TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - A lost communications-electronics system has helped find a better way to project cost.

Productivity Improvement and Innovation and Production Management personnel have combined the Master Production Scheduling project and Radio Frequency Identification technology to help locate and track assets here.

"The original plan was to initiate MPS, beginning with a pilot area, and then implement the program in the mission areas," notes Dan Petty, logistics program specialist in the Production Management Directorate's Logistics Modernization Program/Master Production Scheduling Branch. Production Management personnel were piloting MPS when a communications-electronics system was misplaced. Someone suggested they could avoid similar situations if they use RFID to track other large systems.

Production Management personnel began implementing the MPS program in January 2008. The program, which schedules work and parts, is a module within the Logistics Modernization Program. LMP is an enterprise resource planning system that focuses on scheduling work and preventative maintenance for equipment and long-term planning.

The use of RFID technology was implemented in 2004 as a means of tracking assets through the maintenance and overhaul processes, explains Ronald Rains, management analyst in the Productivity Improvement and Innovation Directorate's Research and Analysis Division.

RFID tags are tracked and viewed by using a computer program that houses a map of the depot and contains information on each tracked asset.

Armed with the MPS program, RFID technology and the computer program, Petty and Rains went to work training and mentoring supervisors, work leaders, as well as production controllers and planners.

Since the joint effort began, personnel from PII and Production Management have implemented the technology and program to areas in the Communications Systems and Command, Control and Computers/Avionics directorates; they plan to tackle areas in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate next.

"When personnel in the Production Management Directorate meet with supervisors and work leaders they look at the amount of workload and Repair Cycle Times to determine how many RFID tags they will need and who they need to train," Petty explains. They also determine the route of the work flow to identify where RFID coverage is needed.

Rains explains that the tags constantly track asset movement about every four minutes. "We know where the asset is [because there is a tag on it], how long it has been in a location and when it will arrive at the next location," he notes. "All of that information is stored in the database."

This information can be viewed on an electronic map of the depot or in report form, which allows personnel to track an asset and determine how long it's been in an area.

"Information can be manually taken out of the database and put into LMP to update the routes so you know exactly how long it should be taking for work to be completed, and it helps with scheduling work," Petty explains. Rains adds that they are taking initiatives to integrate relevant data from the RFID database with LMP.

Personnel are currently using RFID to track large assets such as shelters, humvees and Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminals. Petty says they are looking into tracking smaller items by placing one tag on a pallet containing the same assets, so personnel can track items through their normal process.

The joint effort will improve the work flow by providing personnel with the tools to update asset routes, Petty notes. Supervisors and work leaders are able to locate misplaced items more easily because the database's depot map allows them to visually locate the asset, eliminating a manual search process.

"The use of RFID allows shops to know where an asset is, and to ensure the schedule is met," Mike McCawley, chief of the Communication Systems Directorate's Voice Communications Division.

The ultimate goal of the joint effort is to identify where and why items that exceed expected dwell times are held up during the production process, says Bob Haas, noting that this will improve the flow of products through the production process. Haas is the chief of the PII Directorate's Research and Analysis Division.

Petty says this "hand-in-hand" process is also a plan for parts to get to a location just as technicians need them. "We're not quite there, but we're working toward that and LMP is going to help us get there."

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate 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. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center for ground communications and electronics.

About 5,700 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 CECOM 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.