Since 2002, the Department of Defense (DOD) has viewed Condition-Based Maintenance Plus (CBM+) as a transformational maintenance methodology, capable of improving productivity, shortening maintenance cycles, lowering costs, and increasing availability and reliability through improved business processes and as-it-happens information analysis. CBM+ data analysis methods and prognostic tools allow maintainers to predict issues before they happen, enabling preemptive maintenance and ensuring the right parts are in the right place at the right time—avoiding “fly-to-failure”. Major commercial airlines and engine manufacturers have already benefited from CBM+, while within the DOD, CBM+ has remained more of a concept than reality—until now.
Big data analytics is a huge game changer. Through evolving IT infrastructure, cloud-based storage, increased processing speeds and sophisticated predictive techniques, analysis never before possible can now be accomplished in real-time. This shift in the art-of-the-possible has not gone unnoticed. A recent SAF/AQ-directed, 45-day “sprint” review team was tasked with developing strategies to improve aircraft availability. A major recommendation? CBM+. With high-level proponents including Dr. Will Roper, SAF/AQ (AT&L); General Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC); and General Carlton Everhart, Commander, Air Mobility Command (AMC), CBM+ initiatives are on the fast track.
USAF & CBM+
The USAF’s CBM+ vision is robust. The maintenance toolbox of the future will include real-time data streaming, predictive maintenance algorithms and reporting, active Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) and Maintenance Steering Group-3 (MSG-3), condition-based inspections and comprehensive fleet health dashboards. For some time, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Engineering Directorate R&M and Sustainment Branch (AFLCMC/EZP) has been developing prognostic tools and algorithms which enable real-time reliability assessments and failure prediction. The office is also evaluating cloud storage and data analysis tools that will offer commonality between programs, while being tailorable to specific programs’ needs. The C-5M and B-1B platforms are currently serving as USAF Pathfinder programs and have successfully demonstrated several USAF-developed CBM+ solutions. However, in addition to new technology tools, moving to CBM+ requires a significant cultural change to become a reality.