Logistics modernization transforms business practices
January 7, 2008
Leadership cites importance of benefits in modernizing logistics, future support
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Tobyhanna is in the final stages of integrating the Army\'s Logistics Modernization Program, which has introduced business processes that are consistent with current industry standards.
The LMP multi-year transformation, begun in December 1999, to modernize logistics and the supporting information technology to meet current and future military readiness requirements, is scheduled for completion in March 2009.
"There's no doubt it's been a difficult transition, but as the system matures, people will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of information available to make our work easier," said Frank Zardecki (a resident of Cresco), deputy depot commander.
"There are over a half a million data points resident in the system that will make manual reporting and analysis of program status a thing of the past. We are a very unique business and as we continue to grow we cannot survive without advanced enterprise resource planning systems."
Officials here are using a web-based enterprise resource planning system to link the depot's business practices so that users can share information with the click of a mouse. The ERP is a framework for organizing, defining and standardizing business processes. It's a one-stop-shop concept that replaces hours of research and information verification with accurate, real-time data.
"People who use the ERP system can find information in one place," said Jim Antonelli (a resident of Hazleton), assistant program officer, Master Production Schedule Office. "The ERP brings together the various elements of being able to do planning for an organization, whether its material planning, demand planning or capacity planning."
Tobyhanna's commander is committed to integrating LMP into all aspects of the depot's business processes.
"We are engaged in an enormous task-on point to modernize the Army's Logistics and Maintenance Systems. This is bigger than Tobyhanna and even Army Materiel Command-it impacts the entire army logistics and maintenance systems from the foxhole to the strategic industrial base." said Col. Ron Alberto, depot commander.
"As the Army's LMP prototype, it is our task and we must embrace this responsibility in order to move Tobyhanna, all depots and the Army logistics system into the 21st century. The objective is to maintain the highest effectiveness while providing service to the warfighter," he said. "It is imperative that depot employees embrace the cultural, system and process changes that come with LMP. It is a challenge and misson we must meet head on and overcome."
LMP staff members noted that transformation is necessary if the depot is to continue being competitive in this industry.
"We have a lot of confidence in the ability of the system to do the job as advertised," said Ted Bienkowski (a resident of Summit Hill), prototype team leader.
"We're starting to see benefits from what we did with the material organizations [in the early stages of the transformation]. The ERP allows us to better meet deadlines and provides for more reliable schedules. It also helps us project our 'people requirements' and provide more valid numbers," he said.
Transforming Tobyhanna's business practices from 1970s logistics technology and 30-year-old processes has not been easy. Since introducing the system in 2003, the LMP team members have overcome obstacles such as learning how to use the complex ERP system, introducing cultural changes to the general depot population and getting people to understand the level of data quality that's required.
Bob Edmunds (a resident of Eynon) started working with LMP about three years ago.
"This initiative [LMP] is a huge transformation," he said. "The future of the depot depends upon its successful implementation and the challenges it presents are significant." Edmunds is the branch chief for the Materiel Accountability and Analysis Branch, Materiel Management Division, Production Management Directorate.
"It's not simply software; it's a re-engineering of our business processes and we need to communicate to everyone involved the benefits of using an ERP system," he said.
If asked, Bienkowski and Antonelli readily admit they have faith in the LMP philosophy. "We're believers," they said. "Now we can do things in a cool, calculated and methodical way that makes everyone's job easier."
Both men agree LMP is a mindset. According to them, it's not just a system, but an entire philosophy on how to run a business.
"We're heading toward cutting edge technology," Bienkowski said. "There's so much promise in this system."
The Army chose Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing to develop an ERP system to bring its business practices more in line with industry standards. SAP is a business software company that develops resource planning solutions for companies around the world. According to the SAP Web site, the systems will help organizations reduce costs, improve performance and gain the agility to respond to changing business needs.
Computer Science Corporation further tailored the ERP system, to meet the special needs of the Army.
"When we originally brought the system in, we tried to alter it to fit our existing business processes and it didn't work too well," Antonelli said, explaining that change was necessary for the depot to get the most out of the complex system. "The depot wasn't gaining any benefits from all the good tools available in the ERP system."
Furthermore, Antonelli noted that the LMP team wasn't "savvy" on system's capabilities. "We had to educate ourselves and as we got smarter, we realized we could do so much more with the software."
The software features processes that have been refined over the years to be the "best business processes" in the industry.
"Tobyhanna is making a quantum leap to catch up with industry," Bienkowski said. "I can't believe how much we've learned."
The master production planning team has received extensive fundamental education in ERP and Association of Operation Management. The team is also engaged in continuing education that will lead to certification.
"We're juggling a lot as we [the depot] grow and move the organization into the future," noted Antonelli.
The LMP team consists of about 30 people who develop new business processes and guide the implementation of those processes.
"These people are great," said Antonelli. "They became experts in the system while attending training and conducting workshops for depot employees."
The Army's industrial base, arsenals and depots will use Tobyhanna's transformation as a benchmark while developing their LMP processes.
"Tobyhanna is the prototype installation implementing what the Army refers to as Enterprise Expansion, of which our LMP system is a part," Antonelli said. "What we do here will be the standard all other Army depot and arsenals will follow as they roll out LMP."
The second deployments at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas; Letterkenny Army Depot; and U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; are tentatively scheduled for the second quarter of 2009. Data quality, legacy systems and new concepts were a few of the challenges logistics experts here faced while integrating the ERP system.
"Our biggest challenge is being one of the prototype sites-there's no roadmap for us to follow," Edmunds said. "We're blazing our own trail and learning as we go. "Data quality is another significant challenge," he added. "Legacy systems did not force data integrity across business disciplines; LMP demands it."
Another major challenge is trying to re-educate employees and get them to accept change, according to Linda Caso (a resident of Hazleton), production controller in the Manufacturing Scheduling Division.
"When everyone is trained properly and they understand why they are doing this, it becomes obvious that everyone will benefit from this [LMP]."
Caso was on hand to witness the December roll out and observed first hand the benefits of the new system. "In my opinion, it's a win-win situation for both the customer and Tobyhanna," Caso said. "The system is designed to have material at arms length as opposed to waiting weeks and sometimes months for deliveries. The shops are gainfully employed and in turn, this satisfies the customer because they are getting a quality product in a timely fashion."
The ERP is being introduced one directorate at a time. The Material Management Division in the Production Management Directorate started using the material management portion of the material requirements plan in December.
It's going to take 18 months to roll out the rest of the depot, according to Bienkowski. The next phase will launch a prototype for the TSC-93 and TSC-85 weapons systems in the Satellite Communications Division, Communication Systems Directorate.
"The prototype will exercise the system to see if all the business processes that we've developed over the past year work," said Antonelli. "It will give us an opportunity to see where we need to make changes and tweak processes."
The prototype is scheduled for completion in December and the rest of CS will come on line in January. Antonelli explained that if all goes well, other depot organization will roll out every two months: Systems Integration and Support Directorate, followed by Command, Control and Computer/Avionics Directorate, and lastly, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 5,300 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.