Reviewing DMSMS 2013: Collaboration brings new beginnings

Hurricane Isaac’s interruption of Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS) 2012 and subsequent rescheduling instigated the pairing of DMSMS with the Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC) for the 2013 event, located in Kissimmee, FL and hosted by the Navy. Bringing together these two complementary aspects of Department of Defense (DoD) operations created a unique opportunity for raising cross-disciplinary collaborations. Looking back, the pairing of DMSMS and DMC is a natural progression. The overlap of the two conferences provided a logical platform for discussion around balancing affordability and obsolescence risk amongst active defense programs: a threat currently facing every facet of the military's manufacturing and sustainment mission.

The proactive part
The general session’s keynote speeches were well attended by both sides of the combined conference. They spurred dialogue between the DMC attendees that focused on introducing new manufacturing technology, and the DMSMS attendees responsible for supporting the implementations down the road. This convergence exposed the need for more understanding of how to realistically manage issues in the face of manufacturing innovations.

Several presentations and conversations addressed how sustainment teams can be more proactive if they are integrated into the design phase. Bringing teams into the fold early on could enable more efficient management of the entire process, rather than having these teams wading through a wasteland of (LTBs) and end-of-life () solutions at the most volatile point in the . Managing the total life cycle with this type of approach offers more options to reduce cost and provide ongoing solutions for avoiding obsolescence and counterfeit risk.

Even with the silo environment of DoD programs, this could signal the possible beginning of a holistic approach to tackling military programs’ sustainment issues. Maj. John Broadmeadow said that the development of future technologies depend on warfighters and manufacturing engineers collaborating in the initial development phase.

Additive manufacturing advances, also known as , was also a hot topic as the technology has advanced enough to enable onsite manufacturing of parts a reality. This capability is projected to cut down manufacturing time and the need to ship critical parts to the warfighter, providing solutions for legacy mechanical parts that might not otherwise be supplied due to obsolescence issues.

Proactive still a challenge
The most recent update to the DMSMS SD-22, the playbook on defense program management of obsolescence, was introduced and discussed and the conference. Several sessions were dedicated to going through the updates and introducing newcomers to DMSMS. These conversations were of particular interest to us. The SD-22 represents the latest in obsolescence management, however, until there can be a larger move in the industry towards looking at program life cycles from a legacy sustainment perspective, the SD-22 still leaves programs unable to be truly proactive. Especially when tools for forecasting and the ability to accurately assess a program’s life cycle remain largely tied to component availability rather than to need or affordability.

In the fight against and the desire to secure ongoing component supplies, the need for resources to find EOLed parts took center stage. As the proliferation of counterfeits grows industry resources seem to be mainly focused on tracking parts. Missing from the discussion was the reality that few tools are available to actually manage obsolescence from a proactive standpoint. The dominant approach still appears to be that the faster you can figure out what components are going EOL, the faster you can start a redesign and try to get it all together at once.

Standards and policies generated around counterfeit avoidance challenges require a long game strategy and need to have a legacy perspective to get solutions in place long before the supply chain becomes volatile due to obsolescence.

Military attendance
There was a noted and significant absence of military and government DMSMS and DMC attendees thanks to sequestration and defense . Many long time attendees noted the DMSMS side was down possibly as much as two thirds, resulting in industry members making up most of the audience – outside of key speakers. People were left wondering if a military presence at conferences is at risk of becoming obsolete — and if programs will suffer a disadvantage with organic teams missing access to critical information?

Because most of the attendees this year were from the private (industry) sector, perhaps there was less hesitancy to come together regarding the challenges in effective communication between siloed government agencies and their industry counterparts. With technological feats moving at lightning speed in today’s global society, the comparatively slow adaption of government programs reduces the collaboration necessary between departments and branches to find truly proactive solutions. Frustration is at the forefront of some of the discussions and many attendees felt blocked in their efforts to marry newer technology and sustainment operations to create a holistic picture that supports the needs of the warfighters. While technology advances to the relentless march of Moore’s Law, efforts to mitigate obsolescence have remained behind the curve. Industry and government instead need to be more proactive in this area.

Looking forward to DMSMS 2014, it is critical that the DoD engages more with industry on solutions to improve supply chain management. As a professional it is imperative to gather information to create a discussion space to identify the processes and standards that will make being proactive a reality — not just something we would like to accomplish someday.