New logistics tracking tool simplifies complex data
June 30, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July, 1 2014) -- Spawned from a spreadsheet that managed warranties for the Army's protected ground satellite terminal program, the Acquisition Logistics Performance Scorecard (ALPS) has evolved into a comprehensive logistics tracking and management tool that can manage any Department of Defense (DoD) system throughout its entire lifecycle.
"ALPS becomes a birth certificate for a weapon system responsible for cradle to grave lifecycle sustainment," said Mel Pointer, Secure, Mobile, Anti-Jam, Reliable, Tactical-Terminal (SMART-T) logistics management specialist and branch chief for Product Manager Satellite Communications, assigned to Project Manager Warfighter Information Network Tactical (PM WIN-T) "It can provide an entire cradle to grave history of Army inventory."
The Army is currently redesigning the ALPS to maximize current technologies, expand capabilities and enhance Soldier's experience. The initial redesigned version was released on May 31, with full operational capability expected next fiscal year The application is improving user experience by continuing to simplify the interface to make it more intuitive, ensuring information is always just a couple of clicks away. The Army's Military Technical (MilTech) Solutions Office is providing support for the ALPS and also working to help share and expand the tool's use to other organizations beyond PM WIN-T.
"ALPS has come a long way from that original SMART-T warranty tracker," said Emerson Keslar, director of MilTech Solutions and chief information officer for the Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (C3T). "The legacy tool has been redesigned and is now more generic so it can support logistics management for any DoD system or program, supplying key logistics and acquisition data from the design stage, to fielding and sustainment, through end of life."
The Army designed ALPS to help leaders capitalize on empirical information by enabling them to quickly view extensive amounts of data and easily understand the state of a program at any given moment. The tool simplifies complex logistical data by presenting it as graphical representations that include production deliveries, Reset, fleet management, equipment locations, status of Soldier training, maintenance and equipment enhancements. Users can predict or even prevent delays and eliminate possible choke points or trouble areas to improve the sustainment of critical weapons systems.
"As a manager, data is the key -- the more data you have, the more empowered you are to make the right decisions at the right moment in time," said James Durocher, ALPS representative. "It's one thing to be overwhelmed with data contained in a variety of spreadsheets, but when you can see all that data neatly and succinctly summed up in a pie or bar chart, it is immediately understandable and invaluable."
The ALPS database was designed to simultaneously support an unlimited number of systems. Because of its flexibility, the tool can be tailored to a system's acquisition strategy and the way that it needs to be managed. It can support both singular systems like radios or system-of-systems like WIN-T, the Army's tactical communications network backbone. The dashboard also adapts to a variety of management levels, from specific system users up through higher leadership. Basic system users are only able to view data on their own systems, while leadership can view a culmination of data collected across a single or multiple supported weapons systems.
"Reports can hone in on the details of a single system, or provide an overarching big picture of an entire program," Durocher said. "Everything now starts to take on a level of continuity and consistency for leadership reporting."
Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD), which provides maintenance, upgrades and other sustainment support for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment, already participates in the ALPS program for work it does on SMART-Ts. Depot staff uploads data and photos on Reset, upgrades, maintenance, shipping and warranty inclusions. The ALPS allows users to view past diagnoses; the number of system failures and causes; new parts and other key information. From a diagnostic and maintenance perspective, this type of data promotes increased efficiencies in time and cost. It also reduces equipment downtime, which can affect unit readiness.
"It's one stop-shopping, like shopping at Wal-Mart," said Jacqueline Aaron, ALPS project lead. "With this tool, management can just go to the dashboard and pull up critical data and metrics with a couple of clicks without having to hunt for it or analyze countless spreadsheets."
Users can generate and track trouble tickets and action items, and easily keep an eye on a system or program's logistical moving parts. They don't even need to log into ALPS to reap its benefits. The system automatically sends emails to specific recipients, prompting them to take care of certain tasks.
I use the tool every day," said Cyril Chupko, SMART-T logistics manager. "This morning I clicked into ALPS when I arrived, and boom, I already knew what had shipped out the night before. I have more than 20 work orders in the pipe and it tells me the status of those whenever needed."
The Army uses an enormous amount of data to successfully run its programs, but generating that data requires manpower to obtain current statuses and manually maintain and analyze a library of spreadsheets. The ALPS provides a centralized repository that logisticians can tap into to obtain the current state of a program or across multiple programs at any given time with just the push of a button.
"In the current environment of trying to do more with less, the intent is to automate as many things as we can to avoid the time and manpower needed to manually produce quality reports," said Larry Raville, SMART-T project lead for PM WIN-T. "It's a huge savings of resources and produces quality metrics and data that enhances decision making."