ARCHIVED - Defence Renewal: Optimizing maintenance of vehicles and equipment critical to military success

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Article / April 17, 2015 / Project number: 15-0052

Edmonton, Alberta — In the heavy equipment maintenance hangar at Garrison Edmonton, Private Naomi Timmons gets up from her work stool by a Heavy Logistics Vehicle Wheeled (HLVW) wheel base and heads off in search of parts. 

She returns about 15 minutes later carrying a sealed plastic bag with ten round metal shims. “They are OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and they were right here!” she says triumphantly. Required parts aren’t always so readily available and often have to be ordered which, in some cases, can take weeks.

If you are a vehicle technician in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) or Canadian Army (CA) whose job it is to keep the vehicles and equipment in military fleets operational every day, ordering and waiting for parts to arrive can add a significant amount of time to your repair and maintenance work schedule.

The CAF and the CA rely on a broad range of equipment to conduct training and operations at home and abroad.  As each piece of equipment contributes to either capacity or capability, keeping this vital equipment in good repair, and efficiency in repair work processes, is critical to ongoing success.

Those work processes include efficient workshop layout and design, workflow, availability of parts and the training requirements necessary for personnel to become qualified and authorized to perform maintenance tasks. Efficient and effective work processes are important not only in the garrison but also when soldiers are deployed in the field.

The consulting firm KPMG has been retained to conduct a CAF-wide analysis of Maintenance Execution in Land, Naval and Air maintenance facilities.

A team from KPMG began its on-site, three week analysis of Land Maintenance work processes in the 3rd Canadian Division (3rd Cdn Div) vehicle maintenance hangar in early February as part of the Defence Renewal initiatives.  Their review will be very detailed and includes reviewing single processes like the one Private Timmons goes through at Garrison Edmonton to retrieve essential maintenance parts.

Defence Renewal is an opportunity for the Department of National Defence (DND) to transform its major business processes in order to realign resources with higher priority work.  Resource savings identified as part of Defence Renewal will remain within National Defence and will be reinvested in ways that improve operational capability and readiness. The goal of the Maintenance Execution initiative is to increase equipment availability rates.

The CA has the lead for land maintenance execution.

We want to increase the time techs spend actually working on equipment and seek a balance between doing corrective maintenance and preventative maintenance,” says Major Chris Wood, Army G4 Desk Officer in charge of the Land Maintenance Execution portion of KPMG’s work. “We are going to the maintainers on the ground to seek their input because we believe they already have the solutions. Those solutions need to be identified and implemented.

Doing the business of defence smarter in future means seeking changes in systems and processes that will allow the CAF to move away from low priority daily tasks and free up time and resources to concentrate on tasks of greater value and return on investment.

The goal of the overarching Defence Renewal initiative is to build a leaner, more efficient and more effective military organization.

The complete review of processes within Land Maintenance Execution in 3rd Cdn Div has been the first step in a multi-faceted collaborative fact-finding process.  Next, the KPMG team will travel to Halifax and Greenwood, Nova Scotia to look at Maintenance Execution in the Navy and Air Force respectively.

And in the coming months, KPMG personnel from the maintenance execution initiative will visit a number of other CAF maintenance facilities across the country.

Using lessons learned from previous defence engagements and international benchmarking, KPMG will put together a report and final presentation for Defence leadership in summer 2015.

KPMG’s eight person on-site consulting team has three ex-military members – two from the CAF and a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Australian Army who was involved in a similar maintenance renewal review for that country’s Army.

As KPMG team member Ken Cox – an ex-submariner who worked in maintenance for most of his 24 year military career – explains: “When I speak with the maintenance techs on the floor, we speak the same language.

Jean-François Séguin spent 20 years as a Navy engineer and is Senior Manager, Global Infrastructure Advisory, for KPMG’s consulting group. He is the lead conducting the Maintenance Execution review and is impressed by the cooperation they received in Edmonton as well as by the deep knowledge and passion of the people they encountered.

I can tell you that maintainers have a lot to say about their jobs. They know what their problems are and how those problems impact their wrench time,” says Séguin. “They already have a lot of the answers and our job is to listen to them and take those answers directly to leadership.

We’re going to put everything together that we heard from everybody across the country and come up with solutions and ways to help the DND maintainers to be more effective and efficient at conducting maintenance in the Armed Forces,” Séguin explains.

Maintainers on the ground in Edmonton have been eager to share their opinion and add their voice to the proposed solutions KPMG will devise. Sergeant Steve Rolleston, Contracts NCO, 1 Service Battalion, oversees maintenance contracts and spent the better part of a morning talking with KPMG.

Truthfully, talking to the consultants was like getting a monkey off my back,” says Sgt Rolleston. “I was able to talk to them openly about some of the problems that slow us down.

And what would Sgt Rolleston like to see come out of the work KPMG is doing?

I would like to see KPMG make recommendations that make it a little easier to do our jobs. I would recommend everyone talk to them. It could make a huge impact.

Today’s current operational fleets represent a challenging combination of new technologically advanced equipment that demands specific expertise and legacy equipment that requires more frequent attention.

By sharing insights and solutions about their work with the KPMG team, maintainers in the CAF, especially those in the CA, have a real opportunity to focus on the future and build on the good work they already do well.

By Margot MacPherson Brewer with files from Lynn Capuano

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