Surface Warfare Magazine
Sharing stories and news from Sailors across the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces
 
4/25/2017
The Connectivity Conundrum - Getting the Latest PMS Docs Wherever You Are

Be honest, hasn’t the internet spoiled you? It’s easy to forget how this technology has connected us to so many things at the touch of a button. We can shop online, pay bills, get smarter, and generally amuse ourselves for hours on end if we like. Remember the days of dial-up when loading one page could sometimes take upwards of 2 or 3 minutes? Those are long gone. Now we can check the web while standing in line at the grocery store. The internet has really changed how we use technology to communicate and receive information today. The internet makes information and data readily available and we expect our software applications to automatically download new content, updates, and information without having to think about it. Whether it is your home computer, tablet, or smart phone – the operating system, virus scans, content updates, and the latest downloads are continually being updated while you are focused on other tasks. It is easy to get annoyed if you have to click “OK” to tell your computer or mobile device to perform a synchronization.

Who has time for that? We just want our devices to do it so we always have the latest-and-greatest applications when we need them.

Incredibly, this idea of continuous updating is something current Navy 3-M systems are not capable of. This is due to limited bandwidth and warfare systems having priority on ships. It is the main reason the Fleet receives Force Revisions via the mail and heavily contributes to the paperwork and administrative burdens Sailors deal with today. The Future of PMS (FoPMS) is trying to change this. FoPMS is a modernization of the Navy’s Planned Maintenance System. It’s a six year project whose ultimate goal is to reduce the administrative burdens that current PMS places on Sailors. There are numerous innovative ideas being explored for the FoPMS project including Leadership Dashboards and a better way to receive Sailor feedback. Connectivity is key to a modern Planned Maintenance System. It is not unreasonable to think the latest PMS documents and status updates should be available 24/7. Therefore, near real-time ship-to-shore data communication is the goal for the future. So how do we get there? By Identifying the roadblocks that make this goal difficult to achieve. But it’s not only being connected. As we’ll see, it’s also about being able to work in a disconnected mode as well. 

 

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As it stands, smaller Navy platforms often struggle with the amount of bandwidth, or internet connectivity, they have available at any time. This problem is going to increase as new system designs, like FoPMS, create additional demands on that limited bandwidth. Also, these new demands often outpace the growth of the bandwidth for most platforms. Since FoPMS is a Navy-wide program, there are other units that have bandwidth challenges too like submerged submarines and forward-deployed Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) units. These units are often in locations that may limit the use of internet connectivity. Additionally, the latest Cybersecurity threats also challenge our ability to have continuous virtual communication. We need to plan for a disconnected capability that enables PMS support while our expeditionary warfighters are on missions that require them to operate offline.

The FoPMS approach will maximize the benefits of internet connectivity when it is available and to always allow for the applications to run locally without internet connection. When the communications pipeline is open and available, the FoPMS system will upload the latest PMS status updates and feedback reports, while automatically downloading the latest PMS logistics documents and updates. However, when the communications are not available, the local server will continue to provide the essential PMS applications without the Sailor needing to know that the operational mode has changed. Think of it like you would your email. You don’t have to be connected to draft emails, read emails or access downloaded files, but once you’re connected, your email system is smart enough to send everything and update your inbox. That’s what FoPMS will do for updating items like PMS documents, metrics, shore-side reports and other PMS applications.

The Future of PMS will provide automatic Force Revision updating capability to SKED via the internet, eliminating the manual DVD process used today. Automatic updating through the internet will also ease the burden of having to apply Force Revisions to onboard equipment and identifying applicable PMS changes to virtually eliminate the need for pen-and-ink line-outs. Delivery would be at the speed of the internet and not at the mercy of the mail service. It’s time to harvest the technology that is currently available to make this possible. It is extremely important that FoPMS provide seamless PMS capability to customers like those in NECC who must operate their PMS system while deployed and disconnected from the internet. When the mission and connectivity allows, these activities can link to the internet to get the latest and greatest PMS documents. The flexible architecture planned for the Future of PMS will be designed to provide the best functionality while supporting the widest range of platform configurations and security postures. Internet technology has come a long way. It’s time for Navy PMS to catch up and get a little spoiled too. Surface Warfare Magazine

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