naval support must be within the expertise of both the software partner and IT system. Without specialist support, naval forces run the risk of missing key capabilities they need to support specific end-to-end processes that link up the overlapping elements of the support chain.
Mission readiness reports at the touch of a button
Once a best-of-breed IT infrastructure has been put in place, the next challenge is to get a big picture view of fleet readiness. Simple business intelligence tools cannot provide the level of insight required to answer an Operations Commander asking if the force is ready to perform an at-sea mission from an HR, material, and training perspective in a given timeframe.
This multi-layered scenario is exactly why IFS has developed Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI), to provide commanders the capability to model operational readiness by drawing data together from the carefully selected suite of source systems. The goal, when deployed correctly, is to accurately identify assets, resources status or required maintenance—then present a readiness report. The 360-degree view enables Operations Commanders to establish if the force is prepared to execute a mission from a readiness perspective. If the answer is no, a supporting EOI solution can analyze which issues need addressing to ensure the mission deadline is met.
As the naval support chain continues to grow in complexity, naval organisations need the ability to maintain asset availability levels at all times. IT support systems now play a crucial role in mission readiness, and the faster militaries realize this the better. Failure to do so will result in compromised safety, spiralling budgets and even uncertain mission success.