Practical lessons in ISS: A roundtable with PAL Aerospace, Peraton Canada, and Thales

I founded OMX in 2012 as a collaborative platform to access opportunities at every stage of the procurement process. For most people, “procurement” simply means acquiring or building something.

But for those of us in the defence sector, procurement extends to maintenance and upkeep – both in terms of physical parts and the training required to service the program. These contracts are known as in-service support (ISS) and represent a significant and crucial part of many large programs.

(There are currently 12 major ISS projects in Canada ranging from over $10 billion for the Canadian Surface Combatant to the low $100 millions for the Halifax class Integrated Platform Management System.)

I had the pleasure of speaking with three procurement leaders, who are OMX users, from three leading ISS companies to discuss their current projects, their corporate philosophy on ISS, and just where the future of ISS is headed:

  • Jake Trainor, COO at PAL Aerospace
  • Jim Gillespie, VP and General Manager, Peraton Canada
  • Jamie Turcotte, VP Services, Thales Canada

What is your organization’s philosophy towards ISS?

PAL: PAL’s philosophy towards ISS activities involves a holistic, customer-centric approach based on decades of experience. Our ISS activities enable our clients (both internal and external) to conduct operations and maintain readiness.

Leveraging our own operational background, we understand what our clients need and are able to bring them practical and efficient solutions. We constantly look for opportunities to optimize and bring efficiency through cross-utilization of assets.

Peraton: Fundamentally, performance-based ISS is Peraton’s core business. We are a platform-agnostic service provider, which means that our focus is on optimizing the performance of the individual systems, regardless of the platform upon which they are installed.  

We have found significant success leveraging our mission sustainment model which is based upon excellence in the core areas of supply chain management, maintenance and repair, and engineering services. This model has been proven to be an auditable process that consistently meets or exceeds our customer objectives.

Thales: Thales provides ISS to equipment, systems and platforms across most domains, including transportation, aerospace, defence and security.  Our ISS philosophy is centered on continuous improvement and five commitments to meet customers’ operational goals: fast and flexible response, local presence, availability, efficiency, and sustainability.

What projects or programs are you currently providing ISS for?

PAL: Our ISS activities are very broad and include aircraft maintenance, engineering and software support, logistics and supply chain, as well as training and aircraft life-cycle management. We provide full aircraft, heavy, and first-line maintenance and logistics support all around the world. In Canada, we are currently in the process of ramping up the support team for the new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft.

Our engineering groups, DECA Engineering and CarteNav, are also very active ISS providers. DECA provides continuous airworthiness services for a broad range of supplemental type certificates and supports many aircraft operators with rapid aircraft repair approvals. CarteNav provides real-time support to its installed base of systems across the world, which is very important for no-fail mission applications.

As we look towards training, we provide a broad range of capabilities and solutions, including the provision of advanced pilot and sensor training for various militaries, such as the UAE Air Force, the Mexican Air Force, and the Royal Dutch Navy. With the recent acquisition of the Moncton Flight College, we now have the largest ab-initio pilot training organization in Canada, graduating over 500 pilots per year.

Peraton: Peraton delivers a wide range of supply chain related services including automated test equipment (ATE), engineering services, logistics support analysis, avionics maintenance and repair, and long-range planning for full fleet support.

We have a rich history as Canada’s only prime contractor for all avionics systems and automated test equipment (ATE) support on the RCAF’s CF-18 fleet under the Avionics Optimized Weapon System Support (AVS OWSS) contract. In fact, in September 2018, we celebrated the delivery of the 50,000th repair in support of the Canadian fighter fleet. Additionally, we provide critical supply chain management support to the CF-18 fleet under the Propulsion Group Sustainment Contract. Overall, Peraton has been a dedicated partner to the RCAF for over 30 years.

We also just completed a $2.5M expansion of our Canadian headquarters in Calgary. The 76,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility delivers a range of services including 2nd and 3rd line maintenance and repair. Repair activities are about to increase significantly from 3,000 to 4,000 inductions annually, catalyzed by the transition of the traditional DND repair labs from Cold Lake and Bagotville to Calgary – representing significant growth potential for Peraton.

Thales: Thales provides ISS across and within many major platforms around the world, from transportation solutions in its urban rail signaling and main line signaling businesses to secure communication and information services dedicated to crisis management for critical infrastructure operators.

In Canada, we provide comprehensive whole-platform ISS for two new classes of ships: the new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) and Joint Support Ships (JSS) for the Royal Canadian Navy (known as AJISS). We work with our partners in the Royal Canadian Navy, including the Fleet Maintenance Facilities on both coasts, and local industry to be ready to support the first AOPS vessel when it is accepted by the Navy in 2019.

We also have over 18 years of performance-based ISS experience with the Royal Australian Navy – consistently exceeding readiness requirements and operational availability targets by as much as 30 per cent. In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defence recognized Thales’ services and presented the Exactor project, a support program, with the prestigious Min DEST award, the highest honour a project can receive within the ministry.

What lessons has your organization learned from its ISS experience?

PAL: As an operator of aircraft and systems that works in very challenging and diverse climates, PAL has a deep understanding of all the elements needed for client success.  Having a broad scope allows us to offer our clients a single point of accountability for all of their ISS needs. Providing our end-users a confident ISS solution allows them to focus on the true objectives of their mission without distraction.

Peraton: We understand the value of the full-team approach with the best results derived from dedicated partnerships among all stakeholders working together within a collaborative Integrated Product Team (IPT) environment. The IPT was critical in the early days of Peraton’s AVS OWSS contract, as it provided the mechanism to resolve complex issues, including sensitive information and documentation challenges. This IPT composed of Peraton, Government, and OEM representatives successfully combined multiple contracts under a single prime contract.

Thales: The global experiences of our programs inform the work that Thales Canada is performing as part of the AJISS program. We learn from our customers every day. Thales’ ISS capabilities are constantly improving based on our experience and the operational challenges our customers face, with new and emerging threats and increasingly finite resources. Thales’ performance-based approach to many of its ISS programs ensures that assets are mission-ready on time, every time while optimizing costs.

You provide ISS for countries around the globe. Have you noticed any differences between other countries and Canada in regard to ISS? What can Canada learn from other countries? What can other countries learn from Canada?

PAL: Our global presence has allowed PAL to hone our abilities to deal with diversity amongst our clients. Culturally, geographically, operationally – the diversity of our clients’ respective operations demand flexibility in PAL’s approach to ISS. Fundamentally important to our success is respecting and understanding what makes each of our clients unique and treating them in a way that allows them to feel like their ISS requirements are being addressed as if they’re our number one customer. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work.

Peraton: In our experience, the greatest difference is the robustness of the ISS model that each nation can support. Canada has a strong domestic support capability grounded in its well-established industrial base which supports the RCAF and other CAF requirements. Many other countries do not have ISS capabilities that compare to our Canadian domestic ISS network. Positively, there are mechanisms in place that allow for knowledge transfer between Canada and other nations, facilitating the sharing of experiences, problems, and resolutions thereby helping to strengthen Canada’s and the international community’s ISS capabilities.

Thales: Thales’ value proposition to its ISS customers is universal and applicable across many of Thales’ major platforms. ISS is not new – but the implementation of performance-based and relational ISS contracts is a shift for Canada. From a naval perspective, Canada can learn from the experiences of countries such as the UK and Australia who have been providing ISS for naval services for 10 and 20 years respectively. Thales is in the process of transferring knowledge of existing and innovative ISS-ready solutions from Australia to Canada to support major ISS programs like AJISS.

What trends do you see or predict in regard to ISS procurement and technology?

PAL: The key trend we see in ISS procurement is the continued move toward governments outsourcing activities. Through dialogue and consultation, governments are gaining an appreciation for private industry. Industry is being recognized for its agile approach to ISS, its ability to utilize scale across various ISS operations, and in turn employ new technology in a more rapid fashion than typical government organizations can. There is significant value to be captured here by all parties.

Peraton: Canada’s approach to ISS procurement is becoming more long-term, with the focus shifting away from capital procurement costs towards a full sustainment solution. While this is a positive trend, increased government policy will add complexity in the procurement process into the future.

In terms of technology, innovation and R&D will continue to be strong, particularly in the Key Industrial Capability areas. Peraton will be announcing several new R&D initiatives over the course of 2019 that will involve our existing supplier base, new suppliers, and academia, focusing on investment in western Canada, especially Alberta.

Thales: ISS will be going through a digital transformation that includes technologies like AI, augmented and virtual reality, and big data analytics. You can imagine in the near future having a sensor inform you of an upcoming repair, automatically having the necessary parts available in the location where they are needed, donning a pair of virtual reality goggles to walk you through the repair process, and then reporting back on the status via a secure tablet.

Thales has developed advanced predictive maintenance capabilities in areas such as transportation and aerospace. As part of the AJISS program, we are developing leading maritime logistics capabilities through intelligent automation and decision support to ultimately provide more accurate, efficient, and effective support and service assets.

Author: Nicole Verkindt

Nicole Verkindt is the technology editor of Vanguard Magazine and founder and president of OMX. She is a board member of the Canadian Commercial Corporation and was recently appointed to the board of the Peter Munk School of Global Affairs. Nicole graduated from The University of Western Ontario, Richard Ivey School of Business. She founded OMX in December 2011, with the intent to assist Canadian companies in leveraging government procurements and secure contracts, growing their businesses into high tech and international supply chains - with maximum benefit to the economy. She is passionate about reading, travel, international aid, skiing and running. She speaks English, French and Spanish.

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