Marine Corps Motor T looking for smarter trucks
In the not-too-distant future, Marine Corps 7-ton trucks may be able to diagnose worn-out parts before they go bad, put in an order for a relevant replacement and get the part 3D printed and shipped to their location to be installed — all without a human in the loop.This advanced logistics will hopefully keep the wheels rolling to supply troops in combat. A potential problem is that enemy hackers might be able to spoof the trucks system and make it inoperable.
It’s an aspiration that illustrates the possibilities of smart logistics, said Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics (I&L). And the process has already begun to make it a reality.
In the fall of 2016, Marines at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri equipped about 20 military vehicles, including Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, known as MTVRs or 7-tons, and massive tractor-trailers known as Logistics Vehicle System Replacements, or LVSRs, with engine sensors designed to anticipate and identify key parts failures. It’s a commercially available technology that some civilian vehicles already use, but it’s a new capability for Marine Corps trucks. Testing on those sensors will wrap-up this summer, and officials with I&L will assess how accurately and thoroughly the sensors captured and transmitted maintenance data.
If all goes well, the Marines then will work to connect the sensors with an automatic system that can order parts that will then be 3D printed on demand and delivered to the vehicle’s unit.
“How do we use that data and how do we link that back to our fabrication or supply network to make the system operate in theory without a person in the loop, so make sure we’re doing push logistics [versus] pull logistics,” said Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, a senior member of the Marine Corps’ logistics innovation team and the service’s additive manufacturing lead. “Now we have the part there waiting when the vehicle gets back in from the convoy, or it’s already there a week in advance before we know we need to change it out. So that’s the concept and that’s what we’re going to try to prove with that.”