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KNOXVILLE — The Department of Defense is facing a potentially catastrophic challenge: finding a way to meet greater-than-ever demands for weapons system maintenance, repair and overhaul at a time when the defense budget is declining and worn equipment is returning from service in southwest Asia.

The Pentagon’s solution to the challenge of doing more with less is Performance-Based Life Cycle Product Support Management, or PBL. The premise of PBL is that the military buys system performance — or outcomes — rather than products or services. In a PBL program, a contractor is responsible for providing a defined level of equipment readiness or availability, whatever the cost.

To help contractors understand how to work with the military in this business model, PBL experts and faculty members in the University of Tennessee’s Center for Executive Education, Steve Geary and Kate Vitasek, have written “Performance-Based Logistics: a Contractor’s Guide to Life Cycle Product Support Management.” The book was published in October 2008 by Supply Chain Visions, a consulting firm founded by Vitasek.

UT’s Center for Executive Education currently offers the only university-driven, educational program in performance-based logistics. The book, used in UT’s course, provides practical guidance to the contractor community in helping them work within this complicated environment.

“Stepping up to ensure that a weapons system is ready to perform when required, anywhere in the world, is a totally different business model for defense contractors,” Geary said. “Old-school, transactional product support paid contractors to ship spare parts and do repairs. It paid contractors to ‘fix-on-failure.’ Now, PBL defense contractors earn their money when the system works, not when it breaks.”

Vitasek confirmed, “PBL isn’t just business as usual.”

Alex Miller, dean of the Center for Executive Education, said that, conceptually, performance-based life cycle support is easy to understand, but not necessarily easy to implement.

“The Department of Defense has published information to help educate the government community, but there is little published for the people in the private sector who are stepping up to make performance-based logistics happen.”

The book is available through the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals at https://cscmp.org/cscmpstore.

About the authors

Kate Vitasek is a recognized authority on performance management and performance-based logistics and has been the lead researcher and faculty for UT’s performance-based logistics efforts for the past four years. Kate is the founder of Supply Chain Visions, a niche consulting firm focused on supply chain management. Vitasek has authored dozens of articles, which have appeared in publications such as Journal of Business Logistics, Supply Chain Management Review, Aviation Week and World Trade magazine.

Steve Geary is a leading expert on supply chain design and performance. He is a faculty member at UT’s Center for Executive Education and a faculty member at the Gordon Institute at Tufts University. He also is a member of the leadership team at Supply Chain Visions. His recent articles have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Supply Chain Management Review, DC Velocity, the Defense Transportation Journal, and the International Journal of Production Economics. Geary is a contributing editor at DC Velocity magazine and editor-at-large for the Supply Chain Quarterly.


Steve Geary, steve@scvisions.com

Kate Vitasek, kate@scvisions.com