Air Force product support managers intend to gather at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base later this month to better support not just their products, but each other.
The fifth annual Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Product Support Manager Forum will take place June 27 to June 29 at the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Kenney Hall. A virtual option is available for those unable to travel to Wright-Patterson.
Lansen Conley, director of logistics and logistics services for AFLCMC, is looking forward to it.
“This is just a great opportunity for us to bring our product support managers together,” Conley said in a recent interview. “It lets us focus on them specifically, because there are logistics and sustainment leaders within each one of our program offices that are buying and procuring weapons systems that the U.S. Air Force uses.”
Forum-goers will hear from senior Air Force and AFLCMC leaders. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall is scheduled to give the keynote address.
This is a familiar area for Kendall. A former vice president of engineering for Raytheon (among other roles), the secretary has worked in and written on sustainment extensively. “He knows how important it is to the business we’re involved with,” Conley said.
Product support goes beyond making sure customers receive products on time. Conley makes a comparison to buying a car. Car buyers need to have the backing of maintenance crews and spare parts, with technical manuals for maintainers and more, he said.
“We have to have all those same things for all of our weapons systems, and that’s what product support managers do,” he said. “They develop these strategies to keep those systems operational as much and as long as we can.”
Post-pandemic supply chain issues impacted the Air Force and other services. Support managers are working through them, Conley said.
“They impacted us in terms of spare parts coming in, getting parts repaired and returned to the field. Even in our large maintenance and overhaul facilities, their workforce were impacted,” he said.
He added, “We’re getting back up in that regard.”
Managers are increasingly focused on supply chain risk management, he said, looking closely at suppliers of raw materials and end products, their financial stability, legal standing and their connection to “overseas entities.”
Said Conley: “I think one thing the pandemic did that maybe is positive is, (it) shed so much light on our supply chains, not only for the Department of Defense and the Air Force, but even on a personal level for consumers in general.”
Product support remains more important than ever.
“Our very senior leaders in the Air Force are counting on them to do their jobs and do them well,” Conley said of his colleagues. “Because we as a nation really need to come through with logistics. You know, logistics readiness is really the key to winning wars.”