Conventional wisdom says you never add a layer of management if you want to save money and be more efficient.
Yet U.S. experts say a new congressionally mandated position may be just what is needed to ensure improved support of weapons and other military systems.
“With this new position that was created, we are going to start to see better implementation of product support strategies,” said David Floyd, performance-based logistics director at U.S. Defense Acquisition University.
The position he refers to is the product support manager (PSM), a role meant to augment the existing integrated logistics support manager. The idea is to take logistics management to a new, higher level.
“It elevates the role of a logistician to more of an enterprise-level role,” Floyd said. “This individual is no longer just focused on logistics. They are also focused on things like program management and systems engineering and financing.”
So that’s the solution. Now, what exactly was the problem?
Essentially, government turns over many logistics support functions to the care of industry, telling industry what to do without specifying how to do it. Private players are given goals, metrics and incentives, but beyond that they can often write their own ticket.
Floyd said this raises the question: Where does government authority leave off and private sector initiative begin? When industry designs a revision to a system, for example, is it stepping on government toes? Isn’t government supposed to make the call when pricey new systems come online?
This is where the PSM will come into play, ensuring that inherently governmental roles are handled foremost on the government side.
To make this happen, the Defense Department recently issued a new set of guidelines, or “elements,” spelling out in greater detail the rules of the road. The 12 elements replace an existing set of 10 items.
The elements, published in a DoD PSM Guidebook, cover a broad range of functions. For example, the Design Interface guidelines lay out the means to ensure that systems engineering produces reliable, affordable components.
The Supply Support element offers a pathway toward a reliable supply chain for replacement parts, while Packaging, Handling, Storage and Transportation describes best practices in this key element of the supply chain.
New to the guidelines is the creation of the PSM, which defines a new enterprise role — one that manages life-cycle costing, budgeting, cost estimating, testing and evaluation. “These are all functions that had not been well defined in the existing elements,” Floyd said.
Also new is the Sustaining Engineering element, which ensures that design conforms to the needs of logistics. Under this guideline, “the logistician has to be intimately involved in engineering change proposals,” Floyd said.
With most PSMs now in place and their activities just ramping up, Floyd expects to see improvements in the overall patterns of acquisition and supply chain. “Just having a position with someone dedicated to this, that is going to help, and now with the new elements, that person also will have better guidance in how to execute,” he said.