By Mitch ChandranNovember 21, 2013
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's Information Technology Directorate is leveraging today's technology to reduce time-consuming manual administrative processes for thousands of transporters associated with shipping Department of Defense cargo.
Members in the directorate's Pipeline Asset Tool program have developed a series of web-based computer modules, also known as portals, which have dramatically improved the timeliness, accuracy and transparency of SDDC's surface transportation support to DOD's shipper community.
In 2007, the Surface In-transit Visibility module was released, providing booking and in-transit visibility of ocean cargo shipments. In October 2012, three more modules were fielded -- Lift Onboard, Delay Request and Authorization and Carrier Performance Portals. The Shipper Performance and Lift Onboard -- Booking Reconciliation Tool modules were released the following year.
The modules are part of SDDC's business support tools and were developed to enhance end-to-end transparency in the transportation process. The modules were designed to reduce the transportation expert's time, but also expose and remedy redundancies and errors in communications between government and commercial technicians involved in managing the administrative processes of the Defense Transportation System. The portals also contribute to cost efficiencies and more effective support to the Warfighter.
"All these tools really tie everything together by supporting the workflows we use to book, manifest and pay for cargo shipments," said Bob Little, Pipeline Asset Tool program manager. "We are developing computer software to streamline reconciliation of bookings, invoices, track delays and staging in the ocean carrier transportation process for moving DOD cargo and containers."
Little mentioned that since the PAT modules came online users have experienced about a 50 percent reduction in the time it takes to perform administrative functions.
The Lift Onboard module is an automated web repository designed for commercial ocean carriers to upload lift data which identifies cargo departing from a port. The module was designed to replace a labor intensive and inaccurate email submission process while improving cargo visibility and payment processing.
Prior to fielding the LOB, a commercial carrier would load DOD cargo onto a vessel and afterward send an email to multiple recipients listing what cargo was uploaded.
"Obviously using email for this particular process is a bad tool," Little said. "What if something changes or somebody transfers or gets replaced? Not everyone would see the latest documents. So, this portal provides one place carriers can upload the latest version and be assured everyone will see the same thing alleviating any chance of anyone working with outdated data."
"I use this portal everyday for my job," said Todd Goetz, traffic management specialist for SDDC. "And I've been able to pinpoint the accuracy of the data. This allows me to see if there are any manifesting problems ahead of time."
Goetz said since the LOB module came online, his time involved in analyzing manifests has been reduced anywhere from 65 to 70 percent.
"Using the old email method, we were always behind in our analytics," Goetz said. "Now we are more caught up and much more proactive in catching manifest errors through this module."
"The LOB portal took a process that was taking an entire group of people most of their week to do and continually keep up with," said Nick Powers, the Pipeline Asset Tool Contractor Program Manager from Preferred Systems Solutions. "We made it a program that only a couple of people have to do a few hours a week to get the same results. It basically just freed up a lot of people's time to do other things and be more effective with their time."
Other SDDC modules released
The Delay Request and Authorization Portal provides a workflow solution that enables the carrier to more effectively request government approval of delay requests and government direction/carrier execution of staging requests as required by the Universal Services Contract.
The Carrier Performance Portal is a tool SDDC uses to measure an ocean carrier's required delivery date compliance. In addition to supporting the ocean carrier's monthly grading process, the CPP provides the ocean carriers easy access to data the command is tracking as it pertains to their respective ocean carrier bookings/shipments.
The Lift Onboard Portal -- Booking Reconciliation Tool is another module replacing a labor intensive email submissions process. This process provides ocean carriers the ability to request booking modifications, categorize the request with a reason, justify the request and provide supporting documentation.
Little said ocean carriers moving SDDC cargo access these modules daily and can see the data as it relates to their distribution process. This transparency provides a big advantage to SDDC because carriers can catch potential failures a couple of months ahead of time and take action now to avoid them. For example, expediting a cargo shipment now that is seen to be in jeopardy of missing its required delivery date will ensure a more timely delivery of cargo to the Warfighter.
SDDC continues developing other modules with the same goal of improving the business processes, supporting SDDC workflows and providing transparency across the surface transportation enterprise.
As a major subordinate command of Army Materiel Command and the Army Service Component Command to U.S. Transportation Command, SDDC is responsible for planning, booking, shipping and tracking cargo; conducting port operations; and managing personal property moves for America's Warfighters, other federal employees and their families. The command also partners with the commercial transportation industry as the coordinating link between DOD surface transportation requirements and the capability industry provides.