Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Transparent Armor – The Experience Factor

In the world of Transparent Armor there are several factors to consider when choosing a supplier. I’ll attempt to tackle a few. Most start with the product itself. First, the product must meet the specified ballistic requirement or better. Assuming it does that, it must also meet the specified environmental requirements (if any). This would include a minimum level of optical quality. These specifications create a baseline for competition. Anyone who offers a product that can meet the minimum requirements is able to compete for award. So, beyond being better than the minimum, what are the discriminators? Product wise you have thickness, weight and price. Traditionally, price wins out, although, of late, there are some exceptions if a lighter or thinner product remains cost competitive. Supplier wise, the discriminators become past performance, financial stability and experience. US DoD has a few good systems to handle past performance and financial stability, ask anyone who has undergone a DCAA financial audit. However, in my opinion, experience is rarely (if ever) a game changer. This mystifies me. Especially when talking about Transparent Armor. Not only because it’s a highly technical product, but because I feel it directly affects all of the other discriminators listed. Take a look at what I mean:

Thickness and weight  

Let’s be honest, most people don’t even know what Transparent Armor is let alone what goes in to its manufacture. How does one create a transparent composite which meets the requirements and is as thin and light as it can be while remaining robust enough to stop the specified threat every time? Knowing the answer to this question is a technical expertise that can only be earned by experience; years of R&D, years of trial and error and years of improvements to standard product. This includes both material and process. And there are a myriad of variables in there.  An experienced company has this knowledge in both its personnel and standard operating procedure. Imagine needing to navigate from Philadelphia to Los Angeles with and incomplete map, or worse, no map at all. An experienced company has a detailed map with time and trouble saving notes spanning its folds.

Past performance and financial stability

Obviously one cannot have past performance without a past, good or bad. So add another point for experience there. Any company with a modest amount of time under their belt will have compiled a number of wins or losses and their record will illustrate their expertise and commitment to being a valued long term partner and supplier. Again, good or bad, numbers don’t lie. Financial stability follows the same logic. Experience has offered the data needed to make knowledgeable equipment and raw material purchases and the opportunity to benefit from continuous improvement initiatives. I would add that the Transparent Armor manufacturer’s supplier base offers and advantage as well. Long term partners are privy to preferred pricing and other benefits of consistent volume buys and often times get superior raw materials at prices lower than inferior ones. It also offers substantiated cost figures throughout the company, from process man hours, to tooling and even scrap rate. This eradicates guess work and leaves an experienced company with a verified cost structure and competitive price that remains stable over program life. The other perk here is that when an experienced company offers a warranty it is not just a business decision, but a pledge to stand behind a product that has historical performance data.


As I said before, in a competition where there are multiple products that meet the minimum requirements, price generally wins out. There is solid logic to that assuming it’s not short sighted. By that I mean total “cost of ownership” factors are considered. A low initial buy price does not necessarily make it the most economic choice. The tricky thing about transparent armor is that only time reveals if your decision was brilliant or boneheaded. A lot of times a buyer will have minor trouble with their go to supplier or be approached by someone with a lower price and will decide to “show them who’s boss” by moving from their once trusted source to a new vendor (let’s call them Vendor B). The supply chain keeps moving until the buyer is fully invested in Vendor B. In this scenario, everything seems fine for a year, maybe more, but then problems arise. Premature delamination or other failures start to spring up in the form of warranty claims and field failures. The buyer doesn’t even know what’s hit them. And now the credibility of their company is in jeopardy due to a failing supplier who holds months’ worth of backlog. The buyer thinks “I never had a problem with my last supplier.  I figured transparent armor was transparent armor”. So saving a few bucks up front doesn’t always pay off. An experienced company has been through the ups and downs and has developed a price structure that supports total cost of ownership factors. This certainly doesn’t mean they will be more expensive. Remember the financial stability piece from before? That allows them to remain price competitive while also offering a more reliable and proven product.  At the end of the day, I am simply cautioning transparent armor users to be dollar smart and chose an appropriate partner that can meet not only their short term, but also long term needs. Not just the cheapest option. Those minor up front savings could cost a lot more in the long run. 

C.B. Leflar

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Little picture eveidence for today. This is OSG TA used on a very fine product called McCurdy's Armor™,  put out by great company named Dynamic Defense Materials. McCurdy's Armor™ is a patented portable armored wall system developed to save lives by replacing the use of sandbags to protect soldiers from snipers, mortar rockets and small arms fire. McCurdy's Armor™ was named in honor of Marine LCpl Ryan S. McCurdy, who lost his life saving a fellow Marine during a sniper attack on January 5, 2006.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

TAC President Trent Kimball is nuts :)

TAC President Trent Kimball is nuts :) and a great marketer. I'm sure this TA is undermatched but I still would not do this. Kudos to Trent for having giant balls and confidence in his supplier. I assume AGP or GKN.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is TA a commodity?

No matter how much we try to fight, it appears that the US DoD would like to treat TA as a commodity. Assuming it meets the spec, DoD views all TA as equal. I have some issues with this, but we'll get into that in a minute. It makes sense for the buyer to try and commoditize almost any product. It drives competition which, in turn, drives down cost. If you can consider all things equal, price becomes the only variable. With all TA manufactures in a price knife fight, DoD wins in the short term. In the long term, however, it is my opinion they lose.

Now I like competition, and have always been very competitive. There are definite long term advantages to good competition, it creates evolution. The next generation of TA will be born from a healthy competition between manufacturers to create tomorrow’s solutions, each better then its predecessor. But this type of competition is variable infinite. You can create a great solution without boundaries. That’s the pro. The con comes when the buyer’s perception is that glass is glass. If we are lucky, that perception is based on a well-rounded standard like ATPD 2352, which addresses both ballistic and environmental parameters. There are many that do not. But even then, what does the buyer get for their money and what message is sent? Well the buyer had better be getting TA that will stop the threat as sold while maintaining at least the minimum optical quality and life cycle environmental testing deems necessary. The message it sends however is, “give me the cheapest solution that meets the bare minimum requirement”. Now you have manufacturers researching how to build a product that is the cheapest it can be while meeting only the minimum requirements (I’m wearing my required 15 pieces of flair). Doing the bare minimum doesn’t feel good, but does that make it wrong?

The threat faced by the US warfighter is evolving and so too should the armor used to defeat it. I do not want to start a protection vs. mobility discussion here, so let’s highlight technologies that stop the increasing threat without adding weight. Technologies like lightweight TA, advanced materials, battle damage sensors and multi-kit solutions. Even for sustainment we should be upgrading with better solutions. And we should be researching parameters that evolve TA, not devolve it. If there is no monetary reward for researching evolutionary (or revolutionary for that matter) solutions you diminish the incentive to do so. With so few new vehicle programs there is a need to backfill with RDT&E dollars if one wishes to advance armor evolution.

To be fair, a good business should understand its product and the solutions it provides. It should also understand the customer and their evolving needs. Keeping an eye on the gaps and future requirements should drive a good company to research and develop game changing products, a surefire way to avoid commodity status. But a good company is also a profitable company. The customer must take some responsibility in shaping the risk/reward landscape to meet their long term objectives. The US Military has been the leading world power due, in part, to the technologies it possesses. As we move into more lean procurement times we need to be careful to not create a roadmap to obsolescence. We also need companies who are willing to wear more than 15 pieces of flair even though it’s not required.

This whole post makes me think of this for some reason…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

OSG continues to support Navistar Defense, USMC and the US Army.

20 July 2011
OSG continues to support Navistar Defense, USMC and the US Army.
OSG’s unique transparent armor solutions continue to protect the US warfighter following orders received by Navistar Defense from U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command. 
Navistar Defense received its third delivery order for 140 International® MaxxPro® Recovery vehicles with rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) nets as announced July 18th, 2011.
This 140 recovery vehicle order follows two recent orders for 471 International® MaxxPro® Dash vehicles and 250 International® MaxxPro® Dash ambulances and also includes additional parts and support for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in theater.  OSG will provide transparent armor solutions as a subcontractor on all three orders.
OSG operates three cutting-edge manufacturing facilities on two continents, serving more than thirty militaries worldwide. OSG support its partners from R&D and engineering to full scale production of transparent armor, frames, assembly and more. OSG is a one stop, in house solution for all of your transparent armor needs.

Learn more about Oran Safety Glass at www.osg-armor.com
For more information please contact us.