Our Maintenance and Engineering Support (MES) Formation plays an important role in providing responsive maintenance and engineering support for all Army Systems and SAF Land Platforms to sustain different operations. They also provide technical training for our servicemen to perform various maintenance roles to support our training and operational requirements. The shrinking manpower within the SAF puts a strain on our resources to maintain the high operational efficiency of the vehicles, weapons and electronic systems. In view of this, MES has been leveraging on technology to help our soldiers train and operate maintenance assets more realistically and efficiently, as well as to ensure that our arsenal of systems and hardware are able to perform at their full capabilities in a safe and most cost-effective way. Let us take a look at their recent innovations!
Universal Recovery Circuit
The Universal Recovery Circuit (URC) was built to enhance training effectiveness, experience and safety. Traditionally, recovery training in the SAF was always challenging to plan and execute due to the extensive resources required, notably the limited number of suitable training grounds that provide the realism and fidelity required.
Universal Recovery Circuit
The URC comprises a full spectrum of recovery training facilities required for motorised, wheeled and tracked recovery platforms. It is able to simulate multiple terrains and difficult recovery scenarios regardless of weather conditions. This include the recovery of mired platforms, recovery of side-slipped platforms, as well as the recovery of side-turned platforms. To enhance the safety of recovery training, the URC uses an open concept to minimise blind spots along with the use of machine vision to identify the presence of soldiers in danger zones.
ME6 Ng Kok Leong Lawrence, Commanding Officer OETI Engineering School, said that "the trainers highlighted that using the URC resulted in significant reduction in administrative and preparation time. Specifically, to source for suitable terrain such as a mud pool for recovery training would have taken days versus the zero preparation required when using the URC".
Purposefully located amongst other training areas and facilities, MES can leverage on them to conduct a full suite of recovery training activities, including driving familiarisation. Overall, the innovatively designed URC allows servicemen to train more effectively, efficiently and safely in a sustainable manner.
Demonstration for the recovery of side-turned platforms.
Recovery of side-slipped platforms
Recovery of a mired Terrex by the Wheeled Recovery Vehicle
The Autonomous Techstore (@TS) was conceptualised to revolutionise the ordnance supply chain in Our Army, ensuring a continuous supply of spare parts for Our Army’s platforms, weapons and electronic systems.
@TS is the result of co-creation with our servicemen to understand the ground challenges. Previously, our logistical processes of issuing spares to technicians and receiving parts from Army Logistic Base (ALB) were labour intensive. 3SG Wong Xiu Yeung Nicholas, Tech Store Personnel, shared that "the issue and receipt process was almost done entirely manually. It was also very long drawn and involved a lot of coordination with the technicians".
3SG Wong Xiu Yeung Nicholas, Tech Store Personnel.
Smart technologies such as Machine & Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Video Analytics, Cloud Solutions, Mobile Applications, Smart Lockers and Internet of Things (IoT), were adopted to increase operational effectiveness, reduce enterprise risk, enhance users' experiences and more importantly, achieve a significant reduction in headcount.
Main entrance of @TS, which uses Near-Field Communication/Bluetooth Low Energy for entry.
Overall, the @TS enables a seamless workflow between ALB and Army Maintenance Workshops. The digital infrastructure and workflow of the @TS supports the operations of Our Army effectively 24/7, without compromising security as well as the safety of our servicemen. 3SG Wong shared that it is "more convenient and efficient for us and the delivery man". ME1-1 Muhammad Bin Mohamed Iqbal, Army Engineer, expressed that in the past, "if parts are not available in the store, it will take about three to four days for it to be delivered to ALB". With the @TS in place, "drawing of parts is a breeze. There is no more manual handing and taking over process. ST Logistics can deliver and technicians can pick up the parts anytime of the day".
ME1-1 Muhammad Bin Mohamed Iqbal, Army Engineer.
Next Generation Asset Preservation System
The next generation Asset Preservation System (APS) is a multi-year, multi-disciplinary approach to utilise various smart technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence (AI), smart tools, data analytics and machine vision to enhance operational effectiveness, reduce manpower requirements, achieve cost savings as well as increase maintenance efficiency. APS was a ground up initiative that started with two of our engineers and a sandbox. After studying the current practices and maintenance to meet the growing engineering demands, ME5 Andrew Tay and ME4 Ang Yong Quan felt the need to "generate and communicate new ideas to increase operational efficiency". It is now a full suite of initiatives to preserve our assets efficiently and effectively.
To ensure operational readiness of our preserved vehicles, their battery charge must be maintained at an optimal level at all times. The Integrated Smart Charging System (ISCS) allows automated charging, which eliminates the tedious and time-consuming labour to manually crank start the vehicles, just to prevent the batteries from being depleted. It also enables the technicians to monitor the battery life in real time at the central control station, enabling timely replacements and increasing the battery lifespan.
Traditionally, the vehicle oil would be changed every two years (purely based on time norms). The Oil Analysis System evaluates the oil at the 2-year mark, providing the technicians with a clearer visibility on each individual vehicle’s oil and lubricant health statuses, thus potentially extending the intervals between oil change.
Technicians used to spend hours to check if the rubber seals on our vehicles are serviceable. The Acoustic Diagnostics includes an ultrasonic emitter and ultrasonic receiver, which will allow technicians to pick up sound leaks from damage seals, reducing the time taken to manually inspect the vehicles.
The Intelligent Scanning and Analysis System (iSCAN), which is empowered by machine vision, enables quick and accurate identification of faults on the exterior of the vehicle, which are otherwise inspected physically by technicians climbing up and down the vehicle.
Way ahead: The Autonomous Inspection Vehicle (AIV), a type of robot with machine vision, will work together with the iSCAN, to provide a consistent and holistic coverage of vehicle inspection. The AIV will be capable in identifying simple faults such as flat tyre and oil leaks, which frees up manpower for more sophisticated maintenance. It will also be equipped with a humidity sensor that is able to log down the humidity as it moves around the Controlled Humidity Environment (C.H.E.) Building. The gathered data will help our technicians to better understand the area which humidity needs to be reduced.
Innovation comes in many forms. It can be simply accounting for all the support elements required to deliver a complete and integrated fighting capability. It can also be about reorganising our maintenance operating model and processes across different levels. More importantly, our servicemen from MES have elevated ground-up solutions into a new way of seeing and doing things, which will eventually translate into new organizational capabilities to address our Army’s future requirements and sustain operational effectiveness.
Excellence through Professionalism!