The Integrated Maintenance Data System (IMDS) is the standard Air Force base-level automated maintenance system. The system was originally called the Integrated Maintenance Information System (IMIS) during its design in 1998 to replace the Core Automated Maintenance System (CAMS). While the acronym transformed during development, the principles behind the upgraded design remained the same. The goal was to improve the Microsoft Disc Operated System (DOS) era system to something more modern.
IMDS has numerous users and features. While some features have transformed into newer and independent systems, the enterprise shows no signs of replacing IMDS for its primary function. Possible system upgrades may be on the horizon to make the system more responsive and easier to use. IMDS has become a staple within the maintenance community in the Air Force.
Characteristics of the Users of the System
Air Force maintainers use IMDS. The range of users spans from aircraft maintainers to communications-electronics (C-E) maintainers. Each type of user has different roles within the system. There are menus and screens specifically for aircraft, support, or C-E, respectively. Users are typically enlisted members in the grades of E-1 to E-9. The lower ranking individuals, often considered the production workers, enter the raw information. The middle ranks, often supervisors, review and approved the maintenance actions. Finally, the upper ranks are the auditors who ensure all maintenance actions were properly documented (Department of the Air Force [DAF], 2019).
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Each user has discrete privileges assigned. This begins with unique usernames and passwords. Users grouped in work centers have terminal identification (ID) numbers assigned as well. Together, these fields allow the member to log into the system. Each user is granted proper authorities to access only their applicable equipment information. Database managers grant this access to users. These managers are found at the enterprise level, located at Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB) – Gunter Annex, Alabama. Local database managers can also be found at each base. If users are not physically located at an Air Force installation, the nearest supporting local database manager will take responsibility. In the case of deployed areas of responsibility (AORs), such as the Middle East, database managers supporting the responsible commands, such as Air Force Central Command located at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, will manage the users.
Training is available for these new users. Usually, this takes place in the work center, as each unit has different requirements and procedures. This training often consists of observing over the shoulder, followed by supervised use. Many work centers will compile checklists to complete these actions. Additional resources are available to include Air Force Systems Command Manual (AFSCM) 21-560 Vol. 2, C-E Equipment Status and Inventory Reporting Software User Manual. These are available with appropriate permissions at the Air Force Center for Electronic Distribution of Systems website.
Features and Usage of the System
Air Force users are required to collect maintenance data documentation (MDD). The Air Force identifies IMDS as one of the primary approved MDD systems. MDD can be defined as the documentation in regards to any maintenance done on Air Force weapons systems. To clarify, the term “weapons systems” is a broad expression encompassing everything from aircraft to support equipment. All of this equipment aids in wartime activities.
The graphical user interface of IMDS is simple. Once a user logs on with a user name, password, and terminal ID, they will see a welcome screen with any messages from the database manager. This may include planned outage times or key software update information. From here, the user can enter the proper number for the input screen they would like to visit. If unknown, basic menu trees are available on the top banner. Each screen within IMDS has input boxes to fill with the required information. Often there are check marks near the box to assist with auto-populating data. Other question mark boxes give detailed instructions about the information required. Some boxes allow you to choose from a drop-down menu. The system will immediately highlight any errors made in data entry before continuing.
One of the key features of IMDS is the equipment inventory. This feature allows the owner to maintain records of all equipment items. The user can update the serial number, equipment ID, manufacturer, standard reporting designator, location, and date gained, or whether the system is active. All of this information will then be stored in one central database for other required applications and reports.
One of the biggest tasks for a maintainer is to ensure the equipment is ready for use. This can be done through preventive maintenance actions. These actions include various inspections, which are periodically scheduled. In regards to active equipment, these inspections happen daily at a minimum, but vary depending on the equipment manuals and technical orders. IMDS tracks and schedules this maintenance. Once complete, the user will document the start, stop times of these inspections, as well as report any problems found. If a problem was found, the user will create job data documentation in regards to what would then be considered unscheduled maintenance.
Unscheduled maintenance can be defined as any unplanned repairs, often due to a failure. The user will enter the equipment ID and description of the problem on this dedicated screen. Additional information such as when the problem was discovered and whether the equipment is still capable of performing its mission is also required. All of this information will be linked to the specific model of equipment for further analysis by the depot. This also helps the maintainer track items needing repair, especially if parts are on order.
Another feature of IMDS is the ability to order parts. When the equipment is directly linked to air force inventories, common parts are entered into the Standard Base Supply System (SBSS), which can be accessed via IMDS. The user can complete a digital parts request for these items. When an unscheduled maintenance job is opened, the user is able to select which specific piece, or end item, of the overall equipment requires troubleshooting or repair. Often this item can be removed and replaced. The user can order the part quickly to close out the maintenance action. If the required part is available in a spares kit, the maintainer may order a replacement.
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IMDS is capable of producing many detailed reports. These reports are available in two forms. The first form is small volume retrieval, which can display on the screen in front of the user in real time. The second form of report is a background product. These reports take time to populate depending on system saturation and the amount of data processed. The screen will show a “Message Received” notification to the user upon completion. Reports can be exported in various formats, which enables saving the document for future use as well as ease of reading. Additional reports automatically transmitted to an interfacing system such as Reliability and Maintainability Information System (REMIS) or Theater Battle Management Core System (TBMCS). This can be on a daily interval or hourly, depending on headquarter requirements (DAF, 2019).
Impact of the System
As previously mentioned, all of this maintenance data is collected for analysis. The depot team, responsible for fleet-wide maintenance, uses this data to determine if there is a large-scale deficiency. If one item fails consistently, the team will address how to resolve the problem. These repairs cause downtime, which means the warfighter on the ground, is not getting the support they need. The team will research the solution and often issue Time Compliance Technical Orders (TCTOs). These TCTOs will guide the local maintainer to complete an action, which will reduce the amount of downtime experienced in the future as well as the cost associated with the repairs. This information is also used to validate the spare parts requirements. Each unit typically has spare parts for commonly replaced items. If an unsupported item frequently needs replacement, it can be added globally to unit spares.
IMDS reports are automatically transmitted to REMIS daily. Air Force Materiel Command is then responsible for accessing this information to create products. Some of these key statistics are reliability, maintainability, and availability (DAF, 2016). These are regularly briefed to Air Force headquarters. The statistics are considered a direct reflection of the readiness of the Air Force to complete its global missions. With this information, battle managers are able to assess resource availability and assign units or equipment to support various real-world taskings.
Additionally, IMDS is capable of automating aircraft history, scheduling, and debriefing (DAF, 2019). The system can automatically generate flying schedules on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis. It can also monitor the approved versus actual configuration of an aircraft (DAF, 2016). This saves the crews an incredible amount of person-hours that would otherwise be used planning sorties. The crew can later compare configurations to determine why changes were made and if modifications would need to be continued in the future.
Unfortunately, IMDS can be inconvenient to use. Most maintainers complete work outdoors, possibly in inclement weather. While filling data fields on a computer is much easier than writing legibly on paper, the time it takes to load the proper screens and input the information often takes away from production time. Additionally, the member must write notes as they conduct the maintenance to enter accurate and detailed entries into the database later. This often leads to incomplete information being input into the system (Cone, 2006). The auditors may have limited time to review, given the size of the workforce, and may miss mistakes. The lack of complete details severely disrupts the ability of headquarters and depot teams to supply the correct level of intervention or support to the units. This could potentially cost the users more time in the end.
Air Force Form 349 may also be used to document MDD. This form has all of the same fields as the equivalent IMDS screens. However, the process to write information, either by hand or digitally, is far more complicated than using IMDS. When the database is down, this method is often used. Once IMDS returns to operation, a user must then enter all the data previously documented on the forms. The efficiency gained by using IMDS is substantial.
IMDS offers Air Force maintainer a wide array of features. The sheer ability of this system is far superior to what previous systems were able to offer. Features range from tracking resources to actual maintenance data documentation. All levels of the Air Force leadership can retrieve and use this information. It can then quantify the overall readiness of the force. Without IMDS, the Air Force would suffer, both in hours misappropriated with tedious paperwork as well as the inability to get key information about readiness to wartime decision makers.
- Cone, W. D. (2006). Improving Maintenance Data Collection Via Point-Of-Maintenance (POMX) Implementation (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a450089.pdf
- Department of the Air Force. (2016). Maintenance Data Documentation (TO 00-20-2). Wright Patterson AFB, OH: Author. Retrieved from https://www.tinker.af.mil/Portals/106/Documents/Technical%20Orders/AFD-082216-00-20-2.pdf
- Department of the Air Force. (2019). Integrated Maintenance Data System Central Database (AFCSM 21-556 Vol 2). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://ceds.gunter.af.mil/Publications.aspx?AIS=35
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