LONDON — British defense contractor Babcock will utilize new data-crunching techniques to address nagging readiness and operational problems, thanks to a partnership with Palantir Technologies UK, the companies announced this week.
Babcock builds and maintains a range of British military ships, land vehicles, aircraft and training systems. Executives believe they can better manage their supply chain and keep systems working with the U.S.-based company’s Foundry data management system.
The companies demonstrated the capability here at the DSEI 2023 defense trade show, using army ground vehicles as the example. Data that’s already routinely collected, plus data from newly installed sensors, are combined to create a detailed understanding of the readiness of the fleet of vehicles, and the readiness of each individual truck.
In the demo, the system highlighted readiness rates for individual vehicles, pointing out parts whose failures are a common readiness degraders and projecting future breakdown prospects.
Tom Newman, Babcock’s land sector chief executive, told Defense News the system is so precise, a unit commander could use it to select which vehicles to bring to an upcoming exercise, based on which were expected to be the most reliable.
Newman, speaking to Defense News after the demonstration, explained the Foundry tool could knit together a number of data sources that were never meant to go together and draw insight from them.
“The big up-front work is to really identify the data sources” and ensure the data is correct and secure, he said. “Once you’ve got that … you can then start to manipulate the data to take out the insight. So in some instances, it will be existing databases: we’ve used them for 20 years, we’re just manipulating the data in a different way. In some of those vehicle examples, we are literally fitting new sensors to engines to get new data to then look for failure effectively” through Foundry’s algorithms.
A Babcock press release explains other potential use cases for this data analytics partnership: the company may gain insight into how proficient students are and where training could be improved; it could find cost-savings and efficiencies in its massive shipbuilding programs by combining data streams that have never been looked at together before; and it could create a better list of spare parts the military ought to have on hand, based on actual performance data.
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.