Real-Time Data Delivery Improves, But Still Can Get Better and Faster
By NICK ADDE, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Delivery of real-time data into the hands of the Sailors and Marines who rely upon it is getting faster and easier to understand, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Greg Masiello told an audience April 9 at the Sea-Air-Space exposition.
But it could and should get even faster, said Masiello, assistant commander of Logistics and Industrial Operations at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).
The idea, Masiello said, is to be “up to date with what we’re trying to do digitally — transfer information from aircraft to databases, and into the hands of users.”
Today, he said, NAVAIR’s near real-time databases stretch across the command’s enterprises, throughout the entire fleet. Anyone on a ship, in an air wing or with a Marine Expeditionary Unit can look at yesterday’s data and see the status of anything from a unit’s operational capability to that of an individual aircraft. The capability is there to allow access to anyone from three- and four-star generals and admirals to maintenance-control officers and senior noncommissioned officers.
“[They can] deep-dive and do near real-time analytics that even a year ago we were not able to do. It’s now usable information,” Masiello said.
Users can delve into the workings of any of the 135 parts now being produced by additive manufacturing with three-dimensional printers, he said.
The capability to “solve real-world problems on the flight line” is at hand, he said, allowing users to contact suppliers through email, telephone calls or through the web. Approval for 3-D printing can be done quickly, but still must be vetted for safety, airworthiness and other criteria by an additive manufacturing triage team.
Once a data package gets approved, “We authorize those people to print those parts,” Masiello said.
“This is a dynamic that is greatly changing the way NAVAIR operates,” Masiello said. “We’re now printing aluminum, casting, titanium and polymer.”
Still, Masiello said, there are hurdles to be overcome — such as the frequent complaint that a part is not available because of supply problems. A closer look, he said, reveals that the real issue could center on communication.
By entering the database and tracing the evolution of a given part, it could become clear that a supplier produced 100 percent of the parts it was asked to manufacture. The hang-up, he said, at times centered upon how much information regarding the need for the part actually entered the database.
NAVAIR now has a digital information officer, who is looking into the issue, he said. Moreover, as the aircraft themselves are built with more inherent sophisticated capabilities, they can provide much of the information needed to resolve problems with parts and systems.
“V-22 aircraft are really smart. They collect an awful lot of data,” Masiello said. “You can go into the database when you have a problem and see what the challenge was. Sometimes you can see that the smart aircraft was trying to tell us [something]. Sometimes, it could [have been] a year and a half before we could see the issue.”