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Program manager uses data matrices to ensure equipment accountability

Mon, 08/12/2013 - 9:30am
U.S. Army

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 8, 2013) -- Project Manager Soldier Sensors and Lasers achieved a 100 percent success rate for three years in a row on tracking all its issued gear. To accomplish that, they used a tool called an Item Unique Identification, or IUID.

"They have given the example for others to follow," said Col. Jack Wayman, G-8 Integration Improvement Initiatives, during an award ceremony last month at the Pentagon.

An IUID is a 2-dimensional "data matrix" similar to the QR codes, which are meant to be read with cellular phones.

While QR codes often contain a web address that will take a user to a website, the IUID contains much more information, including the name of the item, serial number, model and part numbers, date of purchase and cage code. A cage code is the term the Federal Government uses to identify a given facility at a specific location.

That information is then uploaded to a large database storage facility in Battle Creek, Mich., where it and IUIDs from the other services and the rest of the federal government are kept, Pearson said. Contractors working for the military are also required to maintain IUIDs.

Items that Project Manager Soldier Sensors and Lasers, or PMSSL, fields with IUIDs include the Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder and the Aircrew Laser Pointer. In fact, most equipment that costs more than $5,000 requires IUIDs.

In April 2005, the Defense Department required implementation of the IUID system to increase accountability and transparency throughout the lifecycle process from initial receipt through fielding, he said.

However, full implementation, meaning 100 percent attainment throughout the Army and DOD, has not yet been reached by all organizations, as there are thousands of pieces of equipment that must be processed.

Currently, PM SSL and all Army organizations use an automated system called PBUSE, or Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced, to track serialized equipment as it goes from the program manager to Soldiers in the field or on installations.

PBUSE will continue to be used to track equipment for readiness, Pearson said.

The problem this posed for logisticians was there were now two databases for which information on each piece of gear had to be added, meaning double the work.

Not only that, personnel at PM SSL had to go back and re-inventory gear already issued and put it into PBUSE but not into IUID.

Besides that, some smaller businesses who produce products for the Army don't have the money or resources to put IUID codes on materiel they sell to the Army, "so even though it's a DOD requirement that businesses do this, you can't just assume it's being done. We've sometimes had to do it ourselves."

INNOVATION

So how did PM SSL achieve such a rapid success?

"It wasn't easy," Pearson admitted.

Logistics personnel had to get together with the information technology professionals to figure out a way to make the process simple and effective, he said.

The team borrowed from the playbook of Lean6Sigma, a business transformation model that encourages thinking outside the box.

"We used a poor man's modeling and simulation using paper cups to represent pallets of equipment on a long table," he said, describing how the solution was attained.

Once the IT and logistics personnel were in agreement, they leveraged a software solution that would allow simultaneous data entry to PBUS and IUID, thus eliminating redundancy of effort, Pearson said.

"Now that we've achieved success and are at the top of the hill, we have to continue to remain vigilant to remain at 100 percent," said Lloyd Luedtke, deputy project manager, PM SSL.

Luedtke credited Pearson and his team with pioneering the data solution which is now being used by other Army organizations.

Besides being recognized by Army G-8 last month, PM SSL has several other awards.

In March 2011, PM SSL was the first Army PM to receive the DOD IUID Team Excellence Award for the new process. In October 2011 it received the Army Acquisition Excellence Award for "Transforming the Way We Do Business" from the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology.

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