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DLA Teamwork: Integrated approach builds recovery path for constant speed drive

An Air Force technician performs a detailed inspection on several component parts integral to overhauling a constant speed drive. The combined team of DLA, Air Force, and end-item customers has enhanced processes improving CSD availability. (Courtesy photo)

An Air Force technician performs a detailed inspection on several component parts integral to overhauling a constant speed drive. The combined team of DLA, Air Force, and end-item customers has enhanced processes improving CSD availability. (Courtesy photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Is 90 percent material availability enough to keep America's aircraft flying? Well, it all depends on the part under discussion as Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Commander Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson observed during a November visit to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex. Something as simple as missing one tiny O-ring can prevent the overhaul of a constant speed drive.

A CSD is a device that controls the speed of an engine's generator. Generators are paired with CSDs and the combined unit provides power for the aircraft.

According to Jason Reed, director of the 552nd Commodities Maintenance Squadron at the OC-ALC, it takes an enterprise integration of multiple organizations understanding and providing required support to keep the CSD processes flowing.

"There are an average of 300 component parts (national stock numbers) supporting a CSD, 80 to 85 percent of which are replaceable, not repairable," said Mr. Reed. "To track and build a recovery path requires an integrated enterprise plan. For the first time that I know of, all stakeholders are starting to move down an enterprise path rather than an individual path."

Mr. Reed said this integration of all stakeholders, DLA, the 552nd CMMXS, the 422nd Supply Chain Management Squadron, the original equipment manufacturer, and the end-item customers, is the most important piece to building CSD recovery plans. "This (integration) is absolutely 100 percent essential for the path to remain successful," he said.

Air Force maintainers at the ALC overhaul 13 different CSDs supporting fighter, tanker, surveillance, and bomber aircraft. Parts support consists of DLA and Air Force-managed parts, as well as parts locally manufactured in Air Force Build Shops. Mr. Reed said his shop repairs all CSDs for the Air Force and repairs about 100 a month. Last summer, he had between 200-300 CSDs that couldn't be repaired for a lack of parts.

Doug Williams, the Fuel Accessories/Constant Speed Drive Material Management section chief at DLA Aviation at Oklahoma City, agrees that 100 percent material availability is critical for a CSD, as is customer collaboration.

Challenges
Mr. Williams said one of the challenges in CSD support is fluctuating demand.

Requirements fluctuate for several reasons: unscheduled flying hours, changes to replacement percentages for needed piece parts during repair, and engineering changes. "This (fluctuating demand) makes it difficult to provide an accurate forecast for needed piece parts to repair a CSD, as the CSD being repaired is EXPRESS driven," he said.

When asked how CSD supportability became such a critical issue, Arthur Steinhofer, a DLA Aviation customer support manager working in the Planning and Support Branch here said, "CSDs are a challenge to accurately forecast. Basically whenever something breaks, fails, or exceeds its flight hours, it comes in for repair and creates requisitions. Because of different aircraft configurations, CSDs have some unique parts, but also share some common parts, so if one goes out of stock, multiple CSDs go into backorder status."

"EXPRESS is the system that drives end items for induction into the repair process prioritizing the workload. It's one of a thousand things that drive demand variability to DLA," said Mr. Reed. "My maintainers and DLA manage this variability. If one part goes, work stops (such as an O-ring), I can't produce that CSD at all, making the demand trigger essentially zero."

Process Improvements
During the last year, the combined team of DLA, Air Force and end-item customers implemented several process improvements. These improvements, such as developing processes capturing fluctuating demand, speeding up procurement processes, and controlling or modulating production flow, are yielding results and improving CSD availability.

Mr. Williams said DLA is working with its customers developing a more steady demand forecast in a changing environment and improving demand history to better reflect future needs. "Through process improvements, we are now capturing data from when our customers develop 'workarounds' to continue work if a part isn't available -- workarounds such as extending the life of or manufacturing a part," he said.

"DLA usually approaches item support at the national stock number level; whereas, our customers look at support based on their Bill of Materials. If one piece is missing, the item can't be repaired," said Mr. Williams.

Mr. Williams, who describes his team as "firefighters," said their job focuses on satisfying backorders and working to put the right part in the hands of their customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

He said the team has a resolution checklist they work through, using many avenues to satisfy backorders. Avenues include requesting contract expedites or partial shipments through Defense Contract Management Agency; submitting Readiness Wedges to elevate purchase requests to be awarded; checking for lateral support; checking DLA Disposition Services for serviceable assets; and checking if parts can be organically manufactured.

Mr. Williams said the team also searches for surplus material; and if available, submits a Retail Surplus Buy request.

Mr. Williams said toward the end of 2013, the Air Force made changes to production flows that have also helped improve CSD parts support.

In the past, Mr. Reed said he let the numbers and types of CSDs released into the shop flow without constraint. Now he is controlling or modulating the numbers and types of CSDs that flow into production to help level demand.

Increased Buying Authority
In 2013, DLA Director Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek granted increased buying authority to DLA Aviation industrial support activities.

Retail buy packages now allow ISAs to group emergency local procurements into a single buy versus having to make multiple buys, speeding up the procurement process.
"A retail buy package allows us to buy backorders and buy to fill the gap between monthly requirements and when the contract will deliver if the supplier isn't able to expedite the contract," said Mr. Steinhofer. "DLA customer support specialists work with sustainment specialists to determine required quantities." He said DLA is also evaluating CSD parts for long-term contracts.

Mr. Steinhofer is focusing more on "fire prevention," than "firefighting." He addresses issues that need to be elevated within DLA Aviation and the Air Force. He analyzes supportability, looks at requirements, runs predictability studies, evaluates stock-on-hand, and contract due-ins.

According to Mr. Steinhofer, the Air Force has identified a requisition objective of 80 percent or higher, meaning they want 80 percent of their CSD stock available for issue.

Successes
Since October, mission incapable hours are down along with the number of CSDs awaiting parts, according to Gregory Kennedy, chief of DLA Aviation's Material Management Commodities Branch.

In December, DLA employees and Air Force maintainers reviewed the Air Force's Bill of Materials for CSDs to forecast supportability.

"DLA is currently focusing on seven CSDs with supportability issues," said Steinhofer. The seven CSDs currently being tracked support the A-10, B-52, KC-135R, F-15E, F-15 C/D, E-8, and F-16 C/D weapon systems.

"We processed 236 Retail Surplus Buy requests and 214 were approved for purchase in 2013," said Mr. Williams.

"We had more than 200 CSDs AWPs for a while, so reducing to 130 in January shows significant progress," said Mr. Steinhofer. He said MICAPs trended upward and exceeded 60 in October, but have continued a downward trend for the last three months and were at 30 in January.

According to a DLA Aviation supportability analysis ran in January, using the Depot Analysis Recap Reset Tool, 88.3 percent of the 1,032 parts for these seven CSDs are green (no shortage) and 7.6 percent are red or black (either have no stock-on-hand or stock will be short of requirements in 60 days.)

"We are aggressively working to continue this positive downward trend and tracking metrics monthly to ensure we are making progress," said Mr. Kennedy. "We anticipate supportability challenges with all 13 CSDs will be well within the next 24 months."
Mr. Reed agreed the trend is getting better and parts availability has improved.
"It is a big team effort and improvements are a result of the integrated enterprise approach, an approach that is critical to continued success," said Mr. Reed.