In an iconic scene from "I Love Lucy," Lucy and Ethel start new jobs at a chocolate factory. Their assignment is to wrap chocolates as they pass by on a conveyor belt. At first they do fairly well, but as the tempo speeds up they quickly fall behind. Soon, to hide their faults, they begin to hide the candy in their clothes while eating as much as possible. By the time their supervisor walks in, they have succeeded in cleaning up their work area, only to have the supervisor speed up the conveyor even more...As Soldiers we often live this scenario. We always have more work than we have the time to complete. Yet, in order to reach our goal of high readiness, our organizations must learn to effectively push equipment through continuous maintenance and supply cycles, despite competing tasks.As an Army, we can use a cyclic model of four gates to assess the effectiveness of our maintenance programs. Each gate corresponds to the completion of key tasks. If a unit does not pass through each gate consecutively, the cycle is not complete and efforts are wasted. This is where our Army often suffers from the "Lucy Effect:" key personnel and leaders get overwhelmed, fail to follow through with key tasks, and thus invalidate work that was previously completed. We can apply this model to both individual pieces of equipment and fleets in general.To pass through Gate 1, units must complete Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS) and install all available repair parts. Common "Lucy" problems we face include: not completing the PMCS using updated Technical Manuals (TM), failing to have parts and supplies available to complete repairs, losing repair parts before installation, leaders not actively participating in the process, and operators not completing PMCS and/or failing to follow start-up procedures as outlined in the TM.Passage through Gate 2 begins after the operators have successfully completed PMCS and ends once units produce completed DA 5988s (Maintenance Inspection Worksheet). Our biggest pitfalls in this phase happen when we enter incorrect or incomplete data onto the DA 5988. Implementing the following actions will ensure our worksheets have accurate data: leaders and maintainers must consistently verify and/or troubleshoot faults found by operators and must keep tools and references such as FEDLOG, Maintenance Support Devices and TMs current. In addition, enablers like AMC Logistics Assistance Representatives can help units in diagnosing difficult problems.Next, we enter Gate 3 by turning parts required on the DA 5988 or the DA 5990 (Work Order) into valid requisitions. To obtain valid requisitions, the following must occur: DA 5988s must be reviewed by Maintenance Control leadership, and the supply clerks (92-A) must register the faults against the NMC equipment before ordering the required repair parts using the Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-A). Once the requisitions are entered, Brigade/Division-level maintenance and financial managers must approve the purchases. Unfortunately, this is often the point where the "Lucy Effect" hits hard. Often Soldiers report that they seldom see updates on their 5988's. Units will work for several days producing good DA 5988's only to have their efforts invalidated because the supply clerks in the Maintenance Control Office are overworked or assigned to other duties at the very time they are needed to push requisitions through the cycle.Another common obstacle at Gate 3 occurs when our clerks input incorrect requisition data. When we enter bad part numbers (NIINs/NSNs), incorrect priority designators (02, 05, 12, etc.) or Required Delivery Dates (RDDs), it puts us at the bottom of the Army's supply priorities . In fact, excluding known supply shortfalls, a common reason for a long Estimated Ship Date (ESD), is incorrect data entry.We reach Gate 4 when repair parts reach the unit warehouse (SSA). We support this effort by conducting higher-level maintenance and supply management. One key element of maintenance management includes the use of GCSS-Army reports, such as the Equipment Status Report (ESR). Our Army standard is that all NMC equipment must be shown on the ESR. However, we often report an equipment status that differs from what is on the ESR, particularly with communication equipment. The use of spreadsheets, slants, or other reports, unless tied directly to the ESR, gives commanders a false view of readiness. The solution to false reporting is simple: update equipment status in GCSS-A correctly and report what is on the ESR.Another element of this final phase includes functional maintenance meetings at all levels of command, along with training calendars which support service schedules. Our focus in maintenance meetings includes executing and assessing the maintenance plan prepared in regular training meetings.One essential subject we must assess in our maintenance meetings is the status of parts requisitions in the supply system. This meeting often serves as a forcing function for maintenance managers to examine requisition data, to ensure validity and to track parts as they are shipped from their source of supply. Keeping an eye on critical parts as they transit from hub to hub allows commanders to predict their combat power. Furthermore, with timely assistance from supply representatives in the DOD Enterprise, unit-level leaders can prevent important parts from getting hung up or lost in transit.Many of us at higher levels of supply management define success as getting a critical part to the SSA. However, we must remember that these cycles are continuous. It is in the transition from Gate 4 back to Gate 1 that our most painful correlation appears: The longer the elapsed time between the part arriving at the SSA and the moment the part is installed on a piece of equipment or accounted for in a Shop Stock, the greater the likelihood that the part will be misplaced or lost and thus wasted.Sadly, the CL IX supply discipline problem may be the most under-acknowledged problem in Army readiness. We often congratulate each other when we hold a successful "Clean Sweep" operation to turn in CL IX supplies that we find in our motor-pools. Last year one Army installation turned in almost $33.5 million dollars of supplies back to the supply system in organized clean sweep efforts. However, this amount can also be interpreted as $33.5 million dollars of lost parts. Our effort to recover these supplies back into the supply system is noble, but we also need to understand why we have CL IX piled up in containers, motor-pools, and supply rooms.Aside from financial mismanagement, the loss of repair parts highlights the most important aspect of managing maintenance cycles: every person in a unit, from company to division level, must work together to keep these cycles rolling for every piece of equipment. The actions or inactions of one person can waste the efforts of the entire organization. When someone loses a part after all the effort put forward, they lose much more than cost of the part. They also invalidate the work that everyone else did to get that part, breaking the maintenance cycle and causing that piece of equipment to remain inoperable for often twice as long.Even though, like Lucy and Ethel, we have more work to do every day than we have time to complete, we can mitigate the "Lucy Effect" by being cognizant of maintenance cycles and ensuring that our efforts at each part of the cycle build on each other. High readiness results from organizations effectively pushing equipment through continuous maintenance and supply cycles.-------------
Maj. Jared Elliss currently serves as the 3/1 AD ABCT, Brigade Logistics Assistance Team Chief (BLST). He has previously served as a BLST Chief for 155th ABCT as they mobilized for deployment to Kuwait. He served in the 25th IN DIV as both a Maintenance Control Officer and a Distribution Company Commander.