Group Editor Marty Kauchak shares insights on defense vehicle maintenance trends and accompanying changes to maintenance learning activities.
Two significant trends are occurring in the global military vehicle market.
Sales forecasts for this market’s disparate classes – armored, wheeled, and others – indicate this defense sector is expected to show, on average, moderate growth (about 3%) well into this decade, creating a concurrent, modest demand for additional maintenance personnel.
More significant MS&T readers, the military customer is increasingly focused on strengthening the middle to “far-right” part of a vehicle’s life-cycle continuum, to obtain increased operational reliability, and enhanced preventive and corrective maintenance outcomes.
Military vehicle maintainers are playing a vital role in supporting this sharpening customer focus. Enter the imperative to improve instructional strategies for the cadres of current and aspiring maintenance servicemen and -women, and civilians assigned to field units and depots.
One OEM’s Overview
Clint Herrick, Vice President of Aftermarket Products and Services at Oshkosh Defense (I/ITSEC booth 1714), a major provider of military vehicles and mobility systems for the US military, NATO, allied and coalition partners, noted since the company’s founding in 1917, Oshkosh Defense has designed, built, delivered, and sustained over 190,000 tactical wheeled vehicles for over 20 countries. “Our customers then deploy their vehicles worldwide. For example, the Oshkosh Defense JLTV [Joint Light Tactical Vehicle] is fielded to over 40 US and international military installations.” Beyond numbers of defense customers and units sold, Oshkosh is focusing and responding to its customers’ evolving acquisition life cycle requirements, in particular for maintenance and training these platforms’ support personnel.
The generation and use of data are proliferating across aerospace and defense enterprises, and migrating into training programs. As another industry datum point, Herrick initially indicated Oshkosh is seeing an increased emphasis on data-driven maintenance operations, including Reliability Centered Maintenance and Condition Based Maintenance (CBM), along with embedded diagnostics and self-monitoring and reporting systems, which capture and operationalize vehicle data to lower maintenance workload and costs.
“This same data may also be used to perform trend analysis that serves as the basis of a predictive maintenance solution. Collectively, these enabling technologies reduce the fleet’s maintenance burden, allowing maintenance managers to rapidly identify the specific tools, parts, manpower, training, and facility infrastructure required for a given task or action. This trend toward digitalizing vehicle repair and maintenance services has enhanced overall fleet readiness and will undoubtedly continue evolving as new technologies emerge,” Herrick told MS&T.
CBM and telematics-enabled systems have been deployed across multiple commercial and defense business units at Oshkosh. The executive pointed out these platforms securely and automatically collect and send data from various components and systems. “This allows advanced analytics techniques to determine the vehicle’s usage profile, remaining useful life on subsystems and components, battery health, driver behavior, and many other indicators and triggers of maintenance and service. The analysis results are available to operators, maintainers, and fleet managers.”
From an Oshkosh Defense perspective, the OEM uses CBM data along with other logistics, engineering, and Enterprise Resource Planning data, to provide savings for end-users by reducing unnecessary scheduled maintenance and improving the accuracy of corrective maintenance through advanced troubleshooting and condition monitoring. Among noticeable returns on investment, Oshkosh Defense’s condition monitoring algorithms have deferred oil changes and other preventive maintenance procedures by three cycles, saving users over 50% on preventative maintenance costs and downtime.
Herrick continued, “Other deployed condition monitoring algorithms can determine the remaining useful life on components key to mission success and enable maintenance actions to prevent critical failures. Combined, these approaches drive down the overall system logistic footprint for end users and maximize their availability, allowing them to carry out missions successfully.”
Raising the Training Bar
Oshkosh Defense is developing a vehicle maintenance task trainer for the JLTV platform. This trainer will be based on actual JLTV systems and allow instructors to train “remove-and-replace” tasks and induce faults electronically, permitting students to practice troubleshooting and repairing electrical faults.
Herrick continued, “Augmented Reality (AR) tools will allow students to explore the configuration and assembled layout of the vehicle.” The trainers will be used in JLTV maintenance schools, shops, and at the Oshkosh Defense Product Training Center.
Peering into the next several years, Oshkosh Defense anticipates there will be less reliance on instructor-led or classroom-based curricula as military services migrate to synthetic training environments that leverage AR and virtual reality (VR) technology. Herrick explained, “We predict an increased demand for self-paced, computer-based training that can be completed at remote locations. Portability is key, as our military is often called upon to operate from austere locations for extended periods. In addition to being better adapted to sustained expeditionary operations, these training approaches represent potential cost savings through reduced overhead. We’ve also noted that these training formats are more readily embraced by today’s generation of operators and maintainers, so training effectiveness is also enhanced.”
Continued Vehicle Training Evolution
Oshkosh Defense’s perspectives on maintenance training trends and developments are consistent with similar activities emerging across the A&D industry. OEMs and their customers are moving skill-building activities and programs from the classroom into distributed learning and other technology-based instruction, with the intent to use big data, AR and VR, and other enablers to train maintainers.
Of added interest is the concurrent activity in the adjacent ground vehicle operator training market. In yet another use case for learning technology, Oshkosh Defense teamed with Doron Precision Systems (booth 401) to create an operator simulator for the JLTV– the 550 JLTVplus. The Oshkosh executive first noted “the simulator provides an unmatched experience for JLTV operators, allowing users to train in various conditions and vehicle configurations, both on-road and in extreme off-road terrain,” and concluded, “Furthermore, the 550 JLTVplus supports the integration of multiple simulators, enabling operators and instructors to train convoy operations and mission tasks in a virtual tactical environment.”