He's the prop man for 1960s weapons systems

He's the prop man for 1960s weapons systems

By Drew Robb

Special to GCN

Edwin Kincaid

Because spare parts for old weapons can be difficult to find, he's helping develop a system that anticipates demand.

In the World War II movie "The Great Escape," James Garner plays an officer assigned to get supplies for 70 prisoners of war for an escape from a German prison camp.

But because he is a POW, procuring supplies civilian clothing, identity papers, regional photographs holds extra challenges and often requires using creative means that his fellow officers would rather not know about. Hence, his camp title: The Scrounger.

Edwin Kincaid can identify with that officer.

As the information technology manager for the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, he knows about scrounging for hard-to-find supplies, especially for weapons systems.

"Major weapons systems, which have already been operating for 30 to 40 years, are now expected to last another 30 to 40 years, far longer than was originally envisioned," he said in an interview by e-mail from his office at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

No normal channels

"The combination of parts obsolescence, vanishing vendors and inadequate engineering data has resulted in a significant number of replacement parts which cannot be obtained through normal replenishment channels," Kincaid said.

This creates a tougher set of challenges than Garner's character faced in the movie because Kincaid's colleagues and superiors definitely want to know what means he employs. That's why, among his other duties, he works on developing the Rapid Response to Critical System Requirements program.

R2SC2 uses an integrated data environment (IDE) for forecasting the need for critical spare parts, and then ordering and delivering them. Among the benefits are shorter lead times and reduced costs.

The program "will provide a single graphical interface through which government customers can access any of the prime contractors' internal IDEs,' Kincaid said.

"By using digital technical engineering data at the beginning of a modification program, we can reduce the lead time by more than 60 percent and, by using electronic smart modeling, we can reduce procurement costs by 50 percent," he said.

His involvement in the program is a natural outgrowth of his work for OC-ALC. Kincaid, 47, has a master's degree in engineering science from the University of Arkansas, and he heads Organic Engineering Modification Support and the Air Force Drawing Management at the center.

He said the seven engineers and three draftsmen who work for him need minimal supervision, which has allowed him to concentrate on self-generated projects, such as the conversion of the center's legacy paper and raster images to 2-D or 3-D computer-aided design files.

He has also started to introduce new technologies to the center's manufacturing shop floors, which in turn has led to his role as the technical lead for integrated data environment work at the center and an active role with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences.

It all adds up to a job Kincaid relishes. A civilian with 22 years of federal service, he said he found it rewarding to use new technologies to streamline the procurement process, particularly because of the challenges created by budget constraints and the scarcity of some supplies. "We are asked to do more with less, and I feel I provide the tools to do that."

Among the new technologies he cites is a product data management tool called Metaphase from Structural Dynamics Research Corp. of Milford, Ohio.

The software collects product data beginning at the earliest stages of the products' lifecycles, and combines the data to build complete product structures that include the interrelationships among the data and products themselves.

The data "is then managed, tracked and shared across the enterprise. All product structure views, complete and up to date, are available at any time to anyone who needs them," Kincaid said. It's the kind of thing that makes scrounging a lot easier.

Not that it's easy. Technology has improved the procurement process but, because it often involves change, it can present hurdles within the culture of the center.

"Some of the technology is so overwhelming it is hard for users to share my vision of its potential," he said.

Take the IT train

Still, Kincaid said, the government is a great place to be if you're working in IT.

"It provides a great training environment that you cannot get anywhere else, offering a breadth of old and new products and systems, the regular challenges of scheduled projects, and the likelihood of being rewarded with promotions and added responsibilities," he said.

It helps to have supportive management, Kincaid said, and "a very understanding wife who lets me work long hours at the office since my hobby is my work."

Drew Robb writes about information technology from Tujunga, Calif.

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