Maj Gen Ashok Kumar, VSM (Retd)
The Trilogy is defined as a set of three activities in any domain which are inter-connected and make the ‘thought’ embedded in these three facets fully complete after the final act. If one looks at three major constituents of MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhauls) ,these also reflect a very well linked subsets of a ‘Trilogy’ which once synergised, will give the most potent equipment in the hands of the users.
The constituents of Maintenance (M), Repair (R) and Overhauls (O) are invariably outlined in various literatures issued with the equipment by the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) or by Maintenance organisations after getting these inputs from the OEMs besides the inputs related to MRLS (Manufacturers Recommended List of spare Parts). These are issued in the form of EMER (EME Regulations)/ other documents. In addition to these, some user manuals/ précis are also issued by the controlling Directorate and/or the concerned Training institutions responsible for the training of operators / maintainers of the equipment. What could be done more about this documentation, will be examined later but it is important to observe the connection between ‘M’, ‘R’ and ‘O’ of MRO which is a trilogy by its natural succession some facts of which are covered in succeeding paragraphs.
Despite being the first stage of this Trilogy, maintenance assumes the most important role. It is this facet which not only showcases the initial profile of the equipment but is also able to maintain this profile for much beyond that is legislated in the equipment manuals. Some of the facets which enhance quality of maintenance are as under:
Periodic Maintenance: OEMs as well as maintainers invariably laydown a maintenance schedule in terms of periodicity – daily/weekly / fortnightly / monthly | six monthly / yearly or any other combination of periodicity for a particular equipment. The concept of periodic maintenance has been provisioned based on assumption that the equipment does undergo certain form of downgraded performance even when not in use and therefore certain activities are needed to be carried out whether in terms of cleaning, oiling, greasing or other forms of lubrication, checks and balances related to precisions or any other facet to ensure that it remains within the parameters. These are required both during peace and war. The performance parameters are set by OEMs in the initial stage. All forms of routine maintenance and preventive maintenance may form part of the periodic maintenance.
Predictive Maintenance: Even when equipment is subjected to periodic maintenance, it may need early or delayed support to ensure its functional efficiency. It is more apt if it can be predicted for which appropriate sensors will need to be embedded at certain locations. If the sensors can assist us to undertake some maintenance activities well in time before the equipment goes off road, the downtime of the equipment can be avoided/reduced. Not only this, the commencement of the second step of this trilogy through Repair (R) can also be avoided or minimized. There is a serious need to adopt this facet in each of our equipment for their mission reliability. Condition based maintenance is also an emerging protocol which assesses the conditions of the various parts of the equipment and triggers the maintenance needs.
Corrective Maintenance: During the process of undertaking periodic maintenance or when appropriate sensors have been embedded in the equipment, there may be a need to undertake corrective maintenance as well as emergency maintenance. For example, oil leak may be observed at any stage of equipment life, it may then need corrective/emergency maintenance to fix the oil leak and fill the appropriate oil thereafter.
As the first book of the Trilogy has its own chapters, the same is the case with Maintenance (M) in the series of MRO Trilogy. Maintenance can be subdivided in various forms as per the understanding of the user/ maintainer. It often transgresses in the domain of repair as there is a thin/blurred line or no line at all depending on how we understand ‘maintenance’ and ‘Repair’. One fact is, however, certain and that is ‘quality maintenance’ addresses major needs of ‘Repair’ and ‘Overhaul’. It will not be wrong to deduce that it is the most important first book of the trilogy.
Repair (R): This is the second book of this trilogy. Despite the resounding impact of the first book, its own credibility and impact cannot be undermined. Repair predominantly relates to the response of any breakdown in the equipment and irrespective of the fact whether it is minor or major. Like maintenance, repair can also be viewed differently by different professionals. One method of looking at repairs could be under:
User Observed Repair (UOR): The user of the equipment is in the most intimate contact of the equipment. Besides being part of all forms of maintenance activities, users also exploit the equipment during peacetime training as well as during the conflict. They are, therefore, most well placed to observe the equipment and understand its repair needs. The repair may be undertaken by the users themselves or by the maintainers. The repair may or may not need spare parts to be used. It will be based on the type of response needed from the breakdown observed.
Other than User Observed Repairs (OT UOR): When need of the repair is observed by other than the users of the equipment, viz these could be from equipment inspectors/maintainers both during peace and war. These repairs may or may not need the spare parts for the repairs to be undertaken. Invariably, these repairs require more serious intervention as compared to the UOR as covered earlier.
As the quality maintenance eliminates/reduces the need of repairs, similarly quality repairs by skilled manpower and quality spare parts not only reduce the downtime of the equipment but also keep the equipment in mission reliable mode besides postponing/delaying the need of overhauls. Repairs also have certain facets of ‘maintenance’ embedded in itself and thus present an important facet of this trilogy having connection with both.
Overhauls (O): This is the end step of the MRO trilogy. Its success defines the final impact of this book. Even if the first two books of ‘M’ and ‘R’ have done well, an ill conceived plot and poorly executed final book can diminish even the impact of its predecessors and such is the relevance of ‘overhauls’ in the equipment life. While timeline and parameters for overhauls are invariably stated by OEMS, these are regulated by the maintainers. In case of absence of adequate budgetary support and/or poor spare part availability, the ideal overhauls are modified. Of course, this impacts the mission reliability of the equipment. Invariably, the overhauls take two shapes covered as under:
Reverting the Equipment to Original Profile: In this type of overhaul, the equipment is maintained, calibrated and spare parts are utilized in a manner that the equipment is able to perform at least to those standards / parameters which was possible at the time of introduction into the service. Invariably, this type of overhaul does not address major upgrade needs and falls short in current timeline due to better technology available.
Bringing the Equipment at Par with Current Equipments Introduced into Service: Invariably the equipment is put through Overhauls after a reasonable gap of time. Since the technology undergoes dramatic rate of change, this overhauled equipment needs to compete with latest equipment in the category in the battle. It is therefore mandatory that overhauls being undertaken should include the upgradation of the majority of sub components like sights, fire control systems etc. This approach will place this overhauled equipment capable of fighting the battles of current generation and is the recommended norm for our defence forces.
With quality overhauls, this end book places the Trilogy series at a pedestal that it is not only relished by the writer but becomes a cherished possession for the readers as well. All three books of this trilogy of ‘M’, ‘R’ and ‘O’ merge with each other beautifully is something which all users of the equipment will cherish and will be battlefield winners.
Author is a Kargil war veteran and defence analyst. He is a visiting fellow of CLAWS and specialises in neighbouring countries with special focus on China.
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