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PS Magazine: 60 Years of Supporting Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance checks and services are critical to ensuring that vehicles and equipment are ready for use when needed. PS magazine provides an interesting and informative venue
for keeping Soldiers up to date on PMCS issues.

The nearly $100 billion in budget cuts that the Department of Defense is facing should have managers and commanders wondering where those cuts will occur. With the business community likewise looking for ways to reduce costs during this economic downturn, Plant Engineering magazine examined best practices in its December 2010 issue. The magazine identified four major areas that affect performance on the plant floor: maintenance, people, energy, and systems. This article will focus on maintenance.

Master Sergeant Half-Mast, PS magazine's expert avatar for preventive maintenance,
passes on useful tips for helping Soldiers identify potential maintenance problems

Plant Enginieering argues that "break-fix" as a maintenance strategy is disastrous and that a sound maintenance plan preserves capital and protects productivity. The preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) program is the Army's way of addressing this maintenance issue. Conducting PMCS is key to ensuring the success of a unit maintenance plan. When operators and unit-level mechanics conduct PMCS correctly, they can find deteriorating conditions and correct them before malfunctions occur.

The PMCS process (with its resulting maintenance actions) and equipment breakdowns are both forms of downtime. However, PMCS and related maintenance are far less expensive in terms of time, money, and personnel safety than fixing broken systems. A replacement o-ring does not cost much, though it may take some time to install. But installing a new o-ring is a lot cheaper and less time-consuming than replacing a burned-out engine.

Similarly, on an M2/3 Bradley fighting vehicle, a 62-cent spring for the ammunition compartment door latch may seem insignificant. However, if the spring fails, then the latch can unhook and the door can open. If the turret is then traversed, the door can slice through cables and rip open a fuel line, dumping fuel into the hull. From the failure of a 62-cent part, the million-dollar vehicle can be lost or, if not lost, require significant downtime for repairs.

Corrosion Reduction
Another aim of PMCS is to find corrosion, remove it, and prevent it. PMCS is simply the most cost-effective way of dealing with corrosion, and it is where huge cost savings can be found.

Corrosion studies offer some insight into how maintenance costs rise when PMCS is not emphasized at the unit level. Some studies indicate that corrosion of Army vehicles in fiscal year 2004 cost the Army $2 billion. Another $1.6 billion was lost in fiscal year 2005 to corrosion of Army aviation and missile assets.

Finding Time for PMCS
Plant Engineering asks the question, "Who has time to idle their plant in the middle of a production cycle?" In the Army, especially in combat environments, the equivalent question of local commanders is, "Who has time for PMCS when this convoy needs to move out now?"

Unfortunately, maintenance and operations are often considered two different, sometimes even opposing, actions. Such thinking often leads commanders to choose operations over maintenance. Commanders must be free to make those decisions, but they need to apply risk management principles when choosing maintenance or operations. At risk are Soldiers' lives, vehicle breakdowns in hostile environments, weapon failures in firefights, and equipment that will not perform during operational missions.

The real issue is whether commanders can trust that unit equipment is mission capable and can protect Soldiers in harm's way. Anything short of performing PMCS is rolling the dice. Commanders who delay or ignore PMCS gamble with Soldiers' lives and put mission success at risk.

No matter how advanced Army equipment may be, corrosion, friction, vibration, temperature, and precipitation are constant threats to equipment readiness. Preventive maintenance can substantially reduce repair costs.

PS Magazine
During World War II and its aftermath, the Army's prevailing attitude was that vehicles, weapons, and equipment were to be used, worn out, and replaced. The Korean War made it clear that the "use it up and replace it" attitude was flawed because Army materiel had not been maintained and did not function as needed early in that conflict.

As a result, the Army decided to emphasize preventive maintenance as the principal means of improving Army materiel readiness. Army leaders remembered a World War II publication, Army Motors, which used a few cartoon characters to discuss maintenance problems, and decided to use it as the model for a new publication. In June 1951, the first issue of , PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, was published using the cartoon format. Popularly known as PS magazine, it was eventually classified as a monthly technical bulletin (TB), TB 43–PS–series.

Today, Soldiers recognize magazine as a tool to get the latest PMCS actions for their equipment. magazine is a pioneer in the instructional use of cartoon characters, and 60 years of continuous publication validates the usefulness of cartoon sequential art as an information medium. magazine characters and talking vehicles deliver maintenance, supply, and logistics information to the Soldiers, Army civilians, and contractors who work in companies and battalions—the units that actually own, operate, and maintain the Army's equipment.

Occasionally, Soldiers write to the PS magazine staff and ask what official publication their commanders can reference to implement what was published in the magazine. What is the magazine's source of information?

The answer is PS magazine. It is an official Army technical bulletin and is as reliable as any other technical publication. Unfortunately, some people don't take it seriously because of the cartoon characters. However, all PS magazine articles are cleared twice by Headquarters, Department of the Army, the Army Materiel Command, life cycle management commands, the Department of Defense, or the Army equipment proponent. The proponent subject-matter expert for each piece of equipment addressed in the magazine agrees with the PS magazine article and concurs that its instructions should be implemented by field-level units.

Readers of PS come away with the conviction that preventive maintenance is preferable to equipment breakdowns. The slogan of the magazine goes right to the heart of the matter and asks each Soldier individually, "Would you stake your life, right now, on the condition of your equipment?"

PS magazine is not just a comic book. It is the Army's technical bulletin dedicated to promoting preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance reduces the maintenance draw on Army dollars by spending a little on preventing expensive repairs.

Subscribing to PS Magazine
To support preventive maintenance efforts, have your unit publications clerk add TB 43–PS–series, PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, to your unit publications account. Encourage the magazine's use at commander's calls and sergeant's time. Subscriptions are available through the Department of the Army Directorate of Logistics–Washington website: https://dol.hqda.pentagon.mil/ptclick/index.aspx.

For units stationed in U.S. Army Europe or deployed to Southwest Asia, subscriptions are available from the U.S. Army Publication Distribution Center Europe through the Army in Europe Library and Publishing System website: https://aepubs.army.mil.

A bonus for commanders is that PS magazine also operates a readers' service for Soldiers, Army civilians, and Army contractors. When unit personnel have exhausted their regulations and technical publications and still cannot find an answer to a concern or question, or when they have a bright idea they would like to share with their peers throughout the Army, they can send PS magazine an email. The magazine staff will research it with the right proponent and return an answer, usually within 30 days and often much sooner than that. Emails can be sent to: half.mast@us.army.mil.

Preserving the lives and well-being of Soldiers, Army civilians, and contractors and maintaining high levels of equipment combat readiness and dependability have enormous budgetary value for the Army. PMCS reduces maintenance and supply costs, shipping expenses, and not-mission-capable time. It also preserves precious training dollars needed to train new Soldiers when experienced personnel are lost.

In a time of reduced budgets, we need to support actions that keep the Army from having to replace vehicles, engines, and other major components that can cost from tens of thousands to half a million dollars or more each. Cost savings will require unit commanders to consider maintenance and operations as the opposite sides of the same mission-accomplishment coin. These two concepts should complement each other, not be either-or choices.

Preventive maintenance gives the Army the most bang at the least expense in terms of both money and time. Preventive maintenance means fewer breakdowns in hazardous conditions, which preserves Soldiers' health and lives. Preventive maintenance can play a significant role in reducing costs in the coming budget reductions.

PS magazine is determined to be at the tip of the spear in the Army's preventive maintenance campaign.

Jonathan W. Pierce is the editor-in-chief of the PS Magazine Division, Logistics Support Activity, Army Materiel Command, at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. He is a retired Army master sergeant and holds a B.S. degree from the University of Maryland. He is a former National Defense University Press book editor and editor of the Strategic Forum occasional papers on foreign and military affairs.

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