In many cases, a warfighter is only as lethal as the equipment at their disposal. So, what does that mean if the equipment they rely on is regularly out of commission or in repair limbo? The answer to this question is why a sustainable, streamlined plan of action for depot maintenance is crucial to supporting warfighter readiness and lethality.
However, the widely used approach to this kind of maintenance is cumbersome, costly, and time-consuming, making it ripe for a modernized approach. This is where the value of a public-private partnership in the depot maintenance process comes into play. With different players bringing their respective strengths to the table, a more comprehensive approach to depot maintenance can be achieved.
The Modern Battlespace team learned more about the nuances and intricacies of the depot maintenance process in a conversation with Phil Jasper, President of Mission Systems at Collins Aerospace. In our conversation, he touched on the pressing challenges to the warfighter that are brought forth by lacking parts availability, tight budgets, and the urgent need for improved turnaround time. All of these challenges are directly addressed in a public-private partnership largely due to the concept of being able to pool resources.
“Public-private partnerships make aircraft sustainment easier because both parties are leveraging all resources, creating a flow where industry partners can gain access to greater MRO [maintenance, repair, overhaul] capacity, steady ROI, and long-term contractual commitment from the buying agencies,” Jasper explained. “At Collins Aerospace, we ensure these partnerships are tightly focused on addressing readiness, sustainment, reliability, and part availability requirements, in addition to resolving obsolescence issues and cutting lifecycle costs over the next decade.”
Aptly named, public-private partnerships bridge the gap between the DoD and other public sector organizations and the private sector, opening the channel to allow access to resources and greater visibility to relevant experts. This lifecycle sustainment tool supports increased parts availability, leading to more aircraft in the air. By addressing, arguably, the most pressing pain point of lack of parts availability via a greater resource pool for both hardware and labor, issues with schedule slippage and inaccuracies can be minimized.
According to Jasper, other benefits that public-private partnerships bring to the table include increased repair throughput, enhanced access to leading technologies, wider sustainment of core depot capability, and inherent support through manufacturing license agreements (MLAs) and technical assistance agreements (TAAs).
Jasper explained that without the use of public-private partnerships, several different disruptions across the supply chain can take place. Parts might not be readily available because there is no inherent driving force to prioritize the parts, leading to inconsistent turnaround time, he explained. “This affects the supply chain at a higher level because other parties in the transaction are not willing to do business with the provider due to their low part inventory,” Jasper stated. “With these partnerships, private and public entities work together to reduce turnaround time because there is the motivation of avoiding shared risk, meaning the system for spares is more closely managed to keep equipment readily available.”
Initiatives weaved across these partnerships like a Performance Based Logistics program also help expedite the maintenance process for equipment in-theater while providing a cost-effective approach to technology sustainment and maintenance.
“Our Collins Aerospace Performance Based Logistics program is able to predict the demand for specific parts and can mitigate the discrepancy in a downed component before it is even inducted into our repair facility,” said Jasper. Providers like Collins Aerospace have a motivation under contract to repair parts quickly to avoid that shared risk. As a result, Collins Aerospace and its partners remove the burden and repair these parts in days, rather than months.
“Streamlining of a depot effort can come from multiple aspects – but the supply chain efficiency and the physical repair line capabilities, both in quality and volume, are the biggest areas of ‘gained benefits’ where an efficient and effective partnership shines, especially when combined with performance based logistics,” Jasper remarked.
Jasper pointed to Tobyhanna Army Depot’s recent completion of its depot activation for repairs on the H-1 MFDs in July of 2020 as a strong example of a public-private partnership. “The benefits of a public-private partnership are mutually beneficial to both the organic industrial base and the private defense sector,” explained Christopher Volch, Project Manager at Tobyhanna Army Depot. “That common goal of delivering readiness to our warfighters can be achieved by leveraging each other’s capabilities and expertise, along with cross collaboration for innovative ideas is really a win-win overall for our nation’s defense. Collins Aerospace and Tobyhanna do just that, leading the way for great success.”
Alfonso Myers, Program Manager at Collins Aerospace, added to that sentiment from Volch, stating, “The depot stand-up process is a collaborative effort, and it takes dedicated members of each team whose primary mission is to support the warfighter.” Myers explained that this was the primary goal of the H-1 depot activation team that consisted of members of the Government, PMA-276 H-1 Program Upgrades office, Tobyhanna Army Depot, and Collins Aerospace. “The dedication of this team made this a successful effort and built a base for future work between Collins Aerospace, the government, and Tobyhanna Army Depot,” he explained.
Collins Aerospace maintains their tight focus on modernizing depot maintenance via a highly skilled and robust workforce, improved logistical and technical support, and greater access to leading data-driven technologies. The maintenance challenges that directly impact the readiness of today’s warfighter can be abated greatly through the advent of public-private partnerships.