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Chassis Plans: Life Cycle Improvement Focus 

US Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition Day 3 (11 April 2018) Mid-Day Report


San Diego, California-based Chassis Plans greeted 2018 Navy League delegates as its brand awareness was increasing with military services in the US and 13 other nations around the globe. 

From the US military market perspective, the company’s ruggedised computers, tablets, storage and display systems, are used in ground control stations, flight simulators and onboard ships – for starters. Beyond products, the author had a welcome opportunity to discuss this company’s imperative for meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations for their materiel’s life cycle.     

While Chassis Plans company was responding to a recent contract for air traffic control system data recorders for all US Navy CVNs and LHAs, and shipping other materiel to existing customers, it was concurrently focused on gaining other efficiencies. 

“The significance of the products, and what we do that is also really important to end users, is configuration control management and revision control,” Mike McCormack, the company’s president and CEO explained. To this end, he noted his company refines the normal acquisition process, “by taking commercial grade componentry, packaging it in a survivable, 901D [US military standard for shock qualified] enclosure, and implementing revision control and provide obsolescence management – that is the critical factor for the Navy. They want it in a COTS package that is readily available off the shelf. So, what we do, since we have 100,000s of configurations is have ‘MOTS’ (modified off-the-shelf) – taking your preexisting designs and slightly modifying them to meet the end user requirements without ‘designing the wheel all over again’.” 

The company also provides revision control, meaning every single component from the mother board to input-output board, are “road mapped”, allowing the supplier to manage the configuration and say, “How long do you need it controlled for?” 

While BAE Systems’ LCS (US Littoral Combat Ship) Communications Systems is representative of Chassis Plans’ supported materials that may remain in service for ten or more years, the original processors and other sub-assembly items will not be available through the life-span of these products. Accordingly, “we manage that configuration for them, sending them ‘end of life’ notifications, let them know changes that will take place on the road map for each of those components to permit them to manage the changes and make sure you are providing suitable substitutes that are survivable in their operational environment.”   

In addition to revision control and configuration management, the company also implements thermal management through its Syscool proprietary intelligent fan control board, that controls fan speed for optimum cooling, reduces energy consumption and monitors fan operation and chassis temperature. This technology was developed to in response to the Pentagon’s increased focus on energy management.   

Beyond the many refinements to a product’s life cycle Chassis Plans has in place, the author asked the corporate leader what other requirements he is striving to meet. “The navy is always looking for smaller, lighter and faster, reducing the size of the product, making it lighter weight at a lower cost and delivering it very rapidly.” 

The company meets the “very rapidly” requirement by using its competencies in its commercial portfolio, taking a comparable, commercial-grade computer, populating it with everything its military counterpart in ruggedized systems will have, and performing required software testing.  “We can deliver those solutions in two weeks, so they can carry on with their software testing while we’re developing the rugged chassis for them. Delivering it as a full system may take 8-10 weeks,” the industry veteran said.                                      
Last September, Israel-based Aeronautics acquired Chassis Plans. “The reason they acquired us is because of our expertise in being able to produce the products that go into a ground control station (GCS),” Mr. McCormack explained, and pointed out, his products meet Aeronautics’ other competencies in the UAS domain including payloads, where reduced form factor and increased endurance are vital requirements.       

Marty Kauchak

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