Ever wonder how to start a care of supplies in storage (COSIS) inspection on $2.6 billion of Army stock? Or wonder what items need proper care to minimize loss or item serviceability degradation?This article shares some ideas to overcome daunting COSIS challenges, ultimately improving the sustainment of serviceability of Army stock. The intent is to propose a new method for accomplishing proper COSIS that is a more efficient and effective contribution to Army readiness and a leaner, more agile supply chain.Why Do We Need COSIS?Military packaging and preservation are specifically designed to ensure that items do not degrade during shipment and storage. However, between the time items enter the supply chain until the time of use, there is physical and environmental wear and tear on all stock. Temperature, humidity, electrostatic discharge, and handling are the primary forces that, over time, can degrade the serviceability of items.Per Army Regulation (AR) 735-5, Property Accountability Policies, part of custodial responsibility is defined as the obligation “to exercise reasonable and prudent actions to properly care for property in storage.”The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” effectively describes COSIS. It is prudent to avoid both costly and potentially mission-crippling failures.It is reasonable to take actions and inspect items to prevent and identify degradation and ensure the items’ true conditions are known and posted correctly in the asset records.COSIS can be incredibly cost effective. In January 2020, the on-hand value of Class IX (repair parts) items in Global Combat Support System–Army (GCSS-Army) was $2.6 billion. Replacing $50 worth of desiccant can prevent corrosion and sustain a $28,000 vehicle transmission. Simply ensuring that no electrostatic discharge sensitive (ESDS) items’ packaging are opened before use is a significant safeguard in the proper care of ESDS items.ESDS items in an opened or damaged electrostatic barrier can instantly become unserviceable. Damaged or open shelf-life (SL) packaging removes critical protection and immediately ends the item’s SL. Many of our major weapons systems rely on items with SL. Inspecting stock to be sure the true condition is known and correctly recorded prevents the potential of sending unserviceable items downrange.Current COSIS ApproachThe proper military packaging and storage requirements are designed to stop or slow the effects of the environment. Currently, we are required to inspect all items based on the item’s type of storage, in accordance with AR 740-3, Stock Readiness. The shortest inspection interval is six months, for items stored in open storage (outdoors). The longest interval is 72 months, for items stored in controlled-humidity storage.This guidance is effective when an item is in the correct uncompromised packaging and in the required storage. However, the table’s timelines do not recognize the urgency of finding items that are hypersensitive to environmental elements (i.e., temperature, humidity, condensation, dryness, sunlight, electrostatic discharge, and the effects of handling), have less than the required or compromised packaging, or are stored in less protective storage. Without the proper military packaging and storage requirement, the negative effects of the environment are accelerated, increasing the risk of item serviceability degradation. Strictly following the timelines in AR 740-3 could actually promote item serviceability degradation.A proposed new COSIS method aligns efforts with the real-time effect of the environment based on the sensitivity of items and the correctness of the packaging and storage. We must find at-risk stock as soon as possible.So how do we find it?Part 1: COSIS Priority GroupsCompromised packaging or storage results in a critical error that will begin the degradation process immediately, affecting item serviceability. The packaging, storage, and containerization center (PSCC) began identifying items that were the most vulnerable to critical error, which consistently fell into six environmentally-sensitive item groups that, historically, produce the highest quantities of critical error.The six groups are defined as COSIS priority groups (CPG). PSCC systematically identifies within any inventory list what items should be selected first for inspection. The results: critical errors are found sooner.The first CPG is Method of Preservation 50s, items requiring a water vapor-proof barrier and desiccant. These high-dollar items are very susceptible to corrosion,, such as engines, transmissions, and aviation reparables. These items are hypersensitive to contact with moisture and often have humidity indicators affixed to be sure the tolerance of moisture is acceptable within the item’s container. A simple, timely replacement of desiccant sustains the items, but ignoring the humidity indicator and corrosion begins.The second group is ESDS items, such as circuit cards, that require electrostatic packaging. An ESDS item is so vulnerable to electrostatic discharge damage that an ESDS item having a compromised barrier must be downgraded to “F” condition and retested for serviceability, as the potential damage is invisible. As much as you want to easily fit an ESDS item into a metal Expeditionary Containerized Authorized Stockage List container drawer, don’t open the packaging.The third and fourth CPGs are non-extendable SL and extendable SL items, respectively. SL items can be a wide variety of items, from gaskets to atropine injections, and are often composed of rubber, like tires. There are two things to keep in mind with SL items. First, the item’s full SL is dependent on how the item is maintained; without the proper packaging and storage, SL is compromised. Second, opening a SL unit package ends SL and begins service life.The fifth priority group is hazardous materials (HAZMAT), which often have SL but also require proper segregation to avoid environment hazards. The key here is never lose track of your HAZMAT.The sixth group are items being stored outside that require indoor storage. Often transmissions in crates and engines in containers are required to be stored in unheated general-purpose warehouses, but they get stored outdoors in the elements. Once stored outdoors, a less protective environment, items should be inspected more frequently than the open storage requirement of six months. If these items have compromised packaging and they are also included in CPG one, requiring a desiccant and a barrier, they will have the most accelerated negative environmental effects.These six groups represent the items most likely to become unserviceable the soonest. So how do I find the CPGs in my inventory?Part 2: The COSIS Risk AssessmentCurrently, all packaging and storage requirements can only be looked up one at a time in the Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program (AESIP) using the Army Packaging tab. This becomes a show stopper pretty quickly when we need to look up thousands of National Item Identification Numbers (NIINs) of a brigade combat team’s authorized stock list.So what can be done to expedite the lookup of items with the greatest COSIS risk?To find the CPGs in an inventory using a partially-automated process, PSCC merges NIIN packaging data, approximately 100 packaging codes, HAZMAT codes, SL codes, and item type-of-storage codes, with NIIN inventory data (e.g., bin location) and cataloging data (e.g., item cost or criticality code). This method instantly puts critical elements of packaging, storage, inventory, and cataloging data together with the CPG number identifier by NIIN into an Excel spreadsheet. The result is a CRA that identifies the CPGs by NIIN. Now, managing the inspection, finding critical error, and remediating the error are at the user’s fingertips.During a recent tactical supply support activity (TSSA) site assistance visit, PSCC used the CRA to select items for COSIS inspection. Using the unit’s actual inventory from GCSS-Army to identify the CPGs by NIIN and the actual stock location, PSCC demonstrated the CRA’s efficiency and effectiveness. The unit leaders immediately recognized the benefits of the CRA to sort and find at-risk stock within the inventory. The TSSA expressed enthusiasm for this real-time information and the benefit of identifying critical issues first.In the CRA example in Table 2 for Routing Identifier Code (RIC) WHA, the COSIS efficiency is significantly increased by reducing 4,219 NIINs to 395 potentially at-risk items. The effectiveness is increased because the unit can focus on 395 items with the greatest probability of needing mitigation first to prevent service degradation. Identifying COSIS Risks with a Single Data FieldPerhaps one of the greatest efficiencies to this method is that it systematically prioritizes risk by converting fields with item characteristic codes (e.g., HAZMAT, SL, packaging, and type of storage) to a single data field representing critical care and handling through CPG identification The CPG provides immediate feedback with no need to search, interpret, gather, mark, segregate, and correlate it to a NIIN and an inventory. It could be downloaded into spreadsheets to further manipulate the data.The CPG identified by NIIN could be available to anyone with stock visibility in any supply functional area: receiving, turn-in, shipping, inbound, and outbound. The CPG gets everyone on the same page on what right should look like. It also reduces training requirements. In fact, in the future, if in-hand instruction is available (similarly to safety data sheets), Soldiers could easily execute the proper care of items by CPG while avoiding additional technical training and lengthy, often untimely, research.An information technology design could potentially allow for change or expandability. If new items develop COSIS issues or it could be possible to add to the CPGs if other communities, such as medical or ammunition, need to push out special handling and storage guidance to the field. The capability to quantify the end-to-end business of COSIS is facilitated through crosswalking COSIS CPG identifier based on the NIIN to catalog, inventory, and maintenance data. Additional analysis is possible, correlating NIIN data found in COSIS inspections and COSIS remediation history, available in the PSCC’s COSIS APP.Quantifying COSISQuantifying COSIS and COSIS corrective efforts has always been a significant challenge. In 1978, a study conducted by the General Accounting Office on the Army’s COSIS Program found that the execution of COSIS efforts had failed to provide quantitative evidence of meeting program objectives. “One problem the Army has had is relating program accomplishments (e.g., improved material readiness) to budget requests. The inability to show whether program objectives have been attained has caused reductions in program funding requests. … In Fiscal Year 1977, the Army spent $19 million on COSIS—$12.1 million on ammunition and $6.9 million on general supplies.”Correlating COSIS to value is exceptionally difficult without a systematic method. Knowing the actual costs of $50 spent on replacing desiccants to preserve and sustain a $28,000 transmission on a critical weapons system provides the return on investment essential to justify funding. Measuring also assists in decision making. Knowing the amount and type of risk to an item can help determine the best storage solutions, packaging remediation solutions, and retrograde solutions. Measuring will help with predictive readiness and root cause analysis. Measuring the real-world effects of the environment on Army assets can assist in improving design and sustainability of Army assets. Quantification can begin by tracking COSIS risk by NIIN and key elements in catalog, inventory, and maintenance data to include COSIS inspection results and corrective action history.The key to the new approach is understanding, in real-time, how the environment is affecting items, based on item sensitivity and the correctness of the packaging and storage, and creating COSIS data visibility. The old COSIS approach of taking care of all things, at all times, everywhere, is simply too wide of a target. We need to execute targeted COSIS through risk prioritization.If you have any further questions on COSIS, CPGs, or CRAs, email the ASC PSCC at email@example.com.---------------------Christopher Forth is currently a packaging specialist in the Packaging and Transportation Division of the Packaging Storage and Containerization Center, Army Sustainment Command. Forth has been an active member of the Care of Supplies in Storage and Stock Readiness Inspection Team since 2014. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree from University of Oklahoma and is a trained Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.