Military funding is becoming increasingly restricted, and the situation appears to be universal as most military planners face the same challenge: how to satisfy more commitments from fewer resources. In many cases military budgets are being reduced and re-directed towards other vital areas such as healthcare and education, while at the same time the demand for operational deployments are often on the increase.
This is not a new phenomenon. In many countries, military budgets have been cut continuously over time, placing increasing pressure on personnel to adapt to these changing circumstances without having to resign themselves to making major compromises.
The efficient management of everything, from aircraft and warships to helicopters and armoured fighting vehicles, is the territory on which the battle for military effectiveness is being fought. The weapon that is making an impressive impact is Condition Based Asset Management, which combines engineering expertise with cutting edge computer technology to significantly reduce the risk of equipment failure and limit the extent of damage when failure is unavoidable.
The benefits of Condition Based Asset Management are far more than purely financial. The operational benefits are even greater than the financial, as operations can be conducted with added confidence. During peacetime, Condition Based Asset Management can also help to reduce the impact of military equipment upon the environment and improve safety.
The challenge of achieving more from less is creating the demand for Condition Based Asset Management to be implemented on the widest scale within the military field, and the impressive results so far are indicating that this is going to play an increasingly fundamental role in military effectiveness world-wide.
To the Armed Forces failure is not an option. This means a continuous quest for improved capability. However, improvements in capability are often achieved by the introduction of more complex equipment into service. In order to maximise the availability of such equipment and at the same time control support costs many Armed Forces use Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM).
Originally developed as a tool for the design and review of aircraft maintenance schedules, RCM is a highly structured process used to determine the maintenance requirements of complex equipment. RCM incorporates a number of important features, in particular the process:
- recognises that maintenance tasks cannot improve the inherent reliability of an item for this is determined by its design, choice of materials, manufacturing methods etc.
- recognises that the maintenance requirements of an item will depend upon its operating context.
- considers how items might fail as well as drawing upon historical information about failures. Importantly a failure does not have to occur for preventive maintenance tasks to be implemented, as is the case with the “post mortem” approach
- uses consequences of failure to determine the need for maintenance.
Maintenance programmes resulting from the RCM process often include early failure detection techniques, such as the monitoring of fluids, vibration, performance etc because they are able to provide warnings before a failure occurs.
The provision of early warnings gives the maximum amount of time to take action and thus avoid the consequences of failure, although this usually requires the detection of relatively small changes in parameter values. It may also require the integration of several early failure detection techniques in order to confirm that a particular failure process has commenced.
Quite often early failure detection techniques fail to live up to expectations when applied to military applications. This is because it is difficult to achieve high levels of data quality within the military environment. It is also difficult to obtain and then verify feedback from the frontline.
Condition Based Asset Management has been developed to overcome the problems associated with military operations where failure is not an option. It provides a unique support infrastructure combining the practical experience of time-served military engineers with a robust expert decision support technology base and secure communications. This powerful combination ensures that the use of early failure detection techniques by the Armed Forces delivers real benefits.
An independent firm of consultants, currently assisting the UK Ministry of Defence, Tank Systems Support Integrated Project Team (TSS IPT) with a number of key projects, have now verified the TSS IPT/AES Cost Savings Model. The model takes into account all aspects of the Machine Care Plus® service in support of Challenger 2 powerpacks and is used to produce cost saving to spend ratio and other financial information on a continuous basis.
The implementation of the Machine Care Plus® service in support of transmission units fitted to British Army Challenger 2 main battle tanks and Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicles (CRARRV), which commenced in February 1999, is now complete. It includes a secure communications network linking Challenger 2 tank regiments and relevant support and training organisations in the UK, Germany and Canada. Over 500 assemblies are currently supported by AES’s condition based asset management service.
AES personnel have deployed to Oman in order to provide the Machine Care Plus® service directly to British Army regiments and units during Exercise Saif Sareea (Swift Sword) II.
Their main role during the two month exercise, which involves UK forces and those of the Sultanate of Oman, is to monitor the condition of Challenger 2 and Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle (CRARRV) powerpacks (engines and transmissions) and Warrior light armoured vehicles (main engines) during dessert operations.
Stuart Lake is based on the waterfront at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth and Peter Bellamy is resident at HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth. Both Technical Service Engineers were marine engineering artificers and possess in-depth knowledge and experience of Royal Navy equipment, operations and support organisations.
Their daily activities are far from routine and are largely dictated by recommendations from the marine early failure detection centre in North Wales, the ships visiting the Naval Base and ships programmed maintenance periods.
They offer day to day support to ship’s staff and shore-based personnel, particularly those responsible for marine diesel engines, and advise upon all aspects of the Machine Care Plus® service. In particular they are able to resolve discrepancies in data recording, advise upon sampling procedures and documentation, obtain accurate feedback with respect to maintenance actions taken and secure background information and photographic images when appropriate. Regular visits to ships, office based enquiries and briefings, formal presentations, continuation training and local troubleshooting all help to ensure the smooth running of the Machine Care Plus® service.
This hands-on approach helps to win the “hearts and minds” of users which in turn raises the quality of data and information generated, the bedrock of the Machine Care Plus® service.
Between March and August 2001, AES Technical Service Engineers Stuart Lake and Peter Bellamy based at Her Majesty’s Naval Bases Portsmouth and Devonport carried out more than 60 briefings on board Royal Navy vessels and at a number of shore-based establishments.
The briefings covered all aspects of the Machine Care Plus® service, demonstrated that support and advice was readily available and helped to promote open dialogue with ship’s staff and shore-based personnel.
During the 10th Multiple Launch Rocket System Maintenance Officers Meeting (MLRS MOM) held in Tromsø, Norway in May of this year Steve Docker and Russ Kirkham of AES made a “Learning Through Experience” presentation on the subject of condition based asset management.
The three-day meeting, which is held annually, is a forum for discussing technical and logistical issues in relation to the MLRS, which is currently operated by ten countries.
At the invitation of the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency and the UK Ministry of Defence the AES team presented their work on British Army Challenger 2 transmission units, outlining the benefits achieved and discussed with delegates how a similar approach may be of benefit to the MLRS.
The Engineer Tank System due to enter service with the British Army is based upon Challenger 2 and in order to verify design modifications a trial was held during June 2001 where a number of ploughing and earth moving tasks were conducted.
During the trial, major assemblies fitted to a Challenger 2 main battle tank were monitored by Hamish Sharp of AES to establish if any additional wear was caused throughout a number of functional tests. The trial provided valuable baseline information and clearly demonstrated that data could be obtained from major assemblies in a clean and safe manner.