Since 1980 US Flag - fm

Information Technology Pioneers

Retirees and former employees of Unisys, Lockheed Martin, and their predecessor companies

In this Chapter

  1.  Introduction [left]
  2.  Field Service by Dick Roessler
  3.  Your story?

Field Service Engineering Chapter

1. Introduction

To the customer we always appeared as the company representative - either as an on-site 'fix it' engineer, as a communications path to the home office, as someone knowledgeable about about equipment and software, or as a mentor to the customer's technicians and engineers. Behind each of us was a multi-talented team of experienced personnel who were specialists in their individual fields, whom we could call when an unusual problem couldn't be fixed immediately. [lab]

Thanks to Dick Roessler for writing text for this topical page. The Legacy Committee would welcome any additions to this Engineering level 2 category.


2. Field Service by Dick Roessler UNIVAC - 1956 to 1989

In the late 1950’s when the Department of Defense Procurement Agencies began the major transition from analog to digital systems, it became very important that defense contractors such as Sperry/UNIVAC become aware that procurements of digital systems required a strong commitment and partnership between the Industries and the Department of Defense for providing exemplary field support. This need for exemplary support by the customer existed not only during the initial development contract but continued with even more emphasis during the production and system deployment contracts.
     As the defense agencies developed their procurement languages for purchasing provisioning and technical support, it became very clear that they were placing emphasis on developing operating systems which possessed a lengthy life cycle. During the development phase of a system development contract, the defense agency expected that the defense contractor would provide impeccable support for prototypes during early operating testing in the form of spare parts and technical support personnel Defense Systems Division found, during this early period, that the defense customer had high expectations that the warranty and logistic support of new products and systems was expected. It was not unusual for technical support personnel to be closely integrated with the customer personnel during the testing of prototype systems. During this infancy phase of development, it wasn’t unusual for the field support personnel to work around the clock in the proximity of the test site. Sometimes they even found it necessary to bunk proximity of the test site.
     During the follow-on product/system procurements, the defense customer found it desirable to have the user operations teams perform many of the support functions. It strongly desired that the using commands have a high level of self-sufficiency. However, this objective became more difficult to achieve due to budget limitations and reduced manpower availability. Therefore the procuring agency found it necessary to purchase these services from product/system contractors.
     During the early development contracts, the procuring agencies often took a rather cavalier attitude in specifying the technical and provisioning support required by the operating commands of contractors early in the product/systems life cycle. It often appeared that they assumed that many of these services would be included by contractors during warranty periods. In particular the assumption was made that spare parts and technical support may not have been specified in the contract but somehow would be provided as a specific need would arise. Somehow the issue would be solved by technical support people and parts as necessary to repair, or provision the equipment.
But as the defense customer learned that the level of self-sufficiency was not adequate and deficiencies were not being planned and procured from contractors, they revised their logistic approach during procurement. Sperry/UNIVAC responded to this need by beginning to propose and negotiate support functions to assure the integrated logistic support of customer programs. The contracting and program management team at DSD were soon able to fund visible program managers, project engineers and a team of multi-talented and experienced personnel to effectively demonstrate an interest and capability to assure the customer a satisfactory life expectancy of its operational systems. 
     Some of the support functions that were being procured were field service functions performed by a cadre of personnel in St. Paul or at field sites. The basic mission was to “install, integrate and support DSD products on a world-wide basis”. As the concept of Integrated Logistic Support services was implemented in the 1980’s, functions performed by field support functions continued to grow. The composite of the services included the disciplines associated with technical support services, training and documentation services, and logistic and repair services. {Editor's note:  Dick Roessler is shown at the right as he instructed new field engineers about repairs and logistics flow for the Athena computer.}  Functions performed or services provided within these disciplines would vary from program to program depending on specific contracted functions. Many of the support service functions would be performed in the home office in St. Paul. But personnel assigned might find them performing at customer field sites or company field offices as required. Whether in the comfort of a home office or in the field environment of a customers operational or test site, support service personnel found their billet very important in providing integrated logistic support to defense customers. Customer satisfaction with product/system requirements was always given a high priority.
     Field Service personnel were extremely valuable to both the customer but also to DSD program personnel. Functioning as technical personnel in assisting the customer to successfully test and qualify its products and systems, permitted the assigned UNIVAC DSD personnel to become very familiar with not only the available test software but also with the customers operating software. Personnel in particular at remote sites for NASA or the Air Force performed critical missions especially during the Cold War periods. Their ability to keep the systems working thru the periods of system alerts, was to the credit of the common goal of the customer’s operating commands and the DSD field personnel performing critical test and deployment functions.
     Not to be overlooked was that the very high performance of deployed systems permitted DSD frequently to take advantage of customer financial incentives when assuring contractual levels of high system availability was achieved. Personnel assigned took great pride in performing their duties above and beyond the specified contractual requirements. Despite the very high product reliability the customer would continue to depend on technical support personnel to restore a computer system to an operational mode when malfunctions would occur. The pride included basking in the high reliability of UNIVAC products but also in being recognized in making significant contributions to the team of customer personnel and contractor personnel in defense of the country.
     Hats off to the contributions made by these men and women. And now, years after the peak years of customer support, they continue to savor their collective contributions made over the years as they meet to exchange the many stories about their field service achievements. 

3. Your story here