REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The Army Software Factory developed an application that will ease Soldiers’ access to technical manuals and improve their experience conducing preventive maintenance checks and services.
The PMCS application was built by Soldiers at the Army Software Factory for Soldiers in garrison with the ultimate goal of improving equipment readiness and accountability. The PMCS app addresses widespread problems that Soldiers encounter, like lack of access to technical manuals, inconsistent processes for unit maintenance and unclear visibility of true fault status.
“Our Soldiers are expected to maintain very complex pieces of equipment, but they often didn’t have the technical manuals needed to keep equipment like trucks and Bradleys mission-ready,” 1st Lt. Haley Steele, Army Software Factory PMCS product manager, said. “We built this app to meet Soldiers where they are. All of the resources they need to maintain equipment can be found in the palm of their hand, and they can now do their jobs effectively and improve Army readiness.”
Steele, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a degree in computer science, is a member of the first Army Software Factory cohort. She noted that her time as a platoon leader, where her unit experienced difficulties with equipment maintenance, was what motivated her to join the PMCS team.
“I’m passionate about this subject area, not only because of my computer science degree, but also because it was a frustration that I experienced in the field,” Steele said. “Being a product manager for this app is a match made in heaven.”
Before the app was launched, Soldiers could only access technical manuals through CAC-enabled computers. The process was time-consuming and didn’t allow for Soldiers to efficiently complete maintenance checks and request work orders.
“The PMCS process hadn’t set Soldiers up for maintenance success until now,” Dr. Christopher Hill, director of AMC analysis group, said. “This app will be a game changing capability for the Army.”
At the time, Soldiers were using unsecure methods in order to access manuals more efficiently.
Now, thanks to the collaboration between Army Materiel Command and Army Software Factory, Soldiers with a cell phone will be able to access all of the technical manuals they need through secure methods.
The team will add additional features to further improve Soldiers’ experience conducting PMCS. These features will include up-to-date equipment statuses and document faults identified during PMCS. This will allow maintenance data to be captured at a greater level.
In addition to delivering technical manuals to Soldiers in a more efficient manner, the PMCS app will also provide data to AMC analysts that will help them better understand the state of equipment in the field and forecast failures among larger sets of equipment.
“The PMCS app will allow Soldiers and analysts to see current status of parts and work orders,” Hill said. “This will prevent requesting duplicative work orders for the same problem on the same vehicle. When the data is correct, we can order the right parts in right quantities and be able to see trends in our equipment failure.”
Even before the PMCS app officially launched, Soldiers were already testing it and influencing the way that it is further developed. To garner feedback, the Army Software Factory held Soldier Touchpoints on Fort Hood to help pinpoint end-user issues and facilitate rapid iteration of software prototypes. The Soldiers would pull up the app on their phone and walk through maintenance all the while answering questions about whether the app was missing information, needed adjustments or what other capabilities they’d like for it to have.
“We wanted to hear everything – the good, the bad and the ugly,” Steele said. “That’s how we can really improve the app.”
The app is now open for all Soldiers to use and can be accessed from any browser after downloading and registering with the Army’s Mobile Connect application. The Army Software Factory is planning to test new features with small user groups soon.
The Army Software Factory comprises active duty military, reservists, Army Civilians and contractors who are dedicated to accelerating the digital transformation within the Army and impacting the lives and lethality of Soldiers today and in the future. Though it is part of Army Futures Command, the Army Software Factory has worked closely with AMC to develop solutions to issues like PMCS, with more collaborative projects in the works.
“It’s been incredible to go to different units and get such positive feedback from Soldiers,” Steele said. She remarked that Soldiers are saying that this app is a big step for the Army in order to modernize PMCS and move toward the future of equipment readiness in an actionable way. “I’m honored to be part of a team making an impact greater than myself. This is more than I could have done as a platoon leader – we are giving back to the Army in a bigger way.”