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Logistics: A Total System’s Approach

Benjamin S. Blanchard
Professor-Emeritus, Virginia Tech

A Historical Perspective
The subject of logistics can be approached from several different perspectives. The most
common approach, practiced in the commercial sector, deals with the "business-oriented"
functions of procurement (purchasing), material flow, transportation, warehousing,
distribution, and related activities associated with supply chain management. These activities
have primarily been directed toward the acquisition and delivery of relatively small
consumable items and the functions of product design, maintenance and support, and disposal
have not been included in most instances. Further, these various activities have not been well
integrated, and a total system's life-cycle approach has not been assumed.
Conversely, in the defense sector, the spectrum of logistics has been directed toward the
acquisition, distribution, sustaining support, and retirement (phase-out) of systems. In addition
to procurement, material flow, transportation, and distribution functions, activities dealing
with product design, maintenance and support, and material recycling/disposal have been
predominant. A system must first be designed such that it can be easily acquired and
transported/distributed to the user's (consumer's) operating site(s); it must be configured so
that it can be effectively and efficiently maintained and supported throughout its planned life
cycle; and, when retired, its material elements must be recycled and/or disposed of without
causing any degradation to the environment. The emphasis here has been applied primarily to
large, complex, and highly sophisticated defense systems, with a life-cycle orientation.
To date, these somewhat different approaches to logistics have not been all-inclusive (in
terms of including all of the applicable life-cycle activities necessary), have not been
addressed from a total system's perspective, the different elements have not been very well
integrated, and logistics has basically been considered "after-the-fact" and downstream in the
system life cycle. As a result (and based on experience), many of the systems in use today are
not very cost-effective in terms of their operation and support. Further, one often finds that
there is a lack of total cost visibility at the times early in the system life cycle when decisions
are made relative to future logistics requirements. For many systems, the costs associated
with the initial design and development, construction, the initial procurement of capital
equipment, production, etc., are relatively well known. However, the costs associated with the
distribution, utilization, and sustaining maintenance and support of the system throughout its
planned life cycle are somewhat hidden. In other words, the "iceberg" effect, as illustrated in
Figure 1, often prevails, and the total life-cycle cost for a given system may not become
visible until after-the-fact. This is happening at a time when the demands for logistics (in the
future) are increasing while, at the same time, available resources are dwindling and
international competition is increasing worldwide.

equipment. the hidden costs reflected in the "iceberg" in Figure 1) stem from the consequences of decisions made during . software.) must have a functional purpose and be directed to the accomplishment of some designated mission objective. Experience has indicated that a significant portion of the life-cycle cost for a system (i. Further.e. etc.Figure 1. Total cost visibility Logistics In The System Life Cycle In response to some of today's challenges. this overall support infrastructure must be addressed from the beginning in the life cycle when system requirements are initially defined and the early stages of planning and conceptual design are in progress.. information. logistics and its related support infrastructure must be considered as a major element of a "system. people. there must be a logistic support infrastructure in place and dedicated to the fulfillment of mission objectives. which may constitute an integrated mix of components (e. facilities. data.." and not as a separate and independent entity. If a system is to ultimately accomplish its intended purpose. A system.g.

it can be seen that the greatest impact on life-cycle cost (and hence logistics and maintenance support costs) can be realized during the early phases of system design and development. the design of a maintenance and support infrastructure. equipment packaging schemes. including life-cycle considerations (and the elements of logistics) in the decision-making process from the beginning is critical. have a great impact on the "downstream" costs and. etc. the design of a manufacturing process. construction and/or production.. utilization (system . Referring to Figure 2. the selection of materials.the early phases of advanced planning and conceptual design. while improvements can be initiated for cost-reduction purposes at any stage. Thus. hence. it can be assumed that the different phases will include design and development. Figure 2. life-cycle cost. Decisions pertaining to the selection of technologies. Opportunity for impacting logistics and system cost-effectiveness When addressing the system life cycle.

are the supply chain-related activities identified in Figure 4. Figure 3. and particularly in support of the construction/production and distribution phases. delivery.operation and support). Referring to Figure 3. System operation and maintenance support flow . Within the context of this flow. and retirement (material phase-out and recycling/disposal). there is a "forward" flow of activities which constitutes the process of evolving from an identified need to the design and development. and utilization of a system throughout its planned life cycle. installation.

there is a "reverse" (or backward) flow. recycling. reflected as a "reverse" flow in Figure 5. Such maintenance activities may be performed at the user's operational site. Given that a system/product will likely fail at some point in time during its operation. data/information. and/or disposal. Logistics activities in production/construction At the same time.Figure 4. test equipment. and related services (reflecting a "forward" supplyoriented flow as part of the overall maintenance and support infrastructure). one needs to address ALL of the activities in the life cycle for a given system. at the producer's factory. requires the consumption of certain supporting resources in the form of maintenance personnel. . and/or a combination thereof. transportation. at a "third-party" maintenance facility. In other words. facilities. at some intermediate-level shop. spare parts and associated inventories. to include not only what is presented in Figures 4 and 5 but those activities which support material phaseout. The accomplishment of these activities. some maintenance will then be required in order to restore the system to normal operational use so that it can continue to accomplish its mission.

must be properly integrated throughout the system life cycle. System maintenance and support infrastructure The Design For Logistics And System Support The basic elements of logistics.Figure 5. Figure 6 shows the results of an attempt to identify and classify these elements into specific functional groups. as reflected through the "flows" in Figures 4 and 5. Figure 6. The basic elements of logistic support .

information technology. multi-dimensional bar coding methods).g. they are closely interrelated and these interrelationships must be thoroughly understood. quantities of spare/repair parts/inventory requirements and the modes/speed of transportation). Referring to Figure 7.. With the on-going introduction of many new technologies (e. it is important to thoroughly understand the relationships between the design characteristics of the system (e. Figure 7. electronic commerce methods. More specifically.. along with the interrelationships among the different elements of support (e. The major steps in system design and development Additionally.. logistics requirements . levels of built-in diagnostics) and the various elements of logistics. database structures.g.While these elements may be identified separately. packaging concepts. global positioning systems. the proper integration of these elements must be accomplished early in the system design and development process as system-level trade-offs are accomplished and the ultimate system configuration becomes defined.g. the requirements for and nature of logistics are rapidly changing.

In other words. Logistics Engineering and Management. applied in the development of systems from the beginning. both in the commercial and defense sectors. and to recommend that the logistics and support infrastructure be addressed as an inherent part of the systems engineering process. top-down allocations are accomplished. In other words. to identify the various logistics and related activities being accomplished in different phases of a system life cycle.(and the maintenance support infrastructure) must be initially addressed as part of conceptual design as the system operational requirements and the maintenance concept are developed..S. This constitutes a top-down "pull" process versus the more traditional bottom-up "push" process which has been predominant in the past. design criteria for the logistic support infrastructure are developed. Reference Blanchard. 5th Ed. Summary The purpose herein is to provide a brief overview of logistics as it is being practiced today. and (hopefully) a wellbalance and cost-effective infrastructure will be developed for operational use. the logistic support infrastructure must be developed as an integral part of the systems engineering process and considered as a major element of the system from the beginning. . Prentice-Hall. Given a set of system top-level requirements.. to suggest that these logistics activities could be integrated and considered as a major "element" of the system. 1998 (the figures in this paper were extracted from this text). the subject of logistics must be addressed from a total system's life-cycle perspective from the beginning. B.