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.

Don’t Always Trust Product Support Enterprise Financial Data

Jul 23
2010

Recently General Motors (GM) reported their 2009 new-condition light vehicle sales warranty expenditures. In calculating the warranty expense per vehicle sold, the results were $357. Utilizing this per vehicle cost in calculating the average price per vehicle sold to the dealer network, this would indicate that GM sold each of their vehicles at an average price of $14,300…appears to be a very low number relative to all its major competitors…and common sense.

With US sales about 35% of GM’s overall unit sales and the average US vehicle sold to dealers at around $23,000, GM is implicitly indicating that the average price of the remaining light vehicles sold in the EU and Asia would be about $9,000 each…not likely. The warranty expenditures have a material impact on overall earnings for GM, thus this “cost conflict” is important.

It may be that GM, currently controlled by the Federal Government is applying “creative” financial accounting, similar to that of the Federal Government has been employing for decades…but that is another story.

Lesson Learned: When performing financial analysis of a Product Support Enterprise (PSE), warranty is an OEM’s cost incurred by the PSE, always validate the results by employing a secondary calculation for at least a selected group of costs that are material….a bit more work, but important in delivering accurate results.

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 .

OEM PSE Profits -The Secret The Industry Doesn’t Know About

Jul 06
2010

Commercial OEMs create from 15% to 40% of their profits as a result of the revenues generated from each Product Support Enterprise (PSE) that employs their product. A PSE engages all the processes employed by a product end-user to: meet materiel availability levels, increase maintainability, assure capability, grow reliability, improve deployability and decrease costs. The remainder of an OEM’s profits is primarily derived from the sale of new-condition products, with the exception being those OEMs that have a financial arm.

When I have had nothing to do at 0400 on a Sunday morning, I have used that time “wisely” to dig into the Quarterly (10Q) or Annual (10K) Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) financial reports of capital goods OEMs in order to better understand the financial impact of PSEs upon their balance sheet….but I have been highly “disappointed” when virtually no information could be found to satisfy this longing of mine! I have reviewed close to 200 OEMs and I have developed a list below of only 13 OEMs who are willing to acknowledge, in even a minor detail, the existence of investments employed in PSEs.

When an OEM truly believes that being proactively engaged in PSEs is material to their financial health they often segment their balance sheet investments employed for PSEs. Note that for some OEMs, creating opaqueness in being engaged with PSEs is by design; they often do not want to indicate to their competitors that their business model is more like the razor-and-razorblade then one that focuses on the sale of the razor…but that is another story.

# OEM or Key Supplier Sector Financial Statement Description
1 AGCO Farm Balance Sheet: Current Assets Repair and Replacement Parts
2 NCR Office Balance Sheet: Current Assets Service Parts
3 Pitney Bowes Office Balance Sheet: Current Assets Supplies and Service Parts
4 Cognex Mfg. Automation Balance sheet: Long-term Assets Service Inventory
5 Ciena Data/Voice/Network Balance sheet: Long-term Assets Maintenance Spares Inventories
6 Diebold Specialty Balance Sheet: Current Assets Service Parts
Balance sheet: Long-term Assets Rotable Parts
7 KLA-Telcor Mfg. Semiconductor Balance Sheet: Current Assets Customer Service Parts
8 Rofin-Sinar Technologies Mfg. Automation Balance Sheet: Current Assets Service Parts
9 Faro Technologies Mfg. Automation Balance sheet: Long-term Assets Service Inventory
10 PAR Technologies Transactions Balance Sheet: Current Assets Service Parts
11 Terex Construction Balance Sheet: Current Assets Replacement Parts
12 Applied Materials Mfg. Semiconductor Balance Sheet: Current Assets Customer Service Spares
13 Wabash National Transportation: Trucks/Engines Balance Sheet: Current Assets Aftermarket Parts

US Second-To-None For Product Support Prowess

Jun 14
2010

Americans have been bombarded by the Main Stream Media (MSM) touting the demise of US manufacturing base, and in turn the demise of the demand for the resources (parts, maintainers, tech support, and others) employed during the processes of the Product Support stage of the lifecycle of a capital good….but the MSM is a foolish bunch that is clueless regarding our true manufacturing might, and in turn our true Product Support prowess which is second-to-none in the world and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Here are some facts about the US manufacturing sector from a recent article from Barrons:

“The U.S. economy is the largest and most productive on the planet. With just 4.6% of the global population, the U.S. accounts for roughly one-quarter of global output, generating more output in a year than the next three largest economies (Japan, China and Germany) combined. America’s economy is three times the size of China’s; the per capita income of China is only about 10% of that of the U.S.

The United States is a manufacturing superpower; we’re still in the business of making stuff, despite incessant reports to the contrary. We shouldn’t equate the demise of Detroit with the death of U.S. manufacturing. The U.S. makes more goods in a year than any other country, although America’s share of global manufacturing output was roughly 17.5% in 2008, down from 22.4% in 1990 and about 20.5% in 1980.

Many U.S. manufacturers have held their own the past few decades, even in the face of stiff competition from Japan, Germany and China. China’s share of global manufacturing has increased sharply over the past decades, hitting 17.2% in 2008, close to the U.S. number. However, the Chinese figure includes mining and quarrying, and electricity, gas, and water supply, in addition to manufacturing, and most of China’s gains came at the expense of Japan, South Korea, Mexico and others — not the U.S.

The largest exporter in the world is neither Germany nor China. It’s the U.S., despite annual trade deficits and all the chatter about U.S. companies not making anything the world wants to buy.”

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