FORT DETRICK, Md. — Collaboration between U.S. Army medical materiel developers and sustainers means that new devices fielded to the warfighter not only provide the required capabilities, but also longevity and durability in the field, as well as value to the American taxpayer.
The partnership between the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, the medical materiel developer, and U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command — the Army’s medical materiel life cycle management command — continued to grow during a recent operational field test of new equipment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in late September.
There, operators and product managers from USAMMDA got a first-hand look at the capabilities of new X-ray systems being developed for veterinarian detachments.
At the same time, it provided an opportunity for AMLC’s Integrated Logistics Support Center, or ILSC, to evaluate the sustainability of that device, considering future preventative maintenance, calibration and repair requirements.
Jessy Moore, a health care technology manager from the ILSC’s Readiness and Sustainment Directorate, or R&S, observed the test to consider those sustainment needs.
“My role was just to observe the test plan and see how the end users, the clinicians use the device, and also observe the 68As, or medical maintainers, and how they were able to read the manual and conduct a preventative maintenance inspection and calibration verification of the equipment,” Moore said of the test event Sept. 27-29.
While observers from ILSC don’t participate directly in the field test, which is managed by USAMMDA, Moore said there’s plenty to monitor and consider.
How will the medical maintainers be able to repair the device if it breaks down? Do they have the right test equipment, tools and skills to sustain the device, once its fielded and transitions to sustainment?
The ILSC’s responsibility is to influence supportability and sustainment during the acquisition life cycle so that product development and modernization will result in supportable, sustainable and affordable medical equipment before a device is fielded to the force.
Moore said a sustainment-oriented review of an operational test can catch certain things that may pose problems in the future, such as needing more expansive and explanatory repair manuals that include photos or step-by-step instructions to clearly convey how to repair and conduct preventative maintenance on a device in the field.
“If we catch it early, sustainment isn’t an afterthought,” Moore said. “If the device was already fielded and we didn’t take those into consideration, it makes it more difficult to sustain that device.”
Planning for sustainment on the front end of a device’s life cycle can save the Army time and money in the form of unforeseen repairs, parts and training for operators and maintainers alike.
“It all snowballs if things are missed early in the acquisition process that could have been easily identified had we had a presence during that operational test,” Moore said.
R&S Director Pam Wetzel emphasized the importance of the partnership between AMLC and USAMMDA, which serves as the product manager, or PM, for new medical devices, especially at the start of the procurement process.
Being involved from the beginning phases of materiel development allows “us to better support the PM across all of their projects and their systems,” she said, in addition to building positive working relationships with the PM teams at USAMMDA.
“As members of those teams and participants at these events, we build that collaboration with the PM and become each other’s subject-matter experts,” Wetzel said. “The sooner we get all parties involved to help identify potential items of concern in the life cycle management process, the better the product will be in the end.”
USAMMDA Commander Col. James “Andy” Nuce echoed Wetzel that collaborative partnerships with stakeholders, like AMLC, ensure sustainment options are realized and create efficiencies for the service branches and taxpayer alike.
“Filling critical equipment gaps and delivering medical materiel to the warfighter is what USAMMDA does,” Nuce said. “Together, we make sure the warfighter has the critical sets, kits and outfits they need to be mission ready.”