The Benefits of Integrated Logistics Support

May 22, 2014

Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) is a technical process in which support and logistics considerations are integrated within the design life cycle of a product or system. The overall aim is a cost-effective and durable system that performs to its maximum capabilities.

A lean, functional system that requires minimal support thereby increasing one’s return on investment (ROI): functional, reliable and usable whilst conforming to standards of best practice.

ILS is popular with product support, e.g. distribution and customer service systems.

Brief history of Integrated Logistics Support

Originally developed by the military, ILS has been adopted by the commercial business world who apply it to many of their processes. It consists of a series of support elements, integrated into the system life cycle and measured at regular intervals.

The ILS whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the combination of all the support elements results in a highly effective process that boosts productivity of product support or customer service systems.

ILS elements include:

  • Maintenance Planning
  • Logistics Support Analysis
  • Training
  • Human Resources/Human-Machine Interface
  • Support and Test Equipment
  • Computer Resources
  • Technical Data
  • Facilities
  • Packaging and Handling/Storage
  • Transportation/Delivery

This list is by no means exhaustive.

The result is a streamlined system that is easy to support and with a strong customer service ethos.

How do you determine the effectiveness of ILS?

The answer to that is a set of pre-defined metrics or ‘RAMT’ for short (reliability, availability, maintainability and testability). These metrics are used to measure the performance of each support element throughout the lifespan of the system.

In some situations, ‘system safety’ metrics are used as part of a risk management strategy.

Design, test and refine

This is an iterative process whereby each support element is tested on repeated occasions. Schedules are used which contain criteria specially designed for this process to ensure product support or customer service systems are in optimum condition.

An analysis is carried out to determine a set of tasks specific to an individual element. This helps with testing and suggestions for improvements.

One way to think of this is as a ‘continual improvement process’ in which every aspect is tweaked to improve its functionality. Regular maintenance, upgrades, repairs, training courses and tests are the tools used to achieve this.

Testing is followed by the production of a report outlining recommendations for change or improvement. It will highlight known errors that are disrupting operational efficiency, slowing down processes and leading to employee and management dissatisfaction.

You apply ILS as a means of refining your existing product support or customer services system until it meets approved guidelines and regulations.

The human element

People are an important part of any organisation. Their skills and experience contribute to the performance and efficiency of the system. Hence, why it is important that one nurture the capabilities of these employees ensuring they are able to cope with the demands of their role, often in pressurised conditions.

Human Resources are a vital part of the ILS process. The aim is to match the right person with the right job and there are various ways of doing this.

These include psychometric and/or proficiency tests that define an individual employee’s personality, skills and aptitudes. Once these have been analysed, management can allocate employees to roles in keeping with the results of these tests. Finding a perfect fit between the two.

The ILS process can help HR and senior management to devise teams consisting of a set number of employees, meeting Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) as part of an overall strategy. This may mean a reduction in headcount but the trade-off is improved productivity and lower costs.

Additional support provided in the form of specially designed training courses, keeping employees up to date with the latest technologies and processes.

Training the trainer

A word about training: this is another vital part of the ILS process that is implemented throughout. It covers training materials, techniques and equipment and applies to training officers/instructors and trainees.

Training modules are devised for new employees, providing them with the theory and practical skills necessary for their role. They are regularly tested on their knowledge and ability to carry out their role to meet the needs of the organisation.

Training officers are assessed on a regular basis to see if they are familiar with their materials and the manner in which this is delivered to the attendees. Training material is updated in accordance with management requirements and business goals.

Form and functionality

Regular maintenance is crucial to the operational efficiency of product support and customer services systems. ILS believes in optimal functionality of a system, achieved by a schedule of regular upgrades, maintenance and repairs. This pro-active rather than reactive approach means that a system is always in tiptop shape and fully operational.

This reduces the risk of a drop in productivity caused by a system failure, disruption or malfunction. If a piece of equipment breaks down due to a lack of maintenance then the effects can be costly.

The conventional business model factors in the cost of repairs and adopting a short-term approach, only undertakes this whenever there is a problem.

ILS Summary

The ILS process is a long-term process that seeks to prevent any problems before they arise. By implementing a series of support measures within the design lifecycle of a product or customer services system, they make use of existing resources for maximum productivity.

This technical process fits well within any organisation, streamlining its processes and procedures to meet a set of goals whilst saving time and money.

Many organisations operate in a short-term survival mode, which is risky in an increasingly competitive environment. Implementing the Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) process within your organisation guarantees long-term survival and continuing success.

Reduce waste, rationalise processes and empower your employees. The result is a lean and agile operational machine that performs to its maximum capabilities on a continual basis. An excellent process that delivers on all fronts, making it an essential strategy for business improvement.

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