EME 2000 AD AND BEYOND : A CONCEPT PAPER
The military strategy of a country is conceived out of its national alms and aspirations. These also have a bearing on the national threat perceptions. The strategy lays down certain operational requirements and a resultant logistics philosophy. An efficient and effective engineering support management system is a vital link in the overall integrated logistic system. In our context, the financial considerations weigh down heavily even at the stage of formulation of a viable military strategy and therefore the life cycle management of military equipment and a well conceived EME support to achieve the same at present and in the future assumes greater significance.
The quest for self-reliance is an important aspect of our defence preparedness, and we cannot ignore the strategy-technology linkage at any stage. With the decreasing allocations for modernisation in real terms, it is essential that we strive for excellence through system effectiveness, pruning organisations, streamlining procedures and upgrading our facilities to retain the competitive advantage in any future war scenario. With the new trends in unleashing market forces in the global scene, our country cannot anymore remain in a ‘stand alone’ mode and the army also will have to introspect on its status of operational readiness and take necessary steps to formulate an affordable and feasible military strategy for the ensuing decades of the 21st century.
An effective engineering support system can be sustained only through continuous evolution. When a unit of the combat arms receives a new family of weapons, it can forget the limitations of the earlier weapons held by them. This is not so in the case of logistics and engineering support organisations and units. They must find ways within an austere budget not only to support several generations of weapons and equipment, but also modernise the systems including Infrastructural facilities so that it can support systems that are but mere ideas on the drawing board. It will take careful planning and decision making to develop an effective engineering support system that can support a large variety of complex and multi-disciplinary weapons and equipment in the future.
The aim of this paper is to conceptualise an efficient and cost effective engineering support system by the Corps of EME for the year 2000 AD and beyond.
LAYOUT OF THE PAPER
The concept will be discussed in the following format :-
(a) General environment -Army
(b) Environment – EME , Role, Objectives, Plans and Issues to be addressed.
GENERAL ENVIRONMENT – ARMY
Our national military objectives – both long term and short term are derived out of our national alms, based on the threat perspective which is detrimental to our integrity, stability and core national values. The outcome of a combat in the 21st century will largely depend on the technology superiority of the contestants. The acceleration of change has been much more pronounced and visible in the technological field in the overall military environment. The Gulf War of the early 90’s bears ample testimony for this trend. While technological reach will throw up new opportunities to the nation states, the deterrence inherent in the technological envelope may also constrain certain nations from following adventurous military pursuits to settle the political score. The salient aspects of the strategy – technology linkage which can influence the future course of our war efforts are :
(a) User friendly weapons and equipment with greater repair efforts in view of their high-tech multi-disciplinary design architecture.
(b) A greater use of satellite imagery, global positioning systems and space technology even in land warfare.
(c) Small, short duration local wars with greater Intensity of engagements resulting in higher attrition rate of equipment and therefore the greater need for battlefield recycling of repairables in acceptable timeframe.
(d) Extensive fielding of various missile systems both strategic and tactical by all the three services, with a possible Integrated equipment management and engineering
support philosophy with appropriate backup support from the Indigenous production agency.
(e) Greater strategic mobility of strike and reserve formations resulting in better power projection capabilities.
(f) Much greater dependence on Information technology, net working and intense use of cyberspace for command and control purposes.
(g) Predominance of brain power and emergence of the knowledge worker in defence related applications with attended problems of redundancy and skill transfer.
(h) Need for scientific management of skills Inventory at various levels with greater emphasis on human resources management.
Need for Continuous Modernisation
The rapid strides in the development of military technology and the shorter useful life cycle of the high-tech equipment dictate a philosophy of continuous system based modernisation for the armed forces. While the present three generation equipment philosophy has proved effective in principle, the implementation of such a philosophy has been rather tardy. Slippages in the procurement/ Indigenous successor equipments, delays in deinduction and discard of ‘wearing out’ military hardware, and above all short-sighted plans evolved in an ad-hoc manner to cater for proper Infrastructure for the in-service equipment management have all resulted in reducing the battle worthiness of our military machine significantly. There is therefore an urgent need to formulate a long term modernisation strategy for the Army which should address to the following issues :
(a) Systematic research and development to absorb and diffuse the latest available technology.
(b) Continuous revision and re-design of the battlefield capabilities.
(c) A system based approach for modernisation which should not only look at the weapons and equipment but also at their support facilities, logistics as well as engineering support elements.
(d) Progressive automation of support and ancillary facilities.
(e) Re-engineering of army organisations taking help from information technology and modern management techniques.
(f) Evolving a long term modernisation plan for AOC. ASC and EME to “modern technology
(g) Gradual pruning of the size of the find more funds for modernisation.
As defence expenditure is Included in the non-plan category. It becomes a necessary evil in the eyes of the national planners . Besides, the allocations were largely based on past trends with little bearing on future needs .A false sense of security from the fact that we never fought a war after 1971 on a large scale also adds credence to the lack of awareness of defence requirements, Large outlays for revenue expenditure prohibits any meaningful capital expenditure for modernisation efforts. There are however, many areas through which we internalise the problem and improve the overall situation in the immediate future. Some of the areas are:
(a) Laying down financial parameters for our perspective plans and stipulation of milestones and enforcing them rigidly to avoid cost overrun of projects.
(b) Formulation of a five year budget for EME and other services in tune with the perspective plans.
(c) Reduce expenditure on inventory carrying costs.
(d) Enhancement of financial powers. The new financial model proposed by the MGO is a step in the right direction.
(e) Greater emphasis on performance audit and cost accounting.
(f) Implementation of the recommendations of the committee of defence expenditure with respect to the authority and responsibility centres.
(g) Streamlining the existing procedures price negotiations, purchasing, warehousing and disposal.
(h) Reduce the layers of accounts and audit staff with greater use of automated systems records keeping, retrieval, control and monitoring systems.
Ceiling on Manpower
A large standing Army has of late become the bane of the nation becomes increasingly difficult to sustain such a large force. While reduction of forces have to be addressed by the external affairs people on political terms, the Army needs to introspect a great deal to find ways and means to prune the size in tune with modernisation. Various attempts have been made in the past in a selective and compartmentalised manner with no significant Impact as these studies could not address the problem in a holistic manner because of their blas towards the aspect of teeth-to-tail ratio.
Low Intensity Conflicts
The LIC environment prevailing in the country poses special problems to the services like EME as we are called upon to share the operational burdens like cordons, search operations and convoy protection duties. This results in diversion of scarce technical manpower for long periods with resultant degradation of repair capabilities of EME subunits. This situation may have to be accepted for some more time till the country as a whole finds viable political solutions to the problem. In the Intervening period, we need to train our officers and men in planning and execution of proper engineering support in a low intensity conflict environment.
ENVIRONMENT – EME
Role of the Corps of EME
The present assigned role of the Corps of EME is to achieve and maintain the operational fitness of electrical, mechanical, electronic and optical equipment of the Army. The effectiveness of fulfilling the above role naturally is dependent on all the agencies Including the user, general staff, DGQA, finance as well as other sister services like the AOC and the ASC. It has been experienced at times that there is a lack of perception among some of the user services regarding the complementary nature of the role played by various agencies in enabling EME to carry out its tasks and responsibilities and unreasonable demands have been placed on the EME. For example failure in the timely procurement of spare parts or FOL or even delays In execution of base overhauls due to faulty financial allocation etc have all been attributed many a times to the EME. This situation needs to be corrected immediately and EME while being held responsible for all the existing charter of responsibilities would do well to recast its role in a broad-based fashion as “to provide engineering support to the army equipment during peace and war” as this new role clearly spells out the boundary conditions for the Corps as far as inabilities arising out of the lack of performance of the other agencies are concerned.
Objectives and Plans
A desirable, modified and expanded charter of responsibilities of the corps of EME is as under :
(a) Command and control of EME units and subunits
. (b) Org and coord of recovery, Inspection and repair of equipment at all levels.
(c) Technical advice to the stall and units.
(d) Planning engineering support for equipment management in the army.
(e) Fabrication of specialist vehs/containers and limited manufacturer activities.
(f] Product improvement.
(g) Indigenisation of spare parts and manufacture.
(h) Defect Investigation and reliability enhancement.
(j) Development and manufacture of training simulators
The above charter includes Indigenisation which is in actual practice the classical role of the DGQA with EME at best only one of the vendors to the Ordnance as and when called upon to do so. However, in the overall scheme of things, the Corps could supplement the efforts of the DGQA as a ready and more responsive source to the Army. We, as a corps, also needs to develop our expertise and change our stance into a proactive mode as far as rendering of timely and effective technical advice to the staff and units are concerned. There is a visible erosion in our standing in this sphere and the quality of advice rendered is at times questioned by the other side, mainly because of the lack of overall result orientation contained in such advice. We need to Introspect a great deal in this regard. There is a need for a proper machinery to function as an Independent ‘think tank to assist the Dte Gen of EME in formulating a perspective plan for the Corps so that the General Staff and in particular, the PP Dte can allocate the necessary fund support for the same in their plan allocation. A Faculty of Studies, if established at the MCEME to function under the chairman ETAC will fulfill this requirement to a great extent.
Issues to be Addressed
The Inputs given above and their analysis have thrown up certain Issues to be addressed by our corps urgently. These are discussed in the following paragraphs.
Concept of Operator Repair
In order to examine ways and means to enlarge the technical ethos In various arms and services in tune with the higher aspiration level resulting from the upgrading of entry level qualifications for recruits, it was envisaged some time back to adopt a step by step approach covering a 10 years period for implementation and the main focus was Job Enrichment’ 1,e, making the operator more aware of the technology, need for preventive maintenance and routine diagnostics skills to discern warning signals of incipient failures or malfunctions. Any possible reduction in the first line EME manpower as a result of the above was purely incidental and the same was to be validated in consultation with the DGEME Unfortunately the concept of enlargement of technical ethos got misunderstood and it gol inextricably linked and thoroughly mixed up with other concepts which aimed at reduction 01 logistics manpower in field formations with a static or semi-static operational role. While we all agree that it takes approximately 2-3 years to convert a raw recruit to a Gde 3 mechanic, it will be wishful thinking if we expect a unit armourer or a driver to become a first line mechanic in a matter of weeks after training in any EME centre. We need to correct this impression at the earliest and bring in a semblance of order in the prevailing situation arising out of the cuts in EME manpower in URO’s and LRWs. The short term remedy lies in strengthening the UROS qualitatively while the long term solution lies basically in merging the light and field repairs into one entity with more flexibility to the CO EME Bn.
Specialisation – Quality of Intake
With the enlargement of the technological envelope bringing multi-disciplinary nature of modern warlike equipment, it is but natural that we improve the entry level qualifications, aptitudes as well as attitudes. The present system of trade allocation based purely on vacancies and the archaic testing procedures followed in the centres need an immediate review. We must capture a major portion of the ITI trained personnel and diploma holders, if required by partial funding of such institutions from the army budget for creating minimum service liabilities. Besides, the apprentices to be trained in our Army Base Workshops under the national scheme could also be made to bear some sort of service contract for the army, if found qualified otherwise. The number of drivers in EME can also be gainfully re-mustered with additional training as vehicle mechanic cum driver to make up our shortages as a driver in EME does not have a high utilisation factor in peace time working. Even during operations, they can be of immense value if suitably trained to repair vehicles also. In addition, we must also make conscious efforts to upgrade the driving skills of all our tradesmen, supervisory staff and officers in a planned manner.
Review of Trade Structure
The large number of trades in EME put enormous constraints in our manning policies and deployment of resources. An earlier study conducted on trade restructuring was basically an attempt to arrest the impending proliferation at acceptable levels with possible multi-skilling and a grouping policy for employment thrown in a limited way .We need to go much further from here and find viable answers through more meaningful multi skilling , merger of certain ancillary trades and creating more dual trades in related fields. Some of the possible combinations could be a single trade for communication equipment and computers, vehicle mechanic – electrician, EE mechanics as upgraded ( re-mustered ) vehicle mechanics, welder-cum-metalsmiths mechanic-cum-drivers. This, however, needs a separate study and analysis by itself.
Our current philosophy of Replace Forward and Repair Rearwards while stands general scrutiny in operation needs further strengthened by taking into account design intricacies of modern equipment which directly affect the maintainability parameters like MTTR. A case in point is the increase in repair efforts at field level for T-72 in comparison to T -55 or Vijayanta. The operationally acceptable repair time, recycling time, facility management etc needs to be enmeshed with corresponding skill levels and numbers to be deployed. Besides, there Is an urgent need to review our philosophy of aggregate and dedicated support more in favour of the former for the sake of the overall economy of efforts. There is also a need for a differential approach and treatment for repair philosophy to be adopted during peacetime, NWNP (No War, No Peace) as well as during operations. We should rely more on replacements forward of the Corps Zone during operations by creating adequate repair pools to cut down the recycling time.
Our echelon repair concept is of second world war vintage, more suitable for long drawn out operations covering long distance moves with associated problems of inventory management, recovery, backloading and leapfrogging of workshops to conform to shifting load centres as the operation progresses. Modern Integrated battle field is unlikely to hold the above premises any more valid. It is more likely that the echelons will merge and overlap at many points during war. It is therefore more prudent to redesign the echelons based on a grid concept conforming to the various demands arising out of equipment complexities. A more logical separation for planning the repair effort will be a demarcation into forward, Intermediate and base echelons, by disbanding all the LRWs but retaining the UROs duly strengthened. Thus, repair echelons could be selected to sult various equipment from among the URO. field workshop, zonal workshops and advance base/base workshops. The concept of medium repair will have to be Integrated into the above modified echelon repair system.
Review of Organisations
In spite of having a plethora of organisations both on PE and WE, our Corps is still confronted with a number of mismatches in the designed capabilities versus the actual tasks assigned to our repair echelons. The five workshop concept of our EME Bns while apparently increased user satisfaction had also reduced our flexibility to a great extent and brought down the second line workshops very thin on the ground. It is high time that we restructure our company size units keeping a minimum viable strength in view which can absorb the technical and administrative requirements effectively. In addition, as far as possible no EME unit should be dedicated below a Div/Indep Bde/Group level. At the intermediate echelon, the zonal workshop needs to be validated on a system concept. There is also a requirement to create one advance base workshop per command to improve our overall responses to the field army. The repair load from CPO and other paramilitary organisations should be undertaken only after sanction of extra manpower and not through mere book debits as is presently done. In the peace establishments, there Is a need to merge the activities of Dte Gen of EME and HQ Technical Group to avoid certain duplication in responsibilities. In the prevailing atmosphere of manpower sealing and a perceptible lack of credibility to our vintage work values, yardstick and manning norms coupled with the chronic shortage of junior officers in the Corps, it is imperative that we immediately Internalise the problem and re-engineer our organisations across the board in a more scientific manner for better effectiveness and functional harmony. The concept of surge capacity and various means to meet the same both during war and peace should be built into the system. As far as our Army Base Workshops are concerned, there is a requirement to re-define their goals based on the modern concepts of Productivity and Value Addition taking their throughput, Inventory carrying cost and operational expenses instead of resorting to cosmetic changes like cost accounting etc. We may also review our requirement for a dedicated manufacturing base workshop and probably offset the same for one or two advance base workshops to meet the demand of the field army.
While the work value and yardstick concept may constrain our number of technical personnel, another more important area to be addressed is our officer – supervisor – tradesmen ratio. With the introduction of multidisciplinary high-tech systems, the competence level needed to repair these equipment necessitated more and more supervisors and even officers to handle the repair Jobs. We therefore need a greater number of officers and HMST in our Corps. In the field of computers, this philosophy is already in practice. This also calls for attracting the right talent at the 10 plus 2 or diploma level so that the training and orientation efforts are reduced.
In our national endeavour to maintain a large standing army to meet various threat scenarios,, modernisation generally takes a back seat. At the same time it is also a paradox that many a times funds earmarked for modernisation go unutilised or underutilised. The Corps of EME should have a 10 year modernisation plan to cover all our activities with proper budgetary allocations. At the field level, we must improve the tactical mobility of our repair units, Improve kitting of spare parts, tools and accessories as well as diagnostic equipment. Use of computers, E. mall and paging services should be the norm rather than exception for Information management. At the intermediate level, we must create centres of excellence for material testing, ancillaries and product improvement through innovative methods. The Army Base Wksps should network their skills and competence with the Civil Industry and carry out R & D activities for reverse engineering, indigenisation and skill development.
While there is a need for more collaborative working with the Ordnance at all levels, we must also review our permissive repair schedules and scales to rationalise and minimise cost of inventory. The deletion of ‘O’ column from ISG is a step in the right direction. Just-in-time concepts can be incorporated where feasible in our ABC. VED and FNS analysis using modern software, ARS and Push models. Databases should be created on consumption pattern, battlefield damages and war maintenance scales using simulation techniques. Army Base Workshops should also adopt modern MRP (Material Requisition Planning) techniques.
The present policy permits repair by local contracts as an exception wherever spare captive capabilities are either not available or non existent. It is more sensible to look at outsourcing as an economic decision to clear small batch quantities as well as bottlenecks. Besides, it is also useful to adopt certain technologies not feasible to be captive in the army due to their high cost or infrequent demands. Our officers and men should also be trained on management of contracts to ensure that out-sourcing attempts become meaningful.
We already have a comprehensive and elaborate training philosophy for the Corps. The new training policy Introduced for officers is yet to be validated. While the present philosophy entails substantial effort by the training establishments, we can enhance its effectiveness if we introduce certain modular concepts and JIT’ in the fields of managerial and supervisory training for officers, JCOS, HMT’s and Civilian supervisors. Selective re-training of civilian work force to postpone any likely skill obsolescence should be built into the system. We should also attempt to network with other sister training organisations in the three services as well as with the civil industry. Training and development through distance education should also be explored. Training is a powerful medium to bring in behavioural changes and therefore the ‘HRD’ focus should not be lost sight of in all our curriculum. Another important area needing emphasis is in the training of trainers and there is a need to issue a comprehensive policy directive by the ETAC.
Management Information System
The Corps of EME became the pioneers in Information management in the early 70’s with the introduction of FORWARD studies. This was soon followed with the Field MIS. While the absence of a dedicated data channel may Inhibit some of our efforts, we can still do a lot through networking at least in the fields of training, base repair and the activities of MAGs. We should also utilise the facilities of DESIDOC as well as the INTERNET for research, training and development activities. Computer based sustainability studies should be undertaken by HQ Technical Group to maintain our proactive stance at all times in the future.
In the absence of a major war after 1971, our recovery concepts, equipment as well as training have become rather sterile. We have apparently not made any attempt to upgrade our systems. While it is understood that recovery techniques and equipment bear close relationships to the main equipment to be recovered, there should be no bar in modernising the existing facilities, where possible by Incorporating labour saving devices using modern technology available through automation and electronics. Training of recovery crew also needs greater emphasis during peacetime working. Recovery during any possible NBC environment in future also needs our attention.
Engineering Support Materials
This is a rather neglected area at present in our scheme of things. Most of the EME workshops are still deficient in many hand tools, SMTs, GPTEs and equipment. A concerted effort needs to be not only to make up for our deficiencies but als modernise our Inventory in this introducing power tools, modern diagnostic equipment and material handling devices.
Both the successive DGsEME have emphasised our need for customer orientation and focus. We have a very sacred role in this which includes customer education, advice as well as ensuring the quality of our output as desired by the user. The recent initiative by some of the Army Base Workshops to go In for ISO 9002 and MCEME for ISO-9001 certification is a right step. Even others can follow and emulate the TQM path in all their activities with zeal and dedication to bring the credibility and the image of the Corps back to where it should be. This can be achieved only through open communication channels, teamwork and total integration of our efforts right from the lowest tradesman upto the top hierarchy in our Corps.
The preceding analysis of the present environment and likely future scenario in which the corps of EME is expected to function and the various Issues which need to be addressed by us brings out certain recommendations at the conceptual level. These are enumerated below :
(a) There is a need to review the role and charter of responsibilities of the Corps for better clarity and functional effectiveness. A suggested role for the Corps is “to provide effective engineering support to the army equipment during peace and war.
(b) There is a need to re-vitalise our advisory role.
(c) We must establish a faculty of studies at the MCEME to work as a think tank to assist the Dte Gen of EME in carrying out effective and institutionalised perspective planning for the Corps with identifiable milestones and budgetary support.
(d) There is a need to formulate EME Budgets for every 10 years period in tune with the army plans.
(e) Review the present operator-repair concept to limit the same to a job enrichment exercise for the user personnel.
(f) Upgrade entry level qualifications and review the present trade allocation procedure in a more scientific manner.
(g) Reduce the number of technical trades through multi-skilling and amalgamation of related jobs.
(h) Review our repair philosophy to diffuse modern technology and to accommodate future operational requirements.
(j) Reduce repair echelons and adopt a variable concept as dictated by equipment complexities and design architecture.
(k) Retain UROs and strengthen them qualitatively.
(l) Adopt a minimum strength concept for company sized EME units to absorb the technical and administrative needs optimally.
(m) Disband all the LRWs and merge these with the second echelons.
(n) Review the existing organisation of the EME Battalion for more flexibility in employment.
(o) Do not provide one-to-one dedicated workshops below div/indep bde/group level.
(p) Zonal workshops to be organised on system concept as centres of technical excellence.
(q) Create Advance Base Wksp at the scale of one per Command.
(r) The repair load of para military organisation and CPO to be undertaken only after sanctioning of extra manpower.
(s) Merge the Dte Gen of EME and HQ Technical Group EME, to avoid duplication in responsibilities.
(t) Re-define the goal of Army Base Wksps based on modern concepts of Productivity.
(u) Review the need for an In-house and captive manufacturing Base Wksp.
(v) Review officer-supervisor-tradesmen ratio to meet functional and technological needs.
(w) Introduce 10 plus 2 level entry to EME.
(x) Introduce the concepts of a 10 years modernisation plan for the corps with budgetary support.
(y) Automate generation of PRS and scales using simulation techniques.
(z) Prepare war maintenance scales.
(aa) Army Base Wksps to adopt MRP techniques and networking with each other as well as dependent CODs.
(ab) Identify and develop out-sourcing agencies.
(ac) Institutionalise contract management training in the Corps.
(ad) Introduce modular and JIT’ concepts for management training.
(ae) Incorporate distance education concept wherever practicable.
(af) Maintain HRD focus during training to facilitate desirable organisational behaviour.
(ag) Operationalise MIS and data exchange including software technology.
(ah) Cat ‘A’ establishments to utilise DESIDOC and Internet facilities for research, training and development.
(aj) HQ Technical Group to initiate computer based sustainability studies on vital war like equipment.
(ak) Modernise recovery equipment and facilities.
(al) Initiate customer oriented quality management activities in the corps.
A service organisation like the EME needs to achieve a high level of user or customer satisfaction. There is an urgent need for a total commitment in all our ranks to provide the best and most effective engineering support and gain the confidence of the user during peace which will then extend through war There are many factors outside the control of the Corps but we can certainly influence these areas and decisions at all levels by a proactive stance. User satisfaction is derived from fault free equipment and quality of repairs. Our credibility as an organisation is largely governed by the quality of repair to ‘B vehicle during peacetime, as the exploitation of war like equipment is very limited. A sound policy for selection, training, repair concepts and maintenance based on a Total Quality Management (TQM) approach will go a long way in changing the present mindset among the users. We need to address this problem on a war footing at all levels on top priority.
The effectiveness of the engineering support is measured by its responsiveness, timeliness and overall quality as perceived by the user. With the proliferation of multi-disciplinary high-tech military hardware in the hands of troops which may be deployed in time and space in an integrated battlefield scenario in suture wars, it is imperative that the corps of EME take adequate measures to fulfill its operational role and peacetime commitments. In the years to come with the existing and likely future external constraints it will be prudent on our part to Internalise the problems and exploit our strength to the maximum, in tune with our perceived potential. We have an excellent work culture, result oriented approach, a reservoir of well trained manpower and above all a sense of dedication and commitment. It is upto us to synergise these assets and grow further in qualitative terms rather than in mere numbers by the tum of the 21st century.
About the Author
BRIG HARIKUMAR is a Technical Graduate from Kerala University and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers. He is a graduate of the Defence Service Staff College, has done the prestigious Higher Command Course at the College of Combat Mhow and is a MBA from Indore University. His important assignments so far included DAA & QMG of an Infantry Brigade, Col GS (EME). College of Combat, Director EME (Ops & Plans) Army HQ , Commandant 508 Army Base Wksp and Dean FIET, MCEME. He retired from service on 30 Nov 96.