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Guaranteeing system availability without the maintenance empire

With hostile overflights now rife, the air force was at its highest state of alert. Never had its maintenance managers been so glad of the whole-life approach they’d insisted on when procuring the country’s new radars. The Performance Based Logistics (PBL) partnership with Thales had relieved the old headaches: retaining maintenance staff on 24/7 standby—yet starved of any real “action”; holding inventories large enough to ensure parts availability; and spares that seemingly took months to source. But late evening brought a different headache: exceptionally, a severe weather event had damaged a radar. The Thales maintenance chief took personal charge. Within minutes, the PBL team had time-stamped the call and identified the right part. It was in stock—and the Thales engineer arrived at site a short time later (logging another time stamp on the shared maintenance portal). By the following morning, all radars were again operational—and ready for what the day might bring.


As systems advance, and personnel become more career-mobile, the old model of large, long-serving maintenance teams is under pressure. Consider that a rostered team of up to a hundred is needed to maintain four ground-based radar. Add to this the effect of anti-social hours, and minimal planned-maintenance requirements, on staff motivation; the guessing game of holding inventory for possible future faults; and the burden of obsolescence—and it’s no wonder that maintenance operations are a major headache.

But armed forces are applying their drive to streamline operations to “back office” activities too. They’re taking an ever-more holistic approach—with preventive maintenance and repairs integral parts of procuring key systems. And, with today’s high-value assets, a whole-life view of costs makes good financial sense too.   

Forces are also turning to Thales to help them explore and develop tomorrow’s solutions. The company’s deep systems expertise, global reach—and its culture of listening, partnership, and joint problem solving—offer synergies that have the potential to transform maintenance operations. Improvements are being driven on at least four fronts: the large scale of Thales’s installed base ensures sufficient personnel and inventory; constant information flows from sites enable Big Data Analytics to predict and fine-tune skills and spares requirements; carefully crafted, end-to-end parts contracts assure non-inventory parts are delivered within days; and Thales’s deep design expertise can be harnessed to take the strain on managing obsolescence.  

Bringing all these elements together in a partnership based on a PBL contract can go a long way to solving the headaches that maintenance presents—a genuine step forward in guaranteeing the availability of critical systems without the burden of having to administer a “maintenance empire”.