PEO MS and Letterkenny Depot partner on improving radar platforms while rapidly fielding equipment and sustaining the organic industrial base
By CPT Jake Brady
With a pressing need for an improved AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radar vehicle platform and no time to procure a new platform or radar, the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space (PEO MS) teamed up with Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD), PA, to modify an existing platform in what could be a model for partnership with the organic industrial base. This effort, which moves the Sentinel from a modified High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) to the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) platform without requiring modification of the radar itself, overcame a number of challenges and led to several process improvements for project and product offices to partner with Army depots.
AN URGENT NEED
The remount of the Sentinel radar resulted from an equipment redesign that added weight and surpassed the HMMWV’s load capacity. The AN/MPQ-64 radar entered service in 1995 as a system consisting of an X-band radar mounted on a high mobility trailer and an HMMWV prime mover, equipped with a 30kW generator. The vehicle was not armored, as it was originally intended as a rear-echelon asset in a linear fight. As the Army engaged in a nonlinear fight, the TRADOC Capability Manager asked the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office to harden the cab and increase crew survivability within three years. Adding an armored cab exceeded the carrying capacity for the HMMWV, necessitating the switch to a different vehicle platform. The product director decided to develop a modification kit for an FMTV and trailer that would not require modifications to the radar itself. Issuing a new contract would have required nearly two years, from inception to contract award; with an additional year from contract award to design delivery, and a further year to deliver a prototype. This timeline was incompatible with the user requirements and the Sentinel Product Office could not find an existing contract vehicle that could support this work. To meet the user timeline, the product director decided to design the modification kit on an existing contract. Then, the organic industrial base would be used to build the initial kits and modify the first 50 vehicles. Further, the modification kit timeline was formulated with the option to compete production of the remaining 137 systems.
AN URGENT SOLUTION
The Sentinel team used the Prototype Integration Facility (PIF) from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center to design the modification kits, ensuring that the government would own the technical data package (TDP). When the PIF provided the Sentinel team an initial design, the Sentinel PO sent it to LEAD for a proposal. This action resulted in the LEAD commander and Sentinel product director signing a statement of work to begin development. LEAD personnel built the initial kits according to the TDP and, over 10 months, provided modification feedback to the designers. The design feedback produced two prototypes for testing. In addition to producing the modification kits themselves, LEAD also installs these kits on FMTVs (which have been acquired largely through data interchange), remounts the radars and generators from their HMMWV platform onto the FMTV systems, and then ships completed systems to units for fielding. Building prototypes with an immature design presented challenges, but in the end brought a producible government-owned TDP, two prototypes for testing and manufacturing experience for LEAD.
ADAPTING TO NEW PRACTICES
The Sentinel FMTV modification program at LEAD is a new way of doing business for both the depot and the program management office, and as such, presented several significant challenges that needed to be resolved. For LEAD, this program required a new process, as the workforce and infrastructure are optimized for repair and overhaul work, which are quite different than build-to-print work—whereby LEAD builds or modifies components according to the customer’s exact specifications. This presents a new set of workspace challenges.
Since the depot is optimized for repair and overhaul, the workspace is oriented on skill centers (e.g., welding or machining), not a continuous production line. So, not only do pieces move around the floor inefficiently, they must be stored once they are completed at one work center before going to the next work center. In addition, there are cultural hurdles that do not hinder the quality of the work, but do affect cost reporting. For this modification work, the workforce at LEAD was not accustomed to charging hours to the sub-assembly level, thus skewing cost reports. Since the quality of cost reporting is almost as important as the quality of the work, structuring labor charges and accounting systems is particularly important.
The second challenge the team faced was structuring the depot’s workload planning software (Logistics Management Program or LMP) properly, including the associated vocabulary. Initially, the Sentinel team did not set up the work breakdown structures (WBS) in the LMP, so that purchase orders would directly correlate to system production. Ultimately, the Sentinel PO set up seven different WBSs in the LMP for the 50 systems that needed modification. As a result of the LMP funding structure, the LEAD team had to do a lot of manual work to generate a cost report by system. Further complicating this work is that depots and program offices use the same terms with different meanings; so when the product office asked about the WBS, the LEAD team was thinking LMP funding structure.
The third significant challenge for the product office was the depot staff’s unfamiliarity with Microsoft Project. Since earned-value reporting must be tied to a schedule, and LMP does not produce a detailed work schedule that would suffice for earned value reporting, the LEAD team had to learn how to input a schedule into Project and then load the value into that program at the appropriate level. Project has a steep learning curve and is labor intensive. Unfortunately, the LEAD production controller for the Sentinel project also had to build the integrated master schedule (IMS) in Project as a result of manpower constraints. Because the production controller was stretched too thin to effectively build the IMS and control the build-to-print work, the Sentinel PO scheduler built the majority of the IMS. Because of conflicting priorities, the production controller had a difficult time finalizing the IMS, leading to a significant delay in setting up earned-value reporting.
Despite the challenges laid out above, this effort is on a path to success. With the following lessons learned, many of these challenges could have been avoided.
The Sentinel team travelled to LEAD to help the team with earned-value management and reporting requirements. During that trip, both teams realized that most of the earned-value data was already collected, just not in a centralized way. The teams realized that the LMP funding process would hinder per-system cost reporting for the remainder of the effort. The team took this as a lesson learned about the importance of establishing the WBS in LMP to facilitate cost reporting. This approach reduces the manual effort of adding hundreds of individual purchase orders into reportable levels in the IMS.
The last point is that while depots are not familiar with earned value, the product office is very familiar with earned value. The Sentinel PO realized early on that the product office would need to assist the depot team in producing an IMS and earned value reports.
The approach outlined above supports several of the Better Buying Power (BBP) initiatives and sets the foundation for future support of those tenets. Since a government facility developed the TDP, the government retains ownership, which helps create an enduring competitive environment. As the organic industrial base is involved in development from the beginning, this modification prepares the depot for this type of work and allows it to build spares and reduce supportability costs. By retaining ownership of the TDP, the product manager set the conditions to compete future production of that TDP as a build-to-print modification. Also, since the TDP was developed in a government facility and solely at government expense, the Sentinel PO was able to emphasize standardizing interfaces—all hardware in this case—so that the PO can compete future modifications to the TDP, fostering a competitive environment. The Sentinel PO furthered that environment by only ordering enough systems from the depot to meet initial demands from the user. This limited approach allows a full and open competition for the remainder of the systems to be procured. The final support this program potentially offers to BBP is to increase the number of competitors for work if the conditions are set in the organic industrial base.
To set the conditions for the organic industrial base, and to successfully compete for build-to-print modification work from product officers, the organic industrial base should embrace earned-value management and invest in the infrastructure to report a time-phased budget. This includes creating an IMS for production work that accounts for costs at the subassembly level. Depots are already capable of world-class manufacturing work, but their cost-reporting systems lead to a lack of confidence from customers and prevent the depot from winning more of the work they are capable of performing. Product managers must be willing to assist depot partners if they wish to use the depots to modify equipment quickly and affordably.
Ultimately, depot partnering offers an attractive solution to a number of challenges. Partnering in major modification work allows the depots to offset some of the pending reduction in reset work and keep their workforce robust. Program managers can quickly produce mechanical modifications to extend the service life of their equipment and meet user needs with the option to compete production of the remaining systems. Government ownership of the TDP forces all of this to occur in a competitive environment. The model set by the Sentinel team could help offset some of the future fiscal challenges and streamline the build-to-print work process for program managers and depot commanders.
For more information, contact CPT Jake Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CPT JAKE BRADY is the assistant product manager for Sentinel Radar at the CDMS PO in PEO MS. He holds a B.A. in geography from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His operational assignments as an armor officer include deployments to Iraq as a reconnaissance troop executive officer and Afghanistan as a company commander. He is Level I certified in program management.
This article was originally published in the July – September 2015 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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