Sustaining Fleet-Wide Weapons Readiness

From Naval Power & Force Projection/Winter 2017/18

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Led by Rear Admiral Duke Heinz, Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support
(NAVSUP WSS), operating in Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsburg, PA, and Norfolk, VA, is an innovative, award-winning organization, and a Department of Defense leader in areas such as performance-based logistics and use of digital information in a collaborative construct.

By Christian Sheehy, Editor

The United States Navy is the most dominant force among modern countries that have a seagoing force. An integral part of projecting force and power around the world are the myriad weapon systems and platforms used by the Navy, Marine Corps, Joint and Allied Forces. Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS) is the Navy’s Program Support Inventory Control Point (PSICP) charged with ensuring mission readiness through program and supply support.

Managing a Logistics Enterprise

NAVSUP WSS is the Navy’s supply chain manager responsible for supplying the fleet with the parts needed to maintain weapons systems, contracting repair or purchasing parts, and managing transportation and distribution of material. Heinz overseas a workforce of more than 2,600 military and civilians who process 500,000 annual demands from a $33 billion inventory in support of Navy, Marine Corps, Joint and Allied Forces customers worldwide. The organization uses funds from the NWCF (Navy Working Capital Fund) to buy and repair the parts and in turn sells them to fleet customers. In a nutshell, Naval SCM is the collection of processes that results in Navy customers receiving the parts they need, when and where they need them, anywhere in the world.

“NAVSUP WSS’ business is naval readiness,” said Heinz. “We serve the fleet first. Its urgency is our motivation to be more predictive, agile, innovative, and responsive.” According to Heinz, Team NAVSUP WSS understands the unique challenges of operating and supplying in a maritime environment unlike any other organization. This is what makes NAVSUP WSS the Navy’s Program Support Inventory Control Point (PSICP).

“Navy logistics is complex, difficult work that requires constant Navy insight and oversight,” said Heinz. “My team of professionals has the in-house expertise, the desire and the resources to provide the Navy’s only end-to-end lifecycle support for surface, subsurface and aviation assets.”

Mrs. Lynn Kohl, Weapon Systems Support Vice Commander, said NAVSUP WSS is the Navy’s PSICP managing more than $33 billion in inventory spares for naval maritime, aviation, nuclear, and foreign military sales (FMS) platforms. However, as impressive as that number may sound, spare parts are just the tip of the iceberg.

“When you think of PSICP, there is greater complexity than is visible to the casual observer,” said Kohl. “PSICP is about managing the entire lifecycle of a weapon system from the drawing board to the boneyard, which starts well before a weapon system is in operation. The PSICP role starts years prior to fielding a system by emphasizing logistical considerations during a weapon system’s development and acquisition.”

Full-Spectrum Lifecycle Support

NAVSUP WSS ideally begins its support at the research and development (R&D) phase of the weapon system’s lifecycle. Initially, NAVSUP WSS provides a focus for logistics and supply chain considerations in the weapons system acquisition strategy development. As soon as the system design is mature and design stable, prior to production, the provisioning process begins. During this phase, maintenance plans are developed, data requirements are defined, fleet allowances are established and initial material is procured to support the weapon system fielding. The major role of the PSICP during this period is in “designing the support” rather than “supporting the design.” The PSICP role in provisioning supports the future material requirements of all Supply Support Inventory Control Points (SSICPs). NAVSUP WSS participation in this phase is essential as it results in lower lifecycle costs for weapon systems. “The organization is integral in assisting with program manager interfacing, interim support, configuration management, program driven requirements, reparables management and providing engineering assistance,” said Kohl.

Another challenge NAVSUP WSS helps mitigate during the lifecycle support process is Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs) which may be generated anytime throughout the life of the weapon system for a number of reasons including safety or technology improvements. ECPs require experts with in-depth understanding of the process to manage what can essentially be a mini system introduction requiring processes similar to the supporting the overall system. Many multifaceted, complex systems can generate hundreds of ECPs. Kohl said, “We are the only Navy organization in a position to coordinate the touch points between myriad Navy organizations that perform other logistics functions such as maintenance, configuration, training, technical data, etc., and the supply chain. In order for the supply chain to be optimized and effective, all the logistics elements and organizations need to work together.”

Once the sustainment period begins, the supply support ICP becomes a partner in weapons support. Whether these functions are performed by another ICP or NAVSUP WSS, they are carefully monitored and controlled by the NAVSUP WSS Integrated Weapons Support Team (IWST) for the remainder of the weapon’s lifecycle. NAVSUP WSS retains SSICP management of the more expensive, complex, critical items while the remaining piece parts are turned over for management to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The average value of a NAVSUP WSS managed item is $26K for maritime items and $66K for aviation items while the items managed by DLA, for Navy weapon systems, average approximately $1,000. DLA has proven to be quite effective in managing these items from a commodity orientation. By focusing on a weapons system management orientation the PSICP is able to maximize readiness for the weapon system while minimizing support costs. A number of Independent Readiness Reviews have determined, as a major finding, there should be a single supply chain lead—and best suited is NAVSUPP WSS as the Navy’s PSICP.

Ensuring Integrated Product Support

NAVSUP WSS demonstrated the importance of being the Navy’s PSICP by assuming the role of Product Support Integrator and successfully developed and implemented a sound recovery plan for F/A-18 Main Landing Gear Brake Assemblies, a top fleet readiness degrader. Responding to a sudden increase in backordered requisitions, the NAVSUP WSS Team fused both government and industry efforts to rapidly effect change across multiple integrated product support elements to simultaneously mute demand, improve maintainability, and increase material availability through the targeted injection of necessary spares and piece-parts. The end result was the elimination of more than 150 high-priority backordered requisitions in less than eight months, and an effective, yet sustainable supply support strategy to keep this item healthy in the long-term.

At the heart of NAVSUP WSS’s capacity to be the Navy’s PSICP, said Heinz, are the organization’s strategic priorities. First is the customer. “We focus on positive relationships with our customers through transparency, open communication and knowledge sharing to meet current and future requirements,” said Heinz. “It’s simple,” he said. “NAVSUP WSS prioritizes fostering innovative and responsive partnerships and collaboration with SYSCOMs, industry professionals and international customers.” He said NAVSUP WSS, better than any other organization, understands the importance of obtaining and leveraging engineering authority to grow the supplier base and better serve our customers.

Personnel at the Core

The second priority is his people, or as Heinz refers to them, “Team WSS.” “We constantly strive to equip a diverse workforce with the knowledge and tools required to perform at full capacity to mission readiness built on a foundation of ethical practices,” he said. NAVSUP WSS recruits, trains and retains a workforce of highly skilled, creative and competitive military and civilian employees who place naval forces and their readiness first. According to Heinz, the NAVSUP WSS team is built upon a solid foundation of collaboration, effective communication, cohesion, productivity, problem solving ability and results-driven performance.

Kohl said the command continually refines available toolsets to increase the effectiveness and accountability of a flexible workforce. “NAVSUP WSS fosters an environment of mutual trust and respect in order to create a professional workforce bound by strong ethics, accountability and decision making ability,” said Kohl. “Developing this professional workforce produces innovation, initiative, ingenuity, flexibility and sound business practices.”

Continual Process Improvement

Last are the processes. Heinz said NAVSUP WSS constantly strives to evolve the business to effectively support customers and maximize the capacity of the command while maintaining inventory accuracy. Heinz said his team is consistently working to improve speed to delivery by updating acquisition processes, analyzing transportation lines, and refining material positioning. “They strive to perfect forecasting capability to better identify fleet requirements,” said Heinz. “We do this by looking at best practices across the supply industry and implementing improvements to our procurement system, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP),” said Heinz.

Standardizing processes and performance metrics across the organization allows NAVSUP WSS to refine methods in order to provide optimal support to customers. And according to Heinz, Naval weapon systems are not common commodities. NAVSUP WSS understands the complexity of naval weapon systems program support and lifecycle management and have the expertise necessary to effectively manage the supply chain. NAVSUP WSS is capitalizing on the future use of digital information in a collaborative environment which they have branded as LOGCELL. Heinz said, “Team NAVSUP WSS members are responsive, responsible, resilient and adaptable to the fleet’s and Navy leadership’s needs in pursuit of readiness and mission success. The fleet’s urgent readiness needs are our mission motivation.”