Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 9/10 – Life Cycle Stage of a Product

Mar 19
2013

This blog is the ninth of ten discussing the product support financial value drivers of the solutions supplied by a commercial or military focused capital good Product Support Enterprise [PSE]. The blog will provide an overview on how the analysis of the life cycle stages of a product and its components can deliver a better understanding of the life cycle cost of a PSE.

The life cycle stage of a product inducted into a variety of Product Support processes can be broken-down into two primary stages: in-production and out-of-production, and then segmented into early, mid and late life stages. A further break-down can also be employed in which the product’s parts are either in-production or out-of-production. And finally the segmentation of a Product’s parts can be identified as being Made-To-Order [MTO], also referred to as developmental or proprietary, and Commercial Off The Shelf [COTS]. For each stage analyzed, the following 5 financial elements must also be reviewed:

  1. Direct resources: Tech labor (i.e. maintainers, tech reps)
  2. Direct resources: Parts (i.e. reparable, non-reparable)
  3. Indirect resources: Process flow (i.e. shop building, test equipment, schedulers)
  4. Indirect resources: Direct resource management (i.e. warehouse, transport, packaging, training)
  5. Indirect resources: PSE oversight management (i.e. offices, data infrastructure, leadership)

The blog will be a series of the following 3 charts providing a template for a variety of discussions in establishing PSE solutions throughout the life cycle of a product:

  1. Product life cycle graph and corresponding PSE activity
  2. Table of life cycle stages and potential scenarios; there can be many more scenarios that can be reviewed
  3. Example of inputs for each life cycle scenario selected

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The purpose of this BLOG was only to skim the surface as to the multiple questions that must be addressed when reviewing a Product’s life cycle and its financial impact upon the PSE.

Hypatia©, a Giuntini & Company financial software tool, provides a highly automated means of calculating the above and other product support financial value drivers, as well as an effortless way of being able to change any utilization assumption and immediately understand its impact upon total ownership costs. Hypatia is also a proven, trusted and highly effective tool for assisting in the development of product support business case analysis.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 8/10 – Chronological Age of the Product Installed Base

Jan 08
2013

This post is the eighth of ten entries that will discuss product support financial value drivers for solutions supplied by a commercial or military focused capital good Product Support Enterprise [PSE]. The 10 topics that will be discussed are the following:

  1. # of products employed by end-users
  2. End-user product utilization rate
  3. Product failure
  4. Environment in which end users engage the product
  5. Preventive maintenance processes employed
  6. Volatility of product technology
  7. Regulatory requirement
  8. Chronological age of the product installed base
  9. Life cycle stage of the product
  10. Manufacturer’s warranty coverage

The basic premise underlying this Product Support financial value driver is that as an item that is continuously employed in a process gets older, “stuff” may or may not happen to it. The analysis of this area is primarily dominated by the product design/reliability engineering community; this may be good or bad as we delve further in our discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my calculations, all the primary subassemblies of an end-item need to be identified and codified as to falling into one of the six age-related reliability curves. These subassembly categories can be the following, though they are not exhaustive:

  • Sensors (i.e. lasers)
  • Electronics (i.e. computer processor)
  • Electrical (i.e. generator)
  • Mechanical (i.e. gearbox)
  • Hydraulic (i.e. actuator)
  • Hard/soft goods (i.e. filters)
  • Software (i.e. application)
  • Structure (i.e. housing)
  • Others (i.e. outfits, tools)

Once the reliability life cycle curves are identifies as well as the subassembly categories that are part of the end-item configuration, I can then identify how each reliability curve matches-up with the subassembly category.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, the costs of correcting or preventing failure can be estimated using the following methodology:

  • Identify a variable that is closely aligned with the cost of correcting or preventing unplanned failures. The correlation selected for our discussion is that between the value of a subassembly and the cost of its repair; the higher the value of the subassembly, the higher the cost of a repair event
  • Obtain a Cost Estimating Relation [CER] with that of the repair cost of a subassembly type and the value of the item. The use of warranty financial data, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] by every publically-held OEM (i.e. Caterpillar, United Technologies) and their key suppliers, provides a means to establish a CER

    For example, direct and indirect repair costs for electronic components, as a percent of their value, is 2% per year. If the cost of repair is 10% of the component value, then the annual failure rate is 20% of fielded items (2%/10%) based upon a “normal” utilization

Areas such as modifications and remanufacturing/overhaul can reset some of these aging factors. Also the source of design, design-to-order versus off-the-shelf, can impact reliability factors.

Now, for most reliability engineers, my calculations are most likely “foreign”, but I can tell you that leadership can understand my “simple” method of establishing the cost of correcting or preventing failure. Most reliability engineers have “Physics Envy”; they develop formulas that demonstrate that the reliability world is an “orderly place”, just as that is found in the realm of the sciences. But for anyone who has been in the field of reliability, it is at best an inexact science in which one is happy to be accurate in one’s prediction by +/-50% in anyone year, and over the life of an item +/-20% accurate.

Note that reliability engineers struggle to obtain credibility with leadership because they “get into the weeds” almost immediately when discussing reliability; one recommendation to engineers is to translate all that is calculated into financial terms; not always easy to do. Annual costs to prevent or correct failure should always be within the range of 3-6% of the value of an item that is being analyzed; anything above these percentages should be suspect.

From my experience I have seen highly rigorous quantitative analysis performed by an engineer, when converted into financial terms, to be in the 20-25% of the value of the item. Almost always after further analysis, the underlying assumptions of the engineer’s calculation were incorrect and indeed the ultimate outputs resulted in a 3-6% range of the value of the item.

Product Support life cycle financial planning should include scenario-based tools that can analyze the impact of different factors upon reliability in any one period, as well as upon the entire life cycle.

Hypatia©, a Giuntini & Company financial software tool, provides a highly automated means of calculating the above and other product support financial value drivers, as well as an effortless way of being able to change any utilization assumption and immediately understand its impact upon total ownership costs. Hypatia is also a proven, trusted and highly effective tool for assisting in the development of product support business case analysis.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 7/10 – Regulatory Requirements

Nov 27
2012

This post is the seventh of ten entries that will discuss product support financial value drivers for solutions supplied by a commercial or military focused capital good Product Support Enterprise [PSE]. The 10 topics that will be discussed are the following:

  1. # of products employed by end-users
  2. End-user product utilization rate
  3. Product failure
  4. Environment in which end users engage the product
  5. Preventive maintenance processes employed
  6. Volatility of product technology
  7. Regulatory requirements
  8. Chronological age of the product installed base
  9. Life cycle stage of the product
  10. Manufacturer’s warranty coverage

As nations become wealthier, there is a drive to mitigate the risks of occurrence of the events that unfavorably impact society – think auto safety, hazardous materials disposition, and many others. As a result, many regulatory actions have been employed by nations and local legislatures. These regulations have had a significant impact upon Product Support financial value driver results.

Product support financial value drivers – regulatory requirements

Let’s start with safety concerns. All industries have regulations that require certain Product Support processes to be employed that either protects the users of equipment, or the outputs of the equipment. Transportation equipment has as extensive amount of time/use/condition based preventive maintenance tasks to avoid any unplanned failure. From brake overhauls for trains, to flight control actuator overhauls for aircraft, very specific maintenance tasks must be performed throughout the life of the equipment; in most cases the ability to operate a piece of equipment requires that the OEM has obtained approval by a regulatory body for a detailed preventive maintenance schedule. These requirements can often drive 20-40% of the Product Support life cycle costs.

Another area of regulation driving costs is one that continues to expand every year; maintenance activities that avoid unfavorable environmental events. For example, the preventive overhaul of a valve in order to avoid failure resulting in a hazardous material spill, or the inspection of a structure for corrosion that could result in equipment releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere. This area is specifically costly in the process industries of chemicals, oil and power generation.

In certain cases, regulatory requirements have a strange impact on Product Support costs. A case in point is in Japan and the insurance of automobiles where in order to generate demand for new cars, the Japanese government has mandated that insurance rates increase based upon the age of a vehicle. Upon a car approaching 10 years old, the insurance rates are so high that it “pays”  to get rid of the car (they leave Japan for  less developed countries) and purchase a new car. This regulation has a major impact upon the Product Support financial value driver solutions for older vehicles; there is none!

Recent changes to the fuels employed to operate equipment has created unintended impacts upon Product Support maintenance; some have decreased the frequency of unplanned failures, but others have significantly changed the frequency of preventive maintenance tasks; think bio-fuels for commercial truck engines.

The disposition of Product Support parts that are deemed hazardous materials can also increase costs; sometimes the cost of disposition is more expensive than the acquisition of the part. This is often true of certain consumables such of filters, lubricants, and others.

Product support financial value drivers – regulatory requirements

One of the Product Support financial value cost challenges is that there are many different regulations throughout the globe requiring different Product Support processes to be employed. For many global organizations, where equipment is transported to many sites, think oil drilling equipment, Product Support processes are often employed that meet the most demanding regulations of any nation that the equipment can be employed. This is done in order to be flexible in aligning demand and supply of equipment on a global basis. For example if ExxonMobil has to move equipment from Nigeria to the USA, even though Nigeria may have less demanding Product Support regulations, the Nigerian equipment is maintained to USA standards so that if demand shifts to the USA, the equipment doesn’t have to be reset to use in the USA.

All the above cases of regulatory requirements are always driven by optimizing equipment cost and minimizing its unfavorable impacts on society. Product Support costs, which constitute the plurality of Total Ownership Costs for most equipment types, will remain a primary “victim” of many of these regulations.

Product Support life cycle financial planning must include scenario-based tools that can analyze the impact of different regulatory changes upon the short-term and long-term TOC.

Hypatia©, a Giuntini & Company financial software tool, provides a highly automated means of calculating the above and other product support financial value drivers, as well as an effortless way of being able to change any utilization assumption and immediately understand its impact upon total ownership costs. Hypatia is also a proven, trusted and highly effective tool for assisting in the development of product support business case analysis.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 6/10 – Volatility of Product Technology

Nov 04
2012

This post is the sixth of ten entries that will discuss product support financial value drivers for solutions supplied by a commercial or military focused capital good Product Support Enterprise [PSE]. The 10 topics that will be discussed are the following:

  1. # of products employed by end-users
  2. End-user product utilization rate
  3. Product failure
  4. Environment in which end users engage the product
  5. Preventive maintenance processes employed
  6. Volatility of product technology
  7. Regulatory requirements
  8. Chronological age of the product installed base
  9. Life cycle stage of the product
  10. Manufacturer’s warranty coverage

Product Support Financial Value Drivers

The current business model for OEMs is to seek a problem being encountered by an organization and to configure a hardware/software solution that affordably and effectively addresses a resolution to the problem. For example, a warfighter requires, within a 6-month period, a communication system that can access satellite transmissions on-the-move for a period of 20 years. The OEM awarded the contract chooses to employ a suite of bleeding-edge Commercial Off The Shelf [COTS] items and integrates all the pieces into a Design-To-Order solution. Great; the warfighter gets their solution quickly and the OEM can “call it a day.” But now comes the fun part. The Product Support Strategy [PSS] for this COTS-based solution must employ a process that modifies the configuration of the solution based upon future Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Material Shortages [DMSMS] challenges; what is currently bleeding-edge, will most probably have a cold commercial supply chain within 3-4 years.

Understanding how the source-of-design impacts Total Ownership Cost [TOC] is often not fully understood. An OEM’s employment of COTS items enables access to a hot supply chain in which development costs have been amortized by the manufacturer; item acquisition costs can often be 30-50% less than that of a developmental item with the same capabilities. Also note that the reliability of a COTS item can be 3-4 fold higher than that of a developmental item. All-in-all the production costs of a COTS-centric solution is financially attractive, but Product Support life cycle costs can be significant enough to offset the production savings.

For example, if a COTS item is to be modified, due to DMSMS issues every 4 years and there is a planned 20 year product life, that indicates that 4 to 5 modifications will have be performed during the period that the solution is in inventory. Note that upon the insertion of these modifications, capabilities enhancements may occur, but that is strictly a by-product of the activity.

From personal financial analytics experience working on many systems, I have in almost all situations observed that DMSMS-driven modification costs can constitute the number one or two ranked Product Support cost driver. Remember that Product Support constitutes a plurality of TOC, thus modifications to COTS-centric solutions are often within the top ten cost drivers of TOC.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers

Other issues to be considered that will impact financial performance due to technology volatility, is how the modification process will be performed. There are several alternatives (this is not an all inclusive listing), each with their own cost drivers:

  • Block-mod in which all end-items are inducted into the modification process at a depot within a short period of time
  • Block-mod in which all end-items are inducted into the modification process in the field via an exchange program, within a short period of time
  • Modify-as-failed in which reparable items, when inducted in a repair process, will also be modified
  • Modify-bundled-with-other in which an end-item when inducted into a process such as reset, overhaul or other end-item process, the modification will be employed when the end-item has been disassembled; logic is that as long as the end-item is apart, there is no additional labor required for installing the modification.

Each of the above impacts technician labor costs to remove and replace, transportation costs, facility costs, indirect personnel costs and many other costs. Also note that each alternative will impact Materiel Availability [Am].

Any financial analytics of the Product Support life cycle must include a rigorous review of modification expenditures regardless of the “color of money.” Technology volatility provides many challenges, but with insightful life cycle planning unfavorable performance risks can be mitigated.

Hypatia©, a Giuntini & Company financial software tool, provides a highly automated means of calculating the above and other product support financial value drivers, as well as an effortless way of being able to change any utilization assumption and immediately understand its impact upon total ownership costs. Hypatia is also a proven, trusted and highly effective tool for assisting in the development of product support business case analysis.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 4/10 – Operating Environment in Which End-Users Engage the End-Item

Oct 19
2012

This post is the fourth of ten entries that will discuss product support financial value drivers for solutions supplied by a commercial or military focused capital good Product Support Enterprise [PSE]. The 10 topics that will be discussed are the following:

  1. # of products employed by end-users
  2. End-user product utilization rate
  3. Product failure
  4. Environment in which end users engage the product
  5. Preventive maintenance processes employed
  6. Volatility of product technology
  7. Regulatory requirements
  8. Chronological age of the product installed base
  9. Life cycle stage of the product
  10. Manufacturer’s warranty coverage

Product Support Financial Value Drivers

There are many attributes of an operating environment that can have an impact upon Product Support financial drivers and performance. For some end-items, the impact is quite material, and for others not as much. OEMs, when designing their products, are quite aware of the operating environment of their end-items, and in turn adapt their design to minimize the operating environment’s impact Total Ownership Cost [TOC]. The OEM still will acknowledge that there will be financial implications, that can be material, especially if the instructions in their maintenance manuals are not followed.

There are 6 factors impacting Product Support financial driver performance:

1. Temperature
The majority of products are designed to meet their performance attributes within a range of temperatures. For example, aircraft, during the certification process, are tested in extreme cold temperatures, as well as in extreme hot temperatures. This assures end-users that all subsystems can function within a wide range of operating environments.

Where Product Support financials are impacted is when the end-user employs the end-item outside the temperature design range for any extended period of time. One example is a Class 8 truck designed for the North American market is exported to sub-Sahara Africa where temperatures can exceed that of the design threshold. Reliability issues can surface quickly resulting in much downtime.

Another example is an electronic device requiring cool external temperatures in order to offset the high temperatures generated by the device. Without the proper conditioning of air, reliability can materially decline.

2. Humidity
This is a major product support financial driver for the Product Support processes engaged in the repair of structural items. Again OEMs design attributes that attempt to minimize the impact of humidity. For example, Boeing in their new 787, reduced the impact of humidity on the corrosion of aluminum, by replacing large sections of the aluminum airframe with non-corroding fiber composites. Vehicle OEMs have dramatically reduced the impact of humidity through higher tech paints and their application.

The employment of preventive measures to assure that humidity does not corrode an end-item is the preferred solution for this area.

3. Particles
Sand, dust, dirt and other particles can cause the employment of multiple Product Support processes; from reliability issues related to mechanical parts becoming impeded, to cosmetic issues of a “dirty” end-item, and to items wear and tear being accelerated as a result of grinding caused by sand. Again OEMs are quite aware of these issues and indicate courses of action in their maintenance manuals, but it doesn’t preclude the end-user from being financially impacted by the presence of these particles due to the preventive maintenance activities that are performed on a periodic basis.

4. Fluids
The effective management of the impact of salt water, chemicals, oils and other fluids can improve Product Support financial performance. For example end-items employed in the transportation field, trucks, aircraft, ships and trains all have extensive Product Support programs to minimize the financial impact of salt water; from fresh water washing to periodic disassembly/clean/reassembly. Manufacturing equipment is often subjected to chemical and oil exposure requiring the employment of preventive Product Support processes.

5. Hours of Operation
For certain end-users they can only operate their end-items during specific times of the day; could be safety related, pollution related or noise related. For example trucks cannot idle in an urban area after 2200, or aircraft cannot depart after 2100, or building construction activities cannot occur during the week-end. Whatever the situation, a Product Support Enterprise must deliver solutions that adapt to these constraints. Often Product Support processes will be performed during the hours that the end-user cannot employ its end-items; for labor this can result in higher costs related to shift differentials, or requiring more Product Support parts safety stock, due to parts suppliers not being available to delivery items during off-hours.

6. End-Item Operator
Challenges in adopting to a new technology, loss of experience due to high operator turnover, employee malfeasants (i.e. union “thuggery”) and other elements related to an end-item operator’s unfavorable impact Product Support financial performance is a continuing occurrence to be dealt with in developing solutions for a Product Support Enterprise. Improved operator training programs, user-friendly operator manuals, electronic monitors identifying end-user abuse and other resources can be employed to mitigate the additional financial impact of these challenges.

Product support financial value drivers

Understanding how an end-item is operated in developing a scenario-based Product Support life cycle financial plan or product support business case analysis is just one more element to consider. My recommendation is to have an “operating environment” weight in your Cost Estimating Relationship [CER] input; you might not know exactly how changing operating environments may impact you, but you can take a guess and once real data sets can be captured, you will have a place holder to make those changes.

Hypatia©, a Giuntini & Company financial software tool, provides a highly automated means of calculating the above and other product support financial value drivers, as well as an effortless way of being able to change any utilization assumption and immediately understand its impact upon total ownership costs. Hypatia is also a proven, trusted and highly effective tool for assisting in the development of product support business case analysis.

Product Support Financial Value Drivers. 3/10 – Product Failure

Oct 11
2012

This post is the third of ten entries that will discuss product support financial value drivers for solutions supplied by a commercial or military focused capital good Product Support Enterprise [PSE]. The 10 topics that will be discussed are the following:

  1. # of products employed by end-users
  2. End-user product utilization rate
  3. Product failure
  4. Environment in which end users engage the product
  5. Preventive maintenance processes employed
  6. Volatility of product technology
  7. Regulatory requirements
  8. Chronological age of the product installed base
  9. Life cycle stage of the product
  10. Manufacturer’s warranty coverage

Product Support Value Drivers – Product Failure Physics Envy

This area is one of the most “abused” areas in Product Support life cycle financial planning. Operation Research [OR] analysts, design engineers and logistics professionals have what is affectionately called “physics envy” when it comes to estimating the product failure rates of end-items and their components. The elite group of professionals in the business of predicting product failures tend to have a universally low success rate…

The marketplace has defined the acceptable average level of unplanned failures for a capital good/end-item at about once every 5-7 years. This product failure rate is applicable primarily for Commercial Off The Shelf [COTS] items, with Developmental/Design-To-Order items incurring product failure rates anywhere from 50-100% higher than that of COTS items.

The source of the aforementioned failure data is the Security Exchange Commission [SEC] mandatory filings by OEMs detailing their actual expenses incurred to support their warranty programs. There is over 10 years of reliability/failure rate data sets. Note that product failure rates have dropped by almost 50% over this 10+ year period. Why the “failure analysis” community does not employ this treasure trove of data in all their cost calculations is always amazing to me.

Product Support Value Drivers – Product Failure

Recently Giuntini & Co. developed a scenario-based Product Support life cycle financial plan that included the target cost for the correct-failure process throughout the twenty life of a product. We employed a series of SEC filing data sets and estimated $10 million per year in costs associated with the correct-failure process for an installed base of $200 million end-items. We also employed another method to calculate the cost and it still resulted in approximately the same number.

Product Support Value Drivers – Product Failure

While we had been calculating the correct-failure process costs, a team of OR brains were also calculating the same cost; we were both aware that we were working to the same goal. We both agreed to compare our estimated costs and there was a 4-fold difference in our costs; the OR guys were the higher number. After I examined their methodology, which was quite eloquent, I must say (disclosure; I once was an OR geek myself), I found their results to be totally bogus.

If the higher product failure rates were to have occurred, the product would never have been acquired by any end-user. Our common client accepted the Giuntini & Co. cost estimate as the one to be included in his Total Ownership Cost [TOC] calculation. To this day the OR brains have remained convinced that their methodology was the right way to go, even after being proven decidedly inaccurate.

Lesson learned – be extremely careful of ”physics envy” professionals providing you with product failure rate estimates. There is a high probably that they are materially off from the real world and if you accept their costs without an alternative opinion, you have only yourself to blame when an estimated TOC is way, way off.

Hypatia©, a Giuntini & Company financial software tool, provides a highly automated means of calculating the above and other product support financial value drivers, as well as an effortless way of being able to change any utilization assumption and immediately understand its impact upon total ownership costs.

Changes Are A Comin’ to DoD Contractor Product Support

Aug 10
2010

The U.S. Department of Defense is the biggest purchaser of Product Support expenditures in the world; it annually buys an estimated $50 billion dollars worth of such goods and services.

The last ten years has proven to be an especially favorable period for military contractors; overall DoD spending has increased from $300 billion per year to $700 billion, or 130%, and America now employs nearly half of all global military resources.  It is estimated that Contractor Product Support expenditures rose at a 150% to 200% rate during the ten year period.

As a result of the large build-up in DoD expenditures, the US currently generates 50% of the global military expenditures, but the US economy only generates 25% of the global economic output…this imbalance will most likely be realigned back to a historical ratio of 1:1 between the US economic output and defense spending.  

When many contractors have only one customer that matters financially, options are limited as to generating additional sources of revenues to compensate for lost Product Support revenues.

Even the biggest military contractors claim less than five percent of the Pentagon’s budget, so a contractor’s fortunes is influenced more by how defense dollars are spent than by the size of the budget. For example, contractor revenues can decrease, even when military spending remains high, if money migrates out of weapon system acquisition and into uniformed and civilian manpower.

Below are some of the primary trends driving down Contractor Product Support expenditures:

  1. Reduction in overall weapon system OPTEMPO due to the scaling back the size of the US military deployment in SW Asia. With an estimated 25% of all weapon systems in theatre and their OPTEMPO an estimated 100% higher than those systems not in theatre, it is estimated that overall Product Support expenditures will decrease by 15%-20%, with contractors experiencing an estimated 20%-30% drop in Product Support revenues
  2. The current fiscal challenges of the Federal Government to finance all their budgeted programs will most likely result in the military being a “victim” of fiscal austerity. It is quite feasible that 15-20% of DoD weapon system inventories will be stored long-term in order to reduce Product Support expenditures. Given the US Congress and the power of the depot-lobby, many of the systems stored will be those currently primarily supported by contractors
  3. The emphasis that Secretary Gates has put on “rebalancing” the defense strategy. Rebalancing means putting less emphasis on conventional, industrial-age warfare, and more emphasis on non-traditional skills like counter-insurgency warfare; this strategy will reduce complex weapon systems that require a complex Product Support Enterprise. There will be more an emphasis upon COTS items being integrated into a solution for the warfighter. COTS Product Support expenditures are often materially less than that of Developmental Items, thus resulting in overall lower Product Support expenditures
  4. The move to “in-source” Product Support management jobs previously contracted out to industry by the Program Offices and Life Cycle Management Commands. The Government is actively recruiting “seasoned” professional from contractors; either the professionals join the Government or they lose their job.

Each of the major weapon system contractors will be encountering different Product Support issues:

  • Northrop Grumman (NG) has decided to remain primarily focused upon new weapon system deliveries. It recently sold its services unit, TASC, due to conflicts between its OEM business and its Product Support business. This was a major policy change for NG
  • General Dynamics (GD) has generated material Product Support revenues from Interim Contractor Support (ICS) programs for the communication communities, especially for weapon systems in theatre; a GD Contractor Field Service Representative (CFSR) in theatre generates almost $500,000 per year of revenue. Supplemental funds have been an engine of growth for GD Product Support programs; this will be going away sooner, rather than later
  • Raytheon is less exposed than other primary OEMs due to the nature of their products being electronics; Product Support expenditures, at least at the organizational maintenance level, is much smaller than that of weapon systems that have more mechanical parts
  • Lockheed Martin (LM) will encounter many challenges in the Product Support area. The company needs to generate $130 million in new sales every day just to stay where it is, and that won’t be easy in a down market for Product Support.

There will be many challenges in the area of DoD Product Support over the next few years. Adding value to DoD, rather than filling positions to perform routine Product Support tasks, will differentiate winners from losers. And let us not forget that Outcome Based Product Support programs will be the rule rather than the exception for all future Product Support contractor offerings; that will be the only way that DoD will be able to manage Product Support processes more effectively for less costs.

For a more detailed discussion on the above topic, review the recent conference discussions at the Lexington Institute.

The “Miracle” of COTS Products

Jul 09
2010

The Department Of Defense and its research organizations have always been touted as working on the “bleeding edge” of a multiple array of technologies. This is often true, leading to more effective (i.e. lethal) mission capabilities, but rarely are these initiatives more efficient (i.e. cost per outcome) in completing a mission.  See Undersecretary Carter’s comments regarding this issue here.

When we move to the COTS product world, the employment of COTS products in the processes of everyday life has resulted in both improvements in effectiveness and efficiency. In a recent article in the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute,  a striking comparison of what could be purchased in 1964 and today with the same purchasing power (price as a % of average salary) was illustrated below based upon an average one month salary.

1964:
 A moderately priced Radio Shack stereo system.

2010:
Panasonic Home Theater System, Insignia 50″ Plasma HDTV, Apple 8GB iPod Touch, Sony 3D Blu-ray Disc Player, Sony 300-CD Changer, Garmin Portable GPS, Sony 14.1-Megapixel Digital Camera, Dell Inspiron Laptop Computer, TiVo High-Definition Digital Video Recorder.

Also note that a personal computer in 1978, the Radio Shack Model 1, with 4K of RAM, a tape recorder as a data storage device, a green screen and little application software cost $600, or equivalent to about $3,000 today.

The above are stunning testimonials as to the value of COTS products and the inevitable greater and greater employment by DoD. Though our enemies have the same access to COTS products, it is the Acquisition corps that has to use their prowess at COTS product integration in developing solutions for the Warfighter. The US is second to none when it comes to integration and our enemies will never be able to duplicate our COTS products integration efforts resulting in our remaining the most efficient and effective military force of all time .

Will the DoD Ever Manage Parts More Efficiently?

Jun 27
2010

The estimated current inventory investment by DoD for the organizational level parts employed during the Product Support processes of correct/prevent unplanned weapon system failure is $40 billion. An estimated 35%-50% of this investment is materially excess or obsolete (will never be used). Another issue is that the financial accounting accuracy of these parts would never meet the “smell test” by any private sector auditing firm; people would go to jail for this type of accounting…but that is another story.

GAO has had many studies dealing with the efficiency and effectiveness of the management of parts by the Services; none have been very flattering: Study 1, Study 2, Study 3

DoD accountants are not “bad people;” they do the best with the procedures provided to them. The real issue is that DoD, nor the Federal Government, develops a balance sheet that has any merit; politicians like it that way because accountability for “mistakes” can often be hidden from view…nothing better for a politician than to be opaque!

As more and more parts are COTS, and CLS, coupled with PBL/Outcome-Based Product Support constructs become more common, some of these inventory investment issues will become less glaring.

The Illegal COTS E-Waste Trade

Jun 15
2010

As DoD employs more COTS electronic components, it will face challenges in the future to dispose of these components when performing technology refresh processes. Assuring where these obsolete components find their final resting place will become an important activity for Product Support management, be it the PM Office, the Life Cycle management Command (LCMC) or contractors. There is currently an effort by the US Government and INTERPOL’s Global E-Waste Crime Group, to track these obsolete products to ensure that they are disposed of properly. Criminal organizations are involved in diverting these products and dumping them into illegal waste sites in underdeveloped nations at a fraction of the cost of disposing of them in a developed nation. End Of Life (EOL) management will require serial number tracking and an audit trail all the way to the final disposal process to mitigate the risk of these obsolete products taking a wrong turn and harming the environment, as well as posing dangers to the workers illegally handling these materials.

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