AT LAST, A GOVERNMENT PROGRAM THAT CAN BENEFIT ALL Implication of CALS to Industry
*Editor's Note: In the spring of this year, a Symposium on the CALS Initiative was sponsored by the U.S. Maritime Resource Center at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point. This article gives a brief explanation of the subject and what its impact may be on industry. The author is Chairman of the U.S. Resource Center and president of Marine Management Systems of Stamford, Conn.
What is CALS?: The acronym CALS stands for "Computer-Aided Acquisition and Logistics Support." If you are involved with the military systems and equipment area, these words will mean more to you than if you operate in the commercial/industrial area.
To better understand CALS, it is necessary to understand the problem confronting the defense establishment. The increase in the complexity of equipment and systems is well known. However, the major problem is not how to operate the systems, but rather how to maintain them. It is apparent that technical support has not kept pace with the complexity resulting in an increase in non-availability of the equipment. While automation and automatic controls have allowed the systems to be operated by fewer people, the same tools have not been provided to allow maintenance by fewer people.
This lack of attention to technical support is a problem existing in industry as well. For example, ships are being built with automated bridges and unattended engine rooms, with crews of half their previous size. This requires more complex instrumentation and control equipment on the ship. But what innovations have been introduced to maintain the more complicated equipment? Some companies have installed shipboard computerized maintenance management systems which represents a significant step. However, the problem of equipment diagnostics and actual repair procedures are just being addressed.
The military presents a much larger problem in the technical support area.
The answer in the past was to produce more technical manuals and procedures, all based on more paper. It was found that the average frigate carries over 21 tons of paper. A tank battalion requires a truck to carry the necessary technical manuals. If there was an identified technical problem, it automatically produced more paper. The production and distribution of the paper is a problem in itself with the documentation often arriving after the equipment is delivered and installed.
To solve this problem it is necessary not only to consider how the technical support data is created initially, but how the data will be transmitted, stored, modified and accessed.
CALS represents a major step in providing a solution to the technical support problem. It requires that all drawings and technical documentation for new systems and equipment be produced in a standardized digital form. This is a major undertaking and change from past practice. Once this philosophy is accepted and developed, there are many other fallout benefits. Producing the technical design in a standard format can be of great benefit to the procurement process. The information submitted in a standard form is much easier to evaluate and analyze. In fact, this is the first major objective of the CALS program.
Other Benefits of CALS These new systems should be able to convey large amounts of data in a usable form to the technician who must use it. The fact that the information is in digital form is a significant start. We can now use some of the new techniques of expert systems (artificial intelligence) to provide just the information that applies to the technical problem, but first there must be some determination of just what the problem is.
Identifying a Root Problem The solution to this very real problem of technical support lies in recognizing the magnitude of the problem and treating the root cause. This was recognized by the Department of Defense several years ago and was the start of the CALS initiative. It was found that very little attention was given to the requirements of logistics support (keeping the equipment operational) until after the equipment was designed and manufactured. Paper was then produced to describe the maintenance and spare parts requirements.
In simple terms, it was found that waiting until the equipment or system was designed and even built was too late. The support (logistics) must be considered at the initial design time, since this is one of the critical factors affecting how it will function in the future. This brought about the need for more standardization in the documentation of the design at an early stage.
Application of New Technologies What are some of the techniques or technologies that will bring this about? Going back to the initial design phase of the equipment or system, it will be necessary to develop the technical drawings in digital form using CAD/CAE (Computer Aided Design and Engineering) systems in a standardized format so that the data may be recorded, transmitted and later used and possibly modified by various support groups. In a similar manner, the technical specifications and parts lists must be in a standardized digital form. The DOD-sponsored CALS program is addressing these issues and setting the standards in cooperation with industry groups. DOD Plans The impact of this program on the military from both a cost and logistics capability standpoint is tremendous. DOD has recently issued a directive calling for all new systems development after October 1 to be compliant with the CALS standard.
Although there will be a cost to industry to convert to these standards, there should be significant savings in the production and support side, and even in the bidding process.
Impact on Industry What will be the impact on this program to the commercial manufacturing area? If in fact the manufacturer is required to standardize the documentation to do business with the military, then in all probability it will be economical to standardize on all design documentation.
This means that the maintenance management systems being developed and used in industry, for both commercial marine and shorebased industry, will be able to use standard interfaces to technical support documents. It can promote a whole new level of operations and maintenance support not economically practical today.
Just as the advent of a standard operating system for microcomputers dramatically reduced the cost of computer systems to industry, so could a standardization of technical documentation. As an example today, the cost of data collection, coding and entry for a maintenance management system is more than the cost of the standard hardware and software to process and maintain it.
With technical data provided in some standardized form from the manufacturer, it would be possible to integrate the maintenance and repair procedures directly into the maintenance management systems, at a relatively low cost.
The Future It will be interesting to watch the progress of the CALS program in the military procurement process. It will also be a shame if the commercial/ industrial sector does not take full advantage of this much-needed technical advance. With the maintenance and repair information going to digital form, it opens up the use of other technical advances, particularly in the area of data collection devices for various types of equipment monitoring. An example of an application already being used is the collection and analysis of vibration analysis trending data for machinery condition monitoring, although this has been limited by a lack of any standardization. Condition monitoring could be expanded to many more types of trending data in digital form, particularly if some standards are defined.
The continued reduction in ships' crews could lead to larger and more centralized monitoring and control centers for large fleets of ships where the engineering expertise can be more economically maintained. This would be similar to the techniques used in the space program. It is one of the techniques that could help solve the noncompetitive crew costs of the industrialized countries. The implementation of the CALS program could do much to promote such advances in the future.