PMA-265 R&S team leads the way in digitization efforts
The F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) Readiness and Sustainment (R&S) Integrated Product Team (IPT) is leading several high-level digital data initiatives, with many of these efforts being scaled for future use by other type/model/series (T/M/S) aircraft, to save the Navy valuable time and money.
The most groundbreaking effort has been the development of the Naval Aviation Enterprise’s (NAE) first Readiness Forecasting Modeling and Simulation process, which will enable the program office to predict and mitigate aircraft readiness needs up to five years in the future.
This effort to better use data for aircraft readiness analysis began about a year ago, with the goal of building an entire mission-capability model for various readiness initiatives, said acting PMA-265 Forecasting Lead Justin Zarzaca, who took over the project in March.
That included forecasting supply shortages, maintenance, out-of-reporting maintenance, equipment and manpower, Zarzaca said. The first data simulations available with the tool are a line-of-balance analysis, which provides scheduling management for continuous construction projects, and a funding shortfall analysis. More data simulations are being developed.
“There’s wholesale, retail and executive categories, and for each we’re showing what the predicted and forecasted stock levels are going to be,” Zarzaca said. “We’ll be better able to forecast to our supply posture and say, ‘Here’s what we’re seeing down the road. What are we going to do about this?’ We can show them the results, and they can trust the results we’ve provided. We won’t have to be spinning our wheels.”
Zarzaca said the tool works by leveraging raw data from Navy databases and using software to take that data and create component-level metrics, which are further processed to create visualizations that help personnel analyze and interpret the information.
“We’re the only ones doing this kind of modeling effort to this level and extent,” said Zarzaca, who added that this is one of the efforts that is intended to be expanded to other T/M/S.
R&S co-IPT lead Keith Shanahan said the process was funded in partnership with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aviation Division Capital Investment Program and involved collaboration with multiple organizations: Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Weapons System Support; NAVSUP Headquarters; Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers; Commander, Naval Air Forces; Defense Logistics Agency; Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation; Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), and IBM Watson.
“When you think about all the entities that had to come together on this, it’s pretty amazing,” Shanahan said. “It’s going to help Navy leadership better understand the effects of readiness initiatives and make better use of enterprise resources going forward.”
Another of the R&S team’s digitization efforts is a move to transition data about faulty Super Hornet and Growler parts to a digital environment for future analysis with the Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) system, which is a system that provides information about an aircraft’s function. The move is part of a multiyear effort that will greatly reduce the time it previously took to do this kind of analysis, said R&S Product Support IPT lead Tyler Alt.
The team had traditionally analyzed data such as aircraft system performance, squadron maintenance actions, component removals, Maintenance Status Panel (MSP) codes, mean time between failures and Level 2 Weapons Repairable Assembly (WRA) component repairs through a very labor intensive, non-automated approach. Over the years, the tracked data greatly expanded and included more than 30,000 WRA serial numbers of parts that were “bad actors” in the repair process, Alt said. As the volume of data grew, this method became untenable and did not offer the ability to visualize data.
“This used to take three analysts two weeks of work to collect, compile, validate and distribute the final spreadsheet database,” Alt said.
The work to digitize the data for these faulty aircraft parts into a web-based dashboard began in 2017 after the WRA “bad actor” serial number tracking requirements were accepted into Vector, a Navy readiness analysis tool set, Alt said. This removed the need to manually build a database every month.
The data visualization dashboards will ultimately provide access to three or more years of aircraft maintenance trending data and WRA tracking, allowing the team to see data on components that cause multiple issues and maintenance actions at a glance.
“It’s been a lot of work over a long period of time to input the data, but it will be worth it going forward,” said Alt, who added that this initiative is also intended to become an NAE-level solution that uses common processes and tools that could include any T/M/S aircraft.
Additionally, the R&S team is actively working on developing data visualizations for tracking PMA-265 labor demands.
The work to develop these visualizations using the Tableau data visualization software began late last year in order to get a better handle on PMA-265’s manpower needs and availability. PMA-265 Lead Business Financial Manager Tami Cobaugh, who led the effort, said she believed the program office could come up with a way to track this data in-house with tools already available.
That led to the start of all financial records from Naval Air Systems Command Headquarters and field activities being digitized and compiled into a database from which the visualizations are created. Cobaugh said a small team began by collecting and inputting 2019 actuals, and she expects the tool to be up to date with 2021 planned data by the start of the fiscal year in October 2020.
“With this data, we’ll be able to see where we stand, and we can compare it going into the next year,” Cobaugh said. “Hopefully, this database will provide us with an organized way to track and report manpower across all activities.”
Thousands of financial records will be displayed in a simple way that leadership can easily interpret, which will allow for future workforce analysis. The visualization tool is not quite ready for primetime yet, but Cobaugh said she’s gotten a sneak peek at it.
“I’ve seen little pieces of it here and there – it’s going to be great,” she said.
Shanahan said all these efforts toward the digitization of data will go a long way to making life easier for PMA-265 personnel and, when the day comes that they are rolled out for other programs, the Navy as a whole.
“This team is committed to using data to solve complex problems that would ordinarily take weeks, months or even years,” Shanahan said. “Their dedication to this task is to the extreme benefit of all Navy personnel.”
These digital data initiatives will enable the Navy to better predict and prepare for future readiness needs.
By Katie Walsh, PMA-265 Communications