Staff Sgt. Destine White, 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of equipment accounts, assists Staff Sgt. Falena Green, 595th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, with returning an aircraft part in the Bennie L. Davis Maintenance Facility Warehouse Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake)

An Intelligent-Software Checklist to Cope with the Changing Face of Logistics

Software designed with full end-to-end capability for sea, land and air assets is key to supporting all types of procurement models. Given the complexity and regulatory requirements of military projects, defense organizations should look for software solutions that provide deep traceability features that span the entire asset or program lifecycle. This should enable effective support of the management of supply chains, limited parts and financial controls as well as broader logistics challenges such as International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance.

Flexible warfighting capabilities rely on agile, modular and easily reconfigurable solutions that are built with security and traceability in mind and provide agencies with a consistent user experience and application architecture — boosting usability while simultaneously reducing the cost of implementation, training and support.

This pure-play approach should then provide a single database that can address aspects of an asset as needed by ISO 55000 and PAS 55 for asset management standards, as well as addressing areas where software can have a powerful effect on optimizing the planning and execution of operations through improved visibility of global assets. Here’s my checklist.

1. Support for defense logistics strategies

Traditional business intelligence (BI) tools can tell you what has happened, but leading military organizations need to know what is happening now. In the complex multi-system, multi-organization military supply chain, operational intelligence (OI) offers strategic advantages over and above traditional BI.

As a discipline, OI was conceived by Col. John Boyd, who puzzled over why U.S. warplanes were shot down during the Vietnam War despite the technical superiority of U.S. jets. Boyd created a discipline that ties data collection with real-time action to move decision-makers more rapidly through the stages of observation, orientation, decision and action (OODA).

The same approach has obvious implications for defense logistics operations affected by global volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. OI enables rapid operationalization of decisions across multiple software systems and partnered organizations, which prevents “strategy leakage” within complex organizations further down the command or management chains.

2. Meet early stage requirements

Provisioning and procurement during the early stages of a program or asset lifecycle – including technical requirements, competence, organizational and external factors – will dictate the success of the project. The requirements need to be defined dynamically and configured depending on the product, component or lifecycle phase and connected to any item such as systems, products and components.

Effective solutions will offer complete traceability of which user or user group can make specification adjustments to asset information in order to allow review and analysis to take place with preventive controls and data security in position.

3. High-level engineering management and control

Program deliverables such as product design and systems engineering will ideally be confirmed visually by the solutions structure navigator to show the metadata associated with the product – clearly displaying data that was initially required and what value and deliverables have been realized at a specific moment in time. This will allow for earned value management (EVM) accounting techniques, with users benefiting from a strong overview of the products and their components as well as needs in a hierarchical structure.

Software should have advanced functionality to create asset structures of these hierarchical relations so documents, requirements, or images can be linked to business objects such as a product, component or work order, to deliver highly structured asset data with limited manual administration. This enables program managers to see the history of an asset, asset portfolio or fleet, as well as future scheduled or forecasted activities and lifecycle costs, right through to decommissioning and replacement. Critically, decisions on assets can be reached considering dependencies with other systems.

4. Leaner procurement

Typical defense procurement processes are often long, drawn out and include multiple dependencies. Managing the process with enterprise software that features a deep and flexible work breakdown structure gives a program management office the control to execute from less-rigorous, ad hoc systems.

Procurement preparation functionality will manage procurement procedures, including contracts or competition contracts, the RFX process and implementation of the purchase and system delivery. Details can then flow in an integrated software system from one mandated project step to the next. From there, the RFI/RFP potential supplier list automatically becomes the basis for a final list of suppliers offered to bid, and then through to the final RFQ process and vendor agreement attached to a contract.

To guarantee successful execution, software solutions must manage the quality of both the purchasing process and physical delivery, which includes vendor quality audits, deviations or non-conformance reporting (NCR) and corrective and preventative activities (CAPA).

5. Comprehensive in-service support capabilities

Understanding the importance of efficient enterprise asset management (EAM) is essential to reducing costs and boosting effectiveness across complex end-to-end supply chains. The software serving defense logistics agencies with through-life management capabilities should aim to deliver improved operational effectiveness across fleets, whether processes are handled internally or through performance-based logistics contracts.

Operations/Force Planning, readiness and sustainment need to work together to raise facility capacity while reducing overheads and increasing command service, availability and force generation. Reinforced job prioritization and management with streamlined and standardized processes is going to be key to generate higher efficiency as well as better operation and sustainment of high-value critical assets.

Such a complex stakeholder ecosystem means software must enable decisions that address the needs of multiple entities and priorities. Powerful solutions that facilitate best practices such as Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) and operational intelligence KPIs, as well as resource, mission, facility and contingency planning and forecasting, will result in more accurate compliance, better interoperability and the ability to better direct and contract logistics operations.

An all-encompassing strategic enabler

Defense organizations that employ this sort of comprehensive and “intelligent” software solution to effectively manage the entire lifecycles of military programs are more confident that programs they operate will deliver the expected result within cost parameters. As I have pointed out, this requires a proven solution with advanced functionality that builds programs around deep project hierarchies and asset structures, while provisioning and streamlining procurement processes, creating a single version of the truth from RFX to commissioning and through in-service support.

Kevin Deal is Vice President for Aerospace and Defense, IFS North America. Kevin is responsible for all aspects of IFS in Aerospace and Defense within North America, and has been in the A&D IT business for over 25 years. Prior to joining IFS, Kevin held a number of roles as Director of Mid-Americas and Federal at BroadVision, as well as Director of National Sales at Cincom. Kevin was also a logistics war modeler and former Director of the DoD's Supportability Investment Decision Analysis Center (SIDAC).

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