CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Adapting to technological change, whether evolutionary or occasionally revolutionary, is an integral part of a successful industry. However, it is difficult for day-to-day operating units to be aware of the existence and relative merits of new technologies entering the marketplace. An intermediary organization can, with appropriate management, skills, and the respect of its customer community, play a worthwhile role in overcoming the barriers to technology transfer. The NDCEE aspires to this role in its mission that centers on the identification, investigation, and introduction of technologies, either existing or evolving, to solve problems for its customer community.
GENERAL CASE STUDY CONCLUSIONS
The NDCEE was created to respond to a nationally important set of goals. One specific goal was to replace current methods of applying and removing coatings on surfaces with more effective and less environmentally damaging technologies. As it has evolved, the NDCEE has examined a number of problems that exist in defense facilities and has evaluated potential solutions to the identified problems. For the purpose of this evaluation, the studies that the NDCEE made of four potential technical changes were reviewed. Two of these technologies, electrocoat and powder coating, are related to methods for applying coatings, the third, ion beam surface modification, is a method for improving coatings and surface condition, and the fourth, ultrahigh-pressure waterjets, is used for coatings removal and surface preparation.
In each case, the technologies were sufficiently advanced that the NDCEE could obtain, from an outside vendor, equipment at an operational scale. This equipment allowed NDCEE personnel to become familiar with the technology, evaluate its use and benefits in different applications, and help with transitioning technology where appropriate. Three of the systems obtained were commercially available, while the fourth, ion beam, was intended to go beyond the existing state of the art. In each case, the purchase cost of the equipment was significant and made up a major part of the overall cost of the project.
In addition to the direct production value from transferring technology to end users, the value to the Department of Defense comes in the knowledge base that is created with use of the equipment. Sometimes the knowledge gained is negative and the technology is of little or no immediate use.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should focus more effort on dissemination of its results, whether positive or negative. NDCEE staff should present and publish more technical and overview papers in military and technology-specific journals, should participate more fully in scientific and technical organizations, and should focus specifically on submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals and applying for patents where appropriate. Such participation will create a more visible presence for the NDCEE in the technical areas within its purview and will enable potential customers to more efficiently identify needed expertise and services. Publicly available Web pages should also be used to disseminate results.
Some of the technologies investigated by the NDCEE have demonstrated a level of potential use in the commercial sector. The potential for successful application in military depots has been shown for powder coating and for waterjet cleaning. Full realization of this potential will certainly demand that NDCEE personnel increase the depth and breadth of their knowledge. If the NDCEE is to be of value, it must be able to provide its clientele with expert knowledge of the subject technology. To be most useful, this expertise should be generated through the use of a technology over a substantial period under a wide range of operating conditions. From that knowledge base, NDCEE can recommend to its customer whether a new technology should be introduced, how to use it, and how to modify it for use in other applications.
APPROPRIATENESS OF TECHNOLOGIES
During the NDCEE’s formation, projects were selected and work begun without well-developed experience, which is a natural consequence of the need to begin work at a high level of effort. The initial assessments of new technologies illustrated the potential benefit NDCEE can provide to the community in the future. The coatings industry is large, and that part of it that deals with corrosion and recoating of surfaces is, in itself, a multibillion-dollar-a-year segment. However, the research and industrial communities attached to the development of new technologies for the recoating industry generally consist of a relatively few individuals. Often these individuals have limited access to the personnel operating military depots, and limited knowledge of the potential applications of the technology in the military. The converse also holds true.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should conduct a balanced assessment of alternative coating technologies to select the most appropriate approach for each defense application. The NDCEE must consider the trade-offs between direct environmental cost avoidance, indirect environmental improvements, and the cost of the technical effort needed to develop and implement powder coating technology or any pollution prevention technology.
The NDCEE was created to directly address these weaknesses in communication. However, at the inception of the program, certain decisions were made before adequate internal analysis capabilities were developed. For example, given the maturity of electrocoat technology and the availability of technical experts familiar with the technology’s high fixed costs and minimum economic production volumes, it is likely that timely input of this expertise would have led to the decision that the NDCEE not invest heavily in this process.
The electrocoat equipment installed had a high initial cost and considerable operational maintenance costs, and so a steady throughput and continued use of the system were required for it to be cost-effective. Because the minimum usage level to make electrocoat economical exceeds the maximum requirements at most DOD depots where it was expected to be used, this technology proved to be of limited value.
Recommendation. To better utilize technology transfer resources, the NDCEE should shut down its current electrocoat bath. In the event that any future demonstration of electrocoat technology is considered appropriate, the NDCEE should utilize the demonstration facilities of commercial suppliers of materials and process suppliers.
A somewhat similar situation exists in the case of the NDCEE’s waterjet installation. As purchased, this facility has limited flexibility, potentially restricting the studies that can be made and the knowledge base that can be developed. This limitation may create a hurdle to the introduction of novel technology, rather than aid its implementation. With greater input from the existing experts in this field at the time, a different equipment setup may well have been selected.
Recommendation. The NCDEE should expand its efforts to transfer ultrahigh-pressure waterjet technology to additional types of applications. To support this effort, the NDCEE should configure the waterjet system at Johnstown for both in-house and field use to demonstrate technical applications. The NDCEE should also work more closely with commercial vendors of waterjet equipment and services and should purchase or lease field portable equipment as needed.
Ion beam surface modification technology was appropriate to NDCEE’s mission, given the technology’s great potential for cost-effective pollution prevention. However, the technology had not reached a level of maturity commensurate with the level and type of effort at the NDCEE.
Recommendation. No further effort or expenditure should be devoted to either utilizing or improving the existing ion beam equipment at the NDCEE, as this technology is still evolving. The NDCEE’s objective should be to develop and maintain an awareness of the potential for technology transfer to the U.S. military services, and to prepare to aid in implementation when the technology matures.
In all cases, the NDCEE needs to have a more strategic view of the potential for pollution prevention along with a thorough understanding of individual technologies.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should clarify in a mission statement the goals for all its programs along with stated interim and ending milestones. The NDCEE should provide this
information and the background analysis to the potential recipient of a technology. Each program should set goals, for example, for the amount of pollution prevention to be achieved as a result of NDCEE efforts. These goals should be coordinated with NDCEE’s technology partners, including original equipment manufacturers, DOD command organizations, DOD equipment depots, technology suppliers, technical consultants, and internal staff. An independent program oversight panel should regularly review and publish the NDCEE’s quantifiable performance toward achieving these milestones.
ORGANIZATION AND TASKS
To successfully transfer a new technology and to accomplish the intended goals of cost reduction, compliance with regulations on VOC emissions, and improved performance, technical champions are needed on both sides of the technology transfer process. The technology transfer expert at the NDCEE can recruit and educate these champions and can also act as a champion for the process. Such champions need to maintain visibility through the approval and implementation process and help support and manage the process. To be effective, a champion must have technical credibility that is evident internally as well as externally. Among the required capabilities are excellent oral and written communication skills, knowledge of depot needs and capabilities, and knowledge of the industry. The NDCEE can serve this role in several ways. For example, it can:
Develop technology contacts at various depots and within the supplier base;
Consult with industry and academic experts;
Anticipate future regulations in response to environmental issues that may impact processes domestically as well as internationally, and increase awareness of European regulations that may already exist as a source of information on alternative technologies to meet changing environmental regulations;
Train depot staff in areas of the technologies to be transferred;
Attend domestic and international conferences on the targeted technologies;
Present technical papers at conferences and publish results, especially in peer-reviewed journals; and
Write internal reports that can be circulated throughout various depots.
Given time and appropriate access to existing expertise, the NDCEE can develop its own internal experts in fields critical to its mission. However, such an effort requires long-term commitments to areas of interest and cannot be guaranteed for every potentially beneficial technology. Development of the NDCEE’s expertise in carefully selected fields would help the depots and the community that NDCEE is set up to serve because even after a new technology arrives at a plant door, the problems of technology transfer remain complex. Training, development of operating procedures, and modifications of equipment to solve problems with new applications, or similar work to optimize existing methods, require ongoing interaction. Further, the ability to bring together the civilian and military users of technology to discuss new approaches is an ever-present need.
Making information available on technology through the NDCEE’s World Wide Web site or by other means would help the military bases. Public dissemination of the NDCEE’s work and goals would also provide information on needs that industry suppliers may be able to address.
Certain military applications, however, represent markets that are too small for industry to address. It is appropriate that the NDCEE focus on such applications that have significant environmental impacts and/or have met cost-benefit criteria by carrying out research to maintain and expand the knowledge base in these areas. Given the expense of developing and maintaining experts at the forefront of knowledge in their fields, it may be more effective, however, if the knowledge base involves outside experts in the relevant technologies, brought in as necessary to supplement in-house personnel.
To identify, investigate, and transfer technologies to its customers, the NDCEE should develop a strategic approach. Before a candidate technology is adopted, a select panel should review the current state of the technology, both in industrial applications and as it is being developed in research, for its
potential uses in different areas of the Department of Defense. Once a technology appears to be a credible candidate, a program of development and demonstration can be designed to determine the validity and limitations of the technology with the aid of DOD experts or consultants widely recognized as experts in the specific technology. As part of this evaluation, the most flexible and practical equipment can be identified for evaluating the technology and building a knowledge and experience base.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should perform system-level cost-benefit analyses for planned projects as well as for ongoing activities. These analyses should be conducted in light of NDCEE mission objectives and in close cooperation with all stakeholders and should include a market survey and a comparative assessment of all potentially useful technologies to determine the most appropriate approach to address user needs.
All interested parties should be involved in this analysis, including original equipment manufacturers, depot plant operators, military researchers and other experts, technical consultants, and NDCEE staff, as part of a clearly defined program of presentations, demonstrations, and evaluations. Their purpose should be to develop a well-defined plan to determine the practicality of the technology in meeting required, and previously defined, objectives. The plan should establish milestones, and specific tasks to ensure broad visibility of the technology and should provide for close involvement of the industry that would ultimately service the Department of Defense. Involvement of the full range of stakeholders in program development provides contacts and champions within the organizations that control designs to help overcome the real and complex hurdles in implementing technology in military applications.
In the case of technology transfer to maintenance depots, the need for multiple organizations to cooperate in implementing new maintenance technology makes operating as a complete team as early as possible in the process essential to successful implementation. This teamwork requires that the NDCEE be able to convince all stakeholders that any new technologies proposed are safe and effective at all stages in the equipment lifetime.
PLANNING FOR APPROVAL PROCESSES
Overcoming administrative and approval barriers in transitioning technology has been identified repeatedly as a major factor in the successful implementation of new technologies in military systems. Long-term success in using existing technologies is difficult to achieve, and understandable resistance exists to changing processes in systems where failure is likely to cause loss of life. Appropriate identification of these barriers and approaches to overcoming them are thus essential.
Requirements for approval of new technologies by organizations, such as military system commands and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), before implementation by users must be explicitly identified in the NDCEE’s program planning, milestone charts, statements of task, and similar documents to ensure consideration of such requirements at all stages of the technology transfer process. Further integration of NDCEE programs with defense-wide formal review processes would ensure the full involvement of stakeholders in project selection and a formal process for assessing the relevance of the selected projects.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should plan and operate programs with the goal of gaining the confidence and cooperation of the organizations responsible for approving new technologies for integration into the ongoing mission operations.
The NDCEE is a conduit between the ultimate parties to successful technology implementation—the vendors of commercial equipment and materials and the installation where those items will be used. Maintenance of impartial and objective working relationships both with suppliers of material and equipment and with the ultimate customer is critical to success.
Technology transfer is not an easily defined, one-time event. If it is to be completely effective, the recipient must have access to expert knowledge from the source, often for a period of years after inception of the transfer. Thus a body of expertise must be built for those technologies that the NDCEE seeks to transfer. Although such expertise need not exist within the NDCEE, the NDCEE must nevertheless have a broad range of knowledge of its chosen subject areas and must have access, when necessary, to more focused expertise. The current level of expertise within the NDCEE varies from program to program, and for certain technologies may reside in a single individual. Reliance on a
single point of knowledge can threaten a program’s long-term effectiveness, especially when a rapidly developing technology creates a strong market for knowledgeable personnel. The establishment of an external supporting technical panel of experts in certain areas would be a step toward overcoming this risk.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should assemble a cadre of personnel who can provide the necessary continuing support to technology adopters, including training in technology and management. These experts should be capable of responding to the total breadth of DOD’s environmental concerns and provide technical advice or conduct case-specific experimental analyses. This service could be added either through direct staffing at NDCEE or through cooperative work with academic and government research centers in the appropriate fields, other mission organizations within the Department of Defense, or brokered relationships with industrial technology suppliers.
It is also not necessary that NDCEE build extensive laboratories or facilities, especially in the early stages of investigating a technology. Commercial concerns will often cooperate in running small experiments, and specialized laboratories at commercial or university facilities may also be available. Reliance on in-house capital equipment may also unnecessarily limit the involvement of coating suppliers. It is tremendously important to establish strong working relationships with the coatings industry.
Recommendation. The NDCEE should integrate its activities more closely with the larger Department of Defense environmental and coatings programs and should cooperate with military specification developers, commercial industry, and coating materials suppliers in bringing all defense product finishing specifications up to date in the area of performance testing.
Government funds should be spent on the development of new coating technologies only when commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies and capabilities are not adequate to meet DOD requirements.
Increased communication with commercial suppliers and technologies, and increased knowledge of their abilities and facilities, may give depots under pressure some additional options. Depots could reduce their VOC emissions or reduce other objectionable material processes at their sites by shipping parts to local custom finishers for cleaning and coating. This approach would reduce the depot’s involvement in small-scale coating operations and would also permit the demonstration and use of new coating technologies, especially those that require a higher critical mass of work than most depots possess. With good knowledge of supplier capabilities, an organization like the NDCEE could facilitate these partnerships.
The NDCEE is clearly active in technology transfer related to pollution prevention. However, evidence of its success is difficult to quantify, primarily because measures of success were never established. Specific evidence of quantifiable successes in pollution prevention was not made available to the committee during this study. The need for independent and objective measurement of the environmental effectiveness of industry-initiated approaches is well documented.1
Analyzing risk and examining business case information from the start is critical to technology transfer, as well as follow-through of projects until the implementation of the new technology is accomplished in the normal course of business. Only then can a measure of success truly be calculated in terms of pollutants minimized, the number of users of new technology, or dollars saved in reducing pollutants. Strategic alliances within DOD are critical to the success of this effort.
The NDCEE has demonstrated theoretical understanding of the technology transfer process but is limited by a number of stakeholder constraints. The full participation of the NDCEE in both the Department of Defense technology community and the larger scientific and engineering community will be essential to ensure the effectiveness of the NDCEE’s work.
Technology transfer is widely accepted as a difficult and costly challenge. The mission of the NDCEE toward this end is commendable, and the concept of establishing an intermediary organization
to introduce and transfer new technologies for pollution prevention is certainly worthwhile. In practice at the NDCEE, unfortunately, this model has not been successfully demonstrated. The demonstration factory capabilities at the NDCEE investigated in this study are not a necessary or cost-effective means of demonstrating environmentally useful technologies. Reliance on industrial facilities commonly used by the commercial users of coatings would be cost-effective and would lead to further collaboration with manufacturers.