Maintenance and production planning remains to be a relevant aspect of any organization that deals directly with any form of technology. This paper explores the maintenance and production planning in the air force. It explores the different types of maintenance applied in the day to day maintenance of air force equipment in readiness for its call up to serve at the opportune time.
The paper also explores the concept of production planning in the air force in regard to the setting up of air force production centers and the personnel mandated with the strategic management and the overall planning in these production centers. It explains the systematic process of production planning in the air force through the hierarchy of authorities engaged in production planning.
The air force manages thousands of equipment ranging from aircraft and jet engines to missiles and refueling trucks. Ensuring that all the equipment is ready to swing into action at a moment’s notice is a task that maintenance managers have to perfect (Nyman & Levitt, 2001).
This involves working with engineers, mechanics and crew chiefs to organize, plan and schedule the production and maintenance of all the machinery and equipment, and to ensure the timely completion of projects on strict budgetary constraints (Mindling & Bolton, 2008).
It includes the adoption of maintenance, repair and operation systems (MRO) into management. This can further be described as all activities that are geared towards retaining an item to its original state, or restoring an item to its original state. This is done either through routine or what is commonly known as scheduled maintenance or through preventive maintenance.
Production planning involves the controlling of the process that combines and transforms various resources to a value added product or service (Nyman & Levitt 2001). A good maintenance plan should be integrated with normal production planning since it saves the cost of impromptu maintenance on breakdowns.
Types of maintenance
There are three main types of maintenance namely; planned maintenance, condition based maintenance, and corrective maintenance (Kister & Hawkins, 2006).
Preventive maintenance is geared towards the need to avoid equipment failures, safety violations and unnecessary losses in production.
This has to be scheduled at regular intervals to avoid inconveniences and the slowing down of regular operations. Critics have always insisted that preventive maintenance done at frequent intervals is actually unnecessary. They also observe that it may add on substantial wear and tear to the equipment.
Though various maintenance plans are generated by the air force, their effectiveness is not usually absolute since these plans may differ from the specific reliability centered maintenance. The reliability centered maintenance is a process that effectively ensures that assets continue to perform effectively as required in their present operating context (Kister & Hawkins, 2006).
Condition based maintenance
Condition based maintenance is where an equipment show signs of failure or deteriorating performance and impromptu maintenance has to be done to avoid total failure or to improve its effectiveness.
Corrective maintenance is where maintenance activities are done after the failure of an equipment, system or machine to identify and rectify any fault. It is sometimes divided into immediate corrective maintenance where repair works start as soon as the product fails, and deferred corrective maintenance where pre-determined sets of maintenance rules dictate the delay of repair works for particular reasons.
Maintenance planning is especially important since the military’s increased automation and mechanization dictates that a lot of maintenance practices have to be done (Kister & Hawkins, 2006). However, it is uneconomical to have large contingents of maintenance staff waiting for emergency breakdowns that would have been avoided by planning and systematic inspection plans.
This can be done by developing plans and establishing schedules that meet strict mission commitments, which includes the coordination of activities such as the scheduling of aircraft and aerospace machinery and managing associated support equipment as well as ammunitions and precision measurement equipment.
This should be done throughout all phases of maintenance whether it is routine or corrective after a breakdown as stipulated by official maintenance management directives. Corrective maintenance also includes the use of computerized or manual systems in preparing regular utilization schedules that are in line with stipulated air force equipment maintenance and operational requirements.
Production planning for defense industrial bases in the air force
The air force has always felt the need to effectively understand the capabilities and limitations of the essential industrial establishments that supply it with its material needs, whether the establishments are private or owned by government. This has led to the formulation of a directive that establishes policies that provide for a process of industrial base planning (IBP).
This is meant to assist in the formulation of policies on affordability and readiness to serve, the capability to control the amount of particular weapon systems manufactured and the support of the expansion of forces by the availability and capability of industry in general.
The industrial base planning directly enables the air force to support reserve and active forces in times of peace, by developing, designing, producing, supporting and availing superior and quality weapon systems that can effectively support operational forces (Nyman & Levitt, 2001). The effective meeting of contract schedule deadlines ensures improved wartime capabilities when needed.
It supports planned contingency needs by accelerating the production of critical systems and sub systems as well as items that meet the requirements of operational commands like sustainability. These are usually further explained in the (ORD) operational requirements document.
It should also allow for the reconstitution of personnel more rapidly than any emerging threat, by gearing up to meet any emerging global threat by depending on the maintenance of critical defense capabilities that should not be allowed to weaken as this could lead to failure to reconstitute in time. The extent of dependence on foreign defense sources is often used as a measure of the air force’s capabilities (Nyman & Levitt, 2001).
It also guarantees efficiency in the most cost-effective way since constraints on affordability sourced from long range investment plans, and the Defense Planning Guidance objectives on affordability planning, as well as the long range acquisition investment analysis, become cost baselines hence the resulting cost negotiations. This is in relation to the air force goals of being cost effective and while maintaining efficiency.
The air force has to identify the most critical sectors of the defense industrial base, and have a description of the current industrial base and document all the major shortfalls as well as display technological, market and financial trends. It should also identify and recommend sufficient industrial preparedness measures tailored towards mitigating the identified shortfalls.
Responsibilities and authorities in production planning
Some of the responsible and authorities established to deal with production planning includes the following.
- The Assistant Secretary of the air force, who oversees the industrial base planning program and publishes policies that are meant to achieve the air force goals on the planning, budgeting and programming of industrial base plans and industrial preparedness measures
- The deputy Chief of Staff monitors the logistics aspects of the industrial base planning program in the air force, reviews the annual industrial base assessments, and assists the air force headquarters in the systematic development of the critical items list of the air force, as well as supervise the development of the essential mobilization production requirements of the critical items lit of spare parts and support equipment (Mindling & Bolton, 2008).
- The Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations issues the air force with the list of critical items, including mobilization and surge requirements and considers the critical items list in relation to the emergency production capacity in the air force planning and participation in joint planning. He or she has to review the industrial base assessment results and commander in chief’s operation plans to determine the effective support of air force missions. In the Operations requirements document, he or she has to ensure the acquisition of weapon systems using the included command surge and mobilization goals as a guideline.
- The Air Force Material Commander conducts the industrial base assessment, and he or she has to perform a vertical analysis of the industrial preparedness planning list and critical items list. He or she has to also perform horizontal analysis on commodities and also provide industrial base planning support to the Program Executive Officer. The annual industrial base analysis identifies the actions recommended to and also those that are ongoing to mitigate possible industrial base shot falls like, the manufacturing technology and the defense production act projects, and the program specific and generic industrial preparedness measures.
- The Air Force Designated Acquisition Commanders and Program Executive Officers have to monitor the acquisition programs and perform industrial base milestone assessment to evaluate the ability of the defense industrial base in supporting the recommended acquisition. They have to ensure that critical managers monitor the efficiency of critical elements of the defense industrial base that support their portfolio of products (Mindling & Bolton, 2008). They also have to relate information on problems that span more than one portfolio to the Staff and Air force acquisition’s executive
Kister, T., C. and Hawkins, B. (2006). Maintenance planning and scheduling: streamline your organization for a lean environment. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Mindling, G. and Bolton, R. (2008). U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles. New York: Lulu.com.
Nyman, D. and Levitt J (2001). Maintenance planning, scheduling, and coordination. New York: Industrial Press Inc.