Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What is readiness-based sparing and why is it important?


Mechanics ease the 30-foot-diameter rotodome onto a Royal Saudi Air Force E-3 March 10 at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.  Mechanics in the 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lowered the rotodome to a work stand to replace the antenna pedestal turntable. (U.S. Air Force photo/Margo Wright) [1]
When you hear the phrase readiness-based sparing, do you think of: a) maintaining the readiness of complex air, sea and land systems; b) running a multi-million dollar service parts inventory supporting remanufacturing enterprises; or c) picking up a 7 - 10 split in the 10th frame?  If you answered “a” or “b”, you should definitely read on.  If you answered “c”, we should talk … I’m always on the lookout for great bowling tips! J
Seriously though, readiness-based sparing is one of those terms that is commonly used, but can mean very different things to different people.  Nonetheless, readiness-based sparing is commonly used to describe a general class of very sophisticated and highly capable service parts management tools.
This blog will be devoted to describing and understanding the art and science of readiness-based sparing.  In future installments, we’ll explore the many dimensions of readiness-based sparing.  For example:
1.      How is readiness-based sparing defined?
2.      What are the characteristics and capabilities of a modern readiness-based sparing application?
3.      What are the theoretical underpinnings of readiness-based sparing?
4.      How has readiness-based sparing theory been translated into practice?
As a researcher for a not-for-profit government consulting firm specializing in service parts management applications, it seemed that the service parts and supply chain management communities needed a practical and impartial forum where they could explore readiness-based sparing. [2],[3] That is the intent of this blog.
So, let’s get back to the original questions.  First, what is it?  The Supply Chain Integration organization within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Logistics and Materiel Readiness) offers a concise definition of readiness-based sparing on their website:
“Readiness Based Sparing (RBS) is the practice of using advanced analytics to set spares levels and locations to maximize system readiness.”[4]
At this same link there is a nice graphic which offers some additional characteristics of readiness-based sparing:
“Readiness-Based Sparing determines the inventory requirements for achievement of readiness goals
·         What to stock: parts, components, sub-systems (multi-indenture)
·         Where to stock: at strategic distribution points (SDPs), forward distribution points (FDPs), and/or at squadron-level or operational distribution points (multi-echelon)
·         Together make up two-dimensional Multi-indenture, Multi-echelon (MIME) RBS.”
Why is it important?  Readiness-based sparing techniques are used to manage literally billions of dollars of spare parts, just within the U.S. Department of Defense, not to mention its broader application within the commercial service parts management arena.  Certainly, readiness-based sparing techniques are an important set of tools to the service parts and supply chain management communities.  However, like any powerful tool, these techniques warrant care in their use and are worthy of detailed study.
Well, that’s a start, and a bit of the complexity on how to define readiness-based sparing is already making an appearance! Next week we’ll take a look at some further definitions of readiness-based sparing and look for common themes across these viewpoints.

[1] U.S. Air Force photo, downloaded 4 Mar 2012 from www.af.mil.
[2] The opinions on this blog are those of the author and do not represent those of any organization or company.
[3] Presenting the material in a company-neutral form is crucial to maintaining this blog’s impartiality.  Companies and/or their specific readiness-based sparing applications will only be cited in this blog when such information is essential for maintaining the discussion’s chronological and topical continuity.
[4] Supply Chain Integration OASD (L&MR), Readiness Based Sparing (RBS), downloaded from http://www.acq.osd.mil/log/sci/rbs.htm on 2 March 2012.

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