Maintainability is a customer performance requirement. In the acquisition of a new product, the customer must either select an "off-the shelf" product or must contract with a supplier to provide a product that meets all the performance requirements. The former case typifies the commercial environment. A customer shops around, for example, for an automobile that meets all of his or her performance requirements (gas mileage, size, acceleration, etc.), satisfies the intangibles ("look and feel"), and is affordable. Even customers who do not maintain their own automobiles want a car that is inexpensive to have repaired (i.e., low O&M costs) and can be repaired quickly (high availability). Competition not only gives the customer a wide range of choice, but it forces manufacturers to design and build cars that are maintainable (and reliable, and comfortable, etc.). Individual customers do not develop design requirements and specifications, contract for the development of a new model, or otherwise directly participate in the development of automobiles. Instead, the manufacturer must determine the requirements through customer surveys, warranty information, and benchmarking of competitors' products.
Likewise, the military services, when purchasing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)6 products do not directly participate in the development of those products. For example, the military services purchase personal computers (PCs) for office use from the same manufacturers as does the general public. These PCs come off the same production lines used to manufacture PCs for the commercial marketplace, have the same design, use the same parts, and often come with the same warranty. So, for a COTS purchase, no design is involved and, hence, design maintainability is not an issue7. The use of COTS items does, however, have implications for the support concept. Since customers using COTS items are essentially purchasing on a form, fit, function, and Interface ( F 3I or F-cubed I) basis, they will not have configuration control of or data describing the internal design of a COTS item. Without configuration control or design data, the customer will have no way to develop and maintain maintenance procedures for repairing the COTS item. Consequently, the support concept will be one of removing and replacing the failed COTS item and sending it back to the supplier for repair.
When the military needs a product not used in the commercial marketplace, or which is similar to a commercial product but must meet much more severe requirements, a new military acquisition program begins. The program may be to develop a completely new product or to modify an existing one. In either case, the customer must explicitly identify to potential suppliers the performance requirements for the product. When more than one supplier is capable of providing the product, these requirements are included in a Request for Proposal (RFP) that is issued by the military customer's procuring activity. Maintainability must be addressed in the RFP.
Appendix A describes the acquisition process, explains how the process is being affected by Defense Acquisition Reform, and provides more detailed guidance on preparing an RFP and evaluating proposals from a maintainability perspective.