A Support System is as Good as the Data Used to Build It

How Design Data Availability and Maturity Influences the Effectiveness of the Support System

The title of this article says it all. A Support System is only as good as the data used to build it. The consistent access to and application of design and field data during all stages of a program’s life cycle will ensure that Support Systems meet program needs. This article breaks down each phase of programs’ life cycles to show how data can be used by logistics teams to make better Support System decisions.


The Preliminary Design Phase requires the Support System designer to be flexible. During this phase, the design data is incomplete and likely from a comparable system and not the actual design. While working with incomplete or projected data can be a challenge, valuable insights into creating an appropriate Support System design can still be discovered.

One tool ALE employs during (and sometimes prior to) the Preliminary Design Phase to conceptualize a reasonable Support System is the Front End Analysis (FEA). An FEA consists of a series of trade-off studies that produces a relational impact model of varying factors. An FEA might predict that by lengthening a vessel by 20%, the maintenance cost will increase 40%; or that by reducing the fleet size by 5% reduces the number of spare parts needed by 15%.

FEAs can be performed using whatever data is available combined with sound assumptions from subject matter experts. While the data requirements are minimal, the results can have a large impact on the Support System design.

During the Preliminary Design Phase is also when Configuration Management (CM) processes are established. Ensuring that a robust CM process is followed throughout the program will build confidence in the available data and logistics products and eliminate countless issues down-the-road. Imagine going to repair a system, only to discover outdated spare parts were ordered. The resulting extended downtime of the system could have been eliminated through following the CM process because the provisioner would have had the correct data for ordering the spare parts.


When a program moves into the Detailed Design and Production Phase, the Support System truly starts to take form. More detailed trade-off studies and Level of Repair Analysis (LORA) can be accomplished using data for the actual design. It is advisable that interfaces for exchanging the most current data are established early between the Support System designers in the Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) Team and the Design Team, Test Engineers, System Safety and Human Factors Analysts, Logistics Product Team, Provisioning, etc.

The ILS Team will utilize the data from the Design Team, Test Engineers, etc. to develop a detailed, fieldable Support System. The comprehensiveness and accuracy of data that funnels through the ILS Team directly impacts the quality of the Support System. For example, if Test Engineers test a system using environmental parameters true to those anticipated for a fielded system as opposed to generic environmental parameters, the resulting data will help create a Support System that better matches the true preventive and corrective maintenance needs.


During a system’s Fielding and Sustainment is when having utilized good data to design the Support System truly pays off. The data challenge transitions from gathering initial data and making fundamental Support System design decisions to maintaining the data. When systems are upgraded or obsolete parts are replaced, the associated data must also be added to and/or updated in the logistics product data (LPD) database and be reflected in all associated products (technical manuals, parts lists, etc.). The last thing a maintainer wants to experience is to be repairing a system in the field and an obsolete part has no replacement, or a system cannot be calibrated because the technical manual does not reflect the fielded system configuration. Errors in data management results in extended system downtime.

The Support System should continue to be evaluated for effectiveness throughout sustainment. Like making changes to the design, making changes to the Support System should follow the established CM process for documenting all relevant data changes. A documented Support System that is reflective of the fielded Support System allows for accurate inventory and spares management, timely performance of maintenance, and increased confidence in the availability of the system.


Access to good data ultimately helps the Support System designers make better decisions, which results in successful fielded Support Systems. From Preliminary Design to Detailed Design and Production to Fielding and Sustainment, data drives the Support System design and functionality. Implementing and following rigorous CM processes early and throughout a system program will contribute to maintaining system availability.

Article Authored by Elizabeth Schwartz

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