by Daniel Salzer
The alarm signal lights up on the screens of the employees in the blue-lit and darkened rooms: a Soyuz rocket is launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome with an unknown payload, for an unknown purpose. Once in space, a satellite separates from the carrier. After 11 days, this satellite suddenly becomes two, and the staff of the US Space Command and Space Force are surprised and shocked. Only a few days later these two objects float up to the top secret KH-11 observation satellite, part of the Keyhole / CRYSTAL constellation, and circle it; Purpose: unknown. After intensive diplomatic activity, the two Cosmos satellites surprisingly leave their target and continue to orbit the earth until one of these satellites fires a shot into space. The signal from the Russian satellite power to the USA is clear: we can destroy the critical backbone of your defense, your satellites, at any time. You will then be blind, deaf and disoriented. Science fiction? No, the Soyuz rocket with the two satellites, called Cosmos 2542 and Cosmos 2543, was launched from Plesetsk on November 26, 2019.
On January 8th, 2020 at around 1:00 a.m., the infrared sensors of the US satellites detected the launch of more than a dozen Qiam-1 and Fateh-313 rockets from three launch sites in western Iran. The soldiers at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado respond immediately. The trajectories are evaluated and the American bases Al Awad and Erbil in Iraq are informed via the communication satellites. The rockets hit at 1:34 a.m., and almost all of the soldiers stationed at these bases have sought protection in bunkers or trenches. 109 soldiers were injured, but no deaths were recorded. This is not science fiction either, this time too many soldiers owe their lives to the functioning space infrastructure of the USA.
Since October 2014, the Russian satellite Luch-Olymp has “visited” around 15 western communications satellites, including in September 2018 the French-Italian military communications satellite Athena-Fidus. An anti-satellite missile system was tested in Russia in April 2019 and a laser system to dazzle satellites in December 2019. In March 2019, India tested its own anti-satellite system and destroyed its own satellite. Meanwhile, not only Russia, India, the United States and China, but also Iran, North Korea and Pakistan have the ability to destroy satellites and plan to develop these capabilities further.
There are around 1300 active satellites registered in the USA. The backbone of its military infrastructure consists of around 190 military and 170 official satellites for communication, ISR (earth observation, signal recognition, etc.) and navigation (GPS). To protect this critical backbone, a true Achilles heel of Western defense, the US is building the US Space Command and Space Force. For this, personnel from the other branches of the armed forces will be deployed, starting with 16,000 Air Force employees. The estimated one-off additional budget required to build up this new armed forces over the next 5 years is US $ 3 billion, plus US $ 1 billion for new administrative positions.
And what is Europe doing? Around 30 military satellites are in operation in Europe, in France, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Spain, a fraction of the US infrastructure, but all the more critical for that reason. On the occasion of the Luch Olympus case, on July 14, 2019, President Macron announced the establishment of the “Commandement de l’Espace”, which was set up in Toulouse on September 8, 2019 to protect the French space infrastructure.
Immediately after the announcement, the German aerospace coordinator commented on this, criticized the French for their stand alone initiative and suggested a European initaive. But what happened afterwards at the European level? Where is a European initiative? Certainly Europe cannot build anything comparable to the US Space Command – if only for financial reasons. Europe must be closely linked to US capabilities. For this purpose, Europe would have to bring in complementary capabilities to the USA, for example in the area of ground infrastructure, sensors for the observation of rocket launches from the ground and from space (e.g. complementary to the US Space Fence radar system that went into operation in March 2020) and, if necessary, anti-satellite capabilities. Except for some rather embryonic national initiatives in space situational awareness compared to the US, Europe has very little or nothing to offer. We also need European data processing centers, communication and further technology.
Is there a strategy for an effective use and defense of the critical space infrastructure at European level? Do we even need one?
Of course Europe has an alternative: to train our armed forces intensively in the use of the sextant for position determination and to set up air force pilots in aerial photography and carrier pigeon battalions for communication. Just in case.
The rapidly developing COVID-19 crisis is affecting global companies in their main production and sales markets.
Many internal crisis teams are currently reaching their capacity and load limits. It is becoming increasingly difficult to react appropriately to the situation, to make decisions and to consistently monitor the implementation of these decisions and the associated action plans.
The ACTRANS team has significant experience in supporting companies in crisis situations. Our team is interdisciplinary and consists of experienced managers, consultants and medical doctors.
ACTRANS Model for Crisis Support
Specifically, we support the internal crisis teams in completing their tasks e.g. creation of dialy situational awareness, the evaluation and implementation of measures as well as internal and external communication.
COVID-19 crisis checklist
ACTRANS has created a COVID-19 crisis checklist, which helps you to identify the maturity of your measures. Please find for download here:
For further information about the COVID-19 crisis management of ACTRANS please download our presentation:
For short-term support in crisis management, please contact us on +49 89 215 41916 or by email Dr. Mike Körner, Partner (Mike.Koerner@actrans.de) or Dr. Martin Kraus, Partner (Martin.Kraus@actrans.de)
by Dr. Marco Soijer
Leveraging aerospace industry’s century-long safety culture for cybersecurity
Software development has a poor safety record. The number of cyberattacks has risen dramatically since 2004, clearly outrunning the growth of the internet itself. In parallel, aviation has a proven track record of achieving the highest level of safety and serves as an example even in the information technology industry itself. Despite increasing software complexity, the existing certification processes for airborne equipment manage to assure extremely reliable software. The more recent certification process for information technology products applies similar methods of formal development but is not as widespread as its aviation counterpart. More importantly, the aerospace safety culture is missing. As such, information technology can benefit from applying the aerospace industry’s methods, procedures and mindset to its development process. Due to the similarities of both formal development worlds, the transfer will be easier than it may seem.
In his whitepaper, Senior Consultant Dr Marco Soijer revisits recent incidents caused by faulty software and discusses how key cornerstones of the aerospace industry’s safety culture can be applied to a wider range of IT products. Doing so, he draws on many years of experience in the European aerospace industry as well as recent knowledge from the cybersecurity industry.
04.11.2019 to 06.11.2019
Aviation Forum München
Talk to our Cybersecurity expert Dr. Marco Soijer about Aerospace IT-Security in the World Cafe #1 and meet our team at booth G9.
by Martin Kraus
The origin of agile methods
About 25 years ago, the hype around “lean” took of: lean management, lean production, lean etc. Nowadays, the new buzzword is “agile”. At our clients and everywhere in the industry we find change projects around agility: agile company, agile management, agile development, agile processes etc. However, the understanding of what “agile” means and what these change projects are aiming at is very vague.
Its origin, to put it that way, dates to the mid-1990s with the process model described by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the “Agile Manifesto”, the application of which is known as “Scrum”. It focused on software developments where both the product features and the implementation path were not fully known at project launch.
Ralph Douglas Stacey developed a criteria catalogue, later named “Stacey matrix”, to determine whether a development project or project management should be carried out using “traditional” or agile methods.
The Scrum process model itself is simple, but so rigorous that the process itself cannot be considered agile. This is often a first misconception. Furthermore, Scrum is just one of many approaches to dealing with complexity, but it cannot reduce it. In my view, it has yet to be proven that Scrum has been successfully implemented in larger, complex software projects.
Transferring agile methods into Aerospace & Defence
Increasingly, there is a trend to apply the Scrum methodology to other product development projects and project management. This makes sense if the ideas and process elements of the “Agile Manifesto” are adapted as needed. Which means, however, at least from the perspective of the “ideological forefathers”, to depart from the original Scrum concept.
Riding the hype around Scrum, many companies have even started promoting their products as being developed with agile methods. In doing so, they turn Scrum and agile methods into a quality feature which they clearly aren’t.
The Aerospace & Defence world is greatly different from the software industry (e.g. gaming, VR, app development) or consumer goods in many aspects, for example:
- Projects are larger, typically involving big teams, many people, partners and suppliers.
- Often, projects are multinational, with partner companies located in different countries and sites. This means a multitude of process worlds and – even more importantly – company cultures.
- This complexity mirrors the customer side with different or even diverging requirements regarding a product or system, and with sometimes contradicting political and economic interests (e.g. local workshare).
- Development projects are complex and usually include components which test the limits of technical feasibility.
- Development and product life cycles are much longer than in dynamic, consumer-centric industries.
- Even though more and more functionalities are realised through software, the overall performance is determined by the integration of hardware and software and the system integration on platform level.
- Complex qualification and certification requirements influence the design itself as well as all development, production and verification processes.
Nevertheless, agile methods and mindset can be applied in A&D. To which extent and for which elements of a product or system should, however, be thoroughly analysed for each individual case. Certain phases of a project are potentially better suited than others. For example, the concept or definition phases of a project are suited for the Scrum approach. As a prerequisite, however, all partners and especially the customer or customers, respectively, must agree to such a model, which requires a high degree of interaction. It can result in an unambiguous product description or a specification which is agreed by all parties.
A software architecture or specific software functions may also be developed using Scrum or a derived methodology. Nevertheless, in any case, this requires completely new SW and SW/HW architectures. “App”-like applications in a functional SW system do not only allow for agile development methods, but also for more flexible updates during the product life cycle.
Agile methods as a contradiction to other procedural models?
For many projects in our industry, the application of the so-called “V-model” is a contractual requirement. Since its introduction (by the German public procurement agency, by the way), the V-model has been well accepted and even applied outside the military sector. You can sometimes hear or read that companies are planning to replace the V-model by agile methods. This is another misconception. These two procedural models are in no way contradicting. Agile methods can be easily combined with the V-model. The advantages and the logic of the V-model should not be neglected or waived. It has also proved effective as the formal basis for qualification and certification.
A frequently cited example for the application of Scrum in recent aviation history is SAAB’s Gripen E. However, in the public domain you will only find a presentation given in cooperation with the “Scrum Institute”. Further research and own discussions with SAAB have revealed that all processes have been changed to “agile”, and that even safety critical software has been developed using Scrum. Nevertheless, delays in the Gripen programme leave at least some doubt regarding the success of the implementation.
In the A&D industry, hybrid approaches in development and project management turn out to be the best solution. When applying agile methods, one of the challenges for both management and customer is to accept that neither schedule nor budgetary planning exist at (sub-)project launch and that it is also unclear in which sequence which partial solutions and intermediate products will be ready.
Turning the attention to company level, “agilisation” must be approached in a comprehensive manner. Per se, it is not enough to insist on the engineering or production areas becoming more agile. In that overall context, all operational core and support processes must be analysed and amended.
For a bigger, or even group-wide change project following the motto „We want to be more agile!”, it is first of all necessary to clarify and harmonise the understanding of “agility” and “agile” and to fix the aim of the project in an unambiguous and understandable way. If not, the change project itself is the opposite of agile and will not have the expected impact.
The ACTRANS team is here to support you with an initial discussion and the definition of aims for an “agile” change project.
By Daniel Salzer
The necessity of a European „Space Force“ is not in question anymore, its creation only a matter of time. Even the President of the French Republic, Mr Macron, has given his guidance on the subject.
It is now up to the European NATO member states to specify their approach and to define their contribution to the protection of European space resources. European contributions can, of course, only be complementary to what is already being planned and realised in the US, as the European NATO member states will not be able to keep up with these plans, let alone for financial reasons: the US are planning to invest 6 billion USD in space situational awareness between 2015 and 2019. Also, Russia and China have extended their capabilities in this area, so that European capabilities are lagging far behind.
What is Europe able to contribute with rather limited means? What is Germany able to contribute?
There is no doubt that the contribution must be significant, otherwise a close collaboration with the US and the required exchange of data will not be realistic.
The role of Europe
The European NATO member states must develop a coherent strategy for the protection of European space resources which is also complementing the US strategy. This strategy should address at least the following two major topics:
Safeguarding European access to space
The concept of European access to space – and thus the essence of the Ariane programme, namely the US government’s decision in 1973 to only agree to the launch of the Franco-German communication satellite Symphonie I if this satellite does not offer commercial services – should serve as an ongoing motivation to secure today’s European access to space. All public European satellites, especially the military ones, should be launched from European launchers only (Ariane V, Ariane VI, and Vega as of today). The strategic value of this component must become a more significant factor in decision making, besides commercial and technical conditions.
„Space Situational Awareness“: the Achilles‘ heel of NATO space defence
The US capabilities – military and civil – in this sector are by far the largest and most relevant ones across the globe. As already pointed out, since 2015, the US are investing about 1 billion USD per year in this area. In the military sector, especially the Air Force’s „Space Fence“ and the DARPA’s „Hallmark” programme as well as the Air Force’s mission system JSpOC play an important part, but also civil systems of NASA and NOAA. With the extension of the first phase of the S-band „Space Fence“ on the Kwajalein Atoll, which will become fully operational in 2019, 200,000 objects per day can be traced with 1.5 million observations. Even though the US DoD will thus become the worldwide leading organisation to systematically deliver precise data on potential threats (passive threats or potential attacks) to space resources, this information is only partially provided to other nations as it is of utmost strategic importance.
Even though the US operate approximately 380 SSA sensors (including „Space-Based Surveillance System“ (SBSS)-Block10 Pathﬁnder satellites), smaller objects (below approximately. 10 cm) can still not be identified and, in particular, huge data volumes must be processed in order to enable the prediction of trajectories and thus the recognition of potential threats to satellites.
This could lead to two important roles for a European initiative: the development of a European capability which can be integrated into the already existing European systems (e.g. which could interoperate with the TIRA radar of Fraunhofer institute) and work in a complementary manner to the US “Space Fence” programme, and the development of capabilities in data processing to predict the trajectories of smaller flying objects. Moreover, the European capabilities regarding space weather forecasting (on a national basis and with ESA) should be enlarged.
The potential role of Germany
The German Armed Forces own critical space-based resources in satellite communication and satellite earth observation. Irrespective of the question whether these resources are enough to fulfill the Armed Forces’ duties or not (including a comprehensive Armed Forces’ space strategy which is – at least to the public – unknown), the protective capabilities of these resources are limited. It is worthwhile mentioning the TIRA radar and the DLR’s and Armed Forces‘ space weather activities in that regard. Now is the time to take concrete steps regarding the two major topics mentioned above: European resources for launching public satellites – especially military satellites – should be prioritised. The decision of the German Armed Forces to launch the SARAH satellites from Falcon launchers for purely commercial reasons should not be repeated in the future. As a second component, state-of-the-art technologies and capabilities for recognising space objects should be developed and put into operation. In this context, ground-based radars should be built and further enhanced (e.g. a European „Space Fence“ or enhancement of the tracking radar capabilities of DLR), and new techniques tested and introduced, e.g. interferometric methods with ground radars. Furthermore, the analysis of a potential space-based system complementary to the US SBSS could be tackled immediately. And the processing of big data volumes generated by sensors should be considered as a third contribution.
These contributions should be part of a comprehensive German Armed Forces‘ space strategy which is urgently needed, including the components satellite communication, satellite earth observation and „space situational awareness“, including space weather.
By Dr. Mike Körner
“Performance-based contracting” (PBC) is gaining significance in the context of maintenance and spare parts procurement for the main weapon systems of the German Armed Forces. Where flying platforms such as Eurofighter Typhoon and NH90 are concerned, it is the key element to increase material readiness.
In a PBC agreement, industry commits to achieving performance and availability targets which are then followed up by metrics. Industry is, to a large extent, fully responsible for the supply of spare parts or maintenance or logistic services to ensure availability. Depending on achieved availability and performance the incentive share for industry increases or decreases, and with it the profitability of the services provided.
Countries like the US, UK or Australia are actively using PBC agreements for managing supplies of spare and replacement parts of their flying systems since the 1990s. Their positive experience in terms of cost savings and increase in operational readiness has been examined and confirmed for each of the affected programmes. By implementing PBC, cost savings of more than 20% and an increase in operational readiness between 20% and 40% on average could be achieved (source: BAAINBw L6.3., 2017).
But what exactly changes when shifting from traditional service business to performance-based contracting?
Traditional service contracts are based on the input factors “man hours and material”, with framework conditions fixing technical and process execution in detail. The old cost-plus contracts incentivise industry to increase the profitability of services by using more man hours and material. By applying the result-oriented incentive system PBC, this logic is reversed. Profitability can be increased by saving cost and increasing efficiency, i.e. less man hours and less material. To realise these effects, industry is granted a higher degree of freedom in organising and implementing the services.
The monetary incentive mechanism is the key element to ensure alignment of interest between the Armed Forces (system availability) and industry (profitability targets). It is the core of performance-based contracting.
A typical incentive model for a material supply contract works in two steps: in the first step, cost savings compared to a target price determine the level of the incentive amount to be shared in absolute terms. In the second step, the relative distribution between industry and Armed Forces is determined based on the achievement of contractually agreed metrics. The higher the target achievement with regards to the metric (e.g. on-time availability of spare parts), the higher the industry share. For a PBC incentive model, the combined consideration of both “savings” and “achieved performance” is important. If there was, for example, only a savings target in a material supply contract, industry would save on procurement and availability would be adversely impacted. If only availability was measured, industry would be interested in putting as much material as possible on stock to ensure availability. Only a combination of savings and availability targets allows for a suitable alignment of interest between Armed Forces and industry.
From our experience, there are five typical action areas that companies need to address when shifting to PBC.
(1) Improve quality of master data
The existing material management database is usually not in good shape. Without proper master data it is impossible to derive demands or order material correctly. This point may appear trivial, but usually involves extensive preparatory work.
(2) Refine predictive models
The second action area deals with the planning of material consumption. The forecasted demand is often based on historical data only. Demand planning can be enhanced by approaches such as predictive maintenance or the use of “big data”. Automating replenishments via modern ERP systems leads to further efficiency gains.
(3) Introduce a differentiated material management
The procurement and inventory strategy should be based both on the quality of the material and on the predictability of demand. An ABC / XYZ analysis is helpful in this context. For example, for high-value material with high predictability a just-in-time delivery by the supplier is preferred, whilst high-value material with low predictability of demand should be addressed by a supplier reserve. For the large number of C materials (small parts, standard parts, replacement parts, low-priced materials, etc.) it is often more cost-effective to outsource the management to external service providers. It is crucial to ensure lean ordering, storing and booking processes so that the process cost does not exceed the actual value of the items.
(4) Manage supply chain risks
There are often surprises when it comes to lead times and one-off costs. Due to budgetary constraints of the Armed Forces, in many cases in the past there has been insufficient procurement of spare parts and obsolescence management has been neglected. Often, a gradual amendment of framework contracts along the entire supply chain is necessary to secure the required performance.
(5) Measure and improve logistic processes
To achieve long-term cost savings, process efficiency in the areas of procurement, warehousing and logistics must be measured and continually improved. In this context, the new discipline of process mining creates full transparency of process cycle times and process deviations and helps identifying comprehensive approaches for process optimisation.
As a conclusion, it can be stated that PBC agreements provide an opportunity to expand the services business. To achieve cost savings and efficiency gains, it is necessary in our experience to implement a change management to develop a service and performance culture, besides introducing extensive changes to the organisation and processes.
By Dr.-Ing. Martin Kraus
Even under perfect conditions, projects and programmes run into difficulties. Initial problems – which may be understandable and quite typical for projects – can be overcome. As work progresses, however, they turn into project crises. Project crises develop into crisis projects.
A project crisis emerges if either the “what” (e.g. aim of the project, product requirements, targeted/confirmed properties) or the “how” (e.g. methods, technologies, resources) are not (or no longer) clear. Furthermore, uncertainties about the “what” can ultimately lead to questioning the “how”.
Often the mechanisms preventing early discovery of an emerging project crisis are due to a lack of implementation of generally accepted project management principles. They can, however, also result from the project environment, e.g. company culture. Or the crisis was almost unavoidable because the prerequisites were misconceived at project release.
The more severe the crisis – in the worst case, the project is already in chaos mode -, the tougher the measures required to manage a turnaround. If the project is no longer profitable or the customer has fully lost his trust, a project cancellation needs to be considered. But even such a cancellation should follow a structured approach.
In-depth project reviews, a project audit or a project supervision can lead to an early discovery and understanding of the real situation and point to a crisis. Calling in external experts with experience in project management and complex programmes can be a valuable support. The further the crisis has already progressed, the more important it is to support the project manager and the project team with an outside view.
The “Project Status Indicator Check” (ProSIC) enables you to get a first understanding of the situation without external support and/or detailed knowledge about the project or product.
In his article, ACTRANS partner Dr Martin Kraus discusses various aspects around the emergence and solution of problems in complex projects and product developments. He refers to his almost three decades of experience in the Aerospace & Defence world and the successful delivery of several crisis projects.
At ACTRANS, we provide our customers with project reviews and audits, project supervisions and even operational project support including takeover of project management responsibilities on a temporary basis during turnaround phases.
Learn more (Access full article als PDF via link below)
By Susanne Steinbicker and Dr. Mike Körner
Process Mining – What’s new?
Process Mining is an innovative technique supporting process optimization. Executing process steps in modern IT systems generates a series of digital footprints. Process Mining utilizes these footprints, e.g. event logs, to re-build and analyze complex processes. Thus, Process Mining makes use of actual, usually unutilized and hidden data in IT systems and combines it to build a transparent process which can be visualized and even quantified (e.g. frequency, throughput time) both in its entirety and all its variants.
Figure: Comparison Process Mining with traditional means
What are the trends, and how about the practical experience?
Over the last few years, the very positive practical experience with Process Mining has led to a very dynamic development regarding tools, use cases and end user community. Even with very experienced process owners, we witness eye opening moments as soon as they see the visualization of their process via Process Mining, based on actual data.
Especially the quality of discussion regarding a process and its interfaces between different departments is entirely different: it is no longer about hypothetical processes, individual assessments or blaming others, but about the objective display of throughput times, process variants and their optimization.
Moreover, we observe the following trends:
From simple support processes to complex core processes
Most companies start Process Mining with relatively standard and simple processes like accounting processes or purchase to pay. After an initial positive experience, they roll out to more complex processes like production.
From one-off process optimization to process monitoring
From our observations, experienced Process Mining clients request new consulting services. It is no longer about a short optimization project, but about continuous monitoring and optimization of complex processes.
From process documentation to implementation
According to the claims of some Process Mining tool providers, Process Mining replaces the role of external consultants in process optimization. This is not the case. Whilst the process mapping itself requires significantly less effort, the support by experienced Process Mining experts and Data Scientists during analysis, definition of measures and implementation of optimization actions is still useful and in demand. Overall, the consulting focus is shifting from process mapping and documentation to optimization and implementation.
Data based Process Mining is more than just a hype. It will substantially change both the optimization of business processes and the involvement of consulting firms during process optimization. The effort for process mapping can be reduced whilst increasing the quality of the analysis. At ACTRANS, we support our clients in leveraging the new possibilities and potentials of Process Mining.