British defence contractor BAE Systems is working with the UK’s Cranfield University on a new technology that could bring integrated vehicle health management (IVHM) capabilities to vehicles contracted out to land, sea and air forces.

Unlike normal IVHM capabilities, however, the project expects to develop technologies used today for use in the entire supply chain, increasing service delivery and availability of assets and fleet.

BAE Systems MAS research & technology exploitation manager Matthew Millward says the application is being planned for use on all vehicles, from more mature platforms to newer fleets such as unmanned aerial vehicles and could be in use within just 12 months.

“Currently across our business we have requirements for different platforms for health management,” Millward says.

“One of our main drivers for IVHM is to help us deliver our available base contracts in a smarter way – if we understand the health of the fleet or individual we can take out the risks and costs associated with operating them.”

IVHM is not a new concept, especially in aerospace, but at present the information that feeds into the supply chain from vehicle to back end is limited.

The Cranfield University research, being conducted at a new IVHM Centre started there last week, is hoping to integrate information that can be used by all parties involved in fleet maintenance and construction.

From business intelligence systems to customer relationship management, researchers hope to use the technology to provide valued and detailed results for design, maintenance, human resources, parts ordering and budgeting to allow timely and cost-effective decisions to be made.

Professor and director of the IVHM Centre at Cranfield University Ian Jennions says the research expands on current IVHM work performed at the university.

“The end-to-end view is what we are looking at – from a partner’s supply chain to the OEM operator of the company who produced and franchised a part to the small business that may be providing a separate service,” Jennions says.

“With this new system, you will be able to look at it as insurance, risk mitigation and a measurement of future challenges.”

How it will be managed and charged once complete, however, is still unknown but according to Jennions that does not mean key benefits cannot already be sold.

Millward says BAE is looking towards a plug-and-play option that will incorporate off-the-shelf offerings of hardware and software to allow the entire supply chain to benefit. How this will be managed is still unknown.

“We are very keen to have the centre develop standards and for BAE to have some influence on these so we can flow these requirements on to our suppliers so they can start producing hardware and software that is plug-and-play capable but we are still discussing various ways of taking that applied research into the business,” Millward says.

And while the UK government has not had buy-in on the project, Millward says it has been involved in discussions at both a technical and business level.

The centre is currently working to attract more investors from all parts of the sector from the industry’s leading brands to local business to harness benefits throughout the entire supply chain.

Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Meggit and Thales have also signed up as partners to the centre.

By Penny Jones.