Software improves maintenance operations

The war in Iraq is placing new demands on the staff at Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Ala., every day. At the depot, more than 2,600 employees perform maintenance on both heavy- and light-tracked combat vehicles and their components, as well as weapons, including land combat missiles and small arms.

"All vehicles out there [in the Iraq war] have been through this operation at one time or another. Emergency requirements come in every day to us," said David Sok, chief of the mission analysis and publications division at the depot. The requirements include building replacement engines and transmissions for the M1 Abrams tank, producing additional small arms and providing depot-level support for other tracked combat vehicles and their components.

"Sometimes we'll get a requirement we didn't really plan for," Sok said, "and we'll have to determine if we need a second or third shift, if we have people in a less-critical area who can be moved over, if we have material available and what kind of material we are going to need in the future."

To do their jobs well, Anniston officials need daily visibility into their programs and the ability to predict their needs in the future.

Sok said they're doing both with help from Robbins-Gioia LLC of Alexandria, Va., a program management consulting firm. Robbins-Gioia is working under the first of two option years on a depot sustainment and support service contract. The value of the contract last year to Robbins-Gioia was $1 million.

"They have been a tremendous help in determining our immediate needs and looking at our future work force and resource requirements," Sok said.

Robbins-Gioia has increased its analysis work to help the depot plan for war-related requirements, said David Sparrow, director of operations for Robbins-Gioia at the depot.

"We are trying to incorporate this analysis in our monthly routine, so should this [conflict] continue or come again, we are already prepared for it," he said.

Robbins-Gioia employees, who have worked at the depot for more than nine years, developed the Production Economics Program to review daily schedule, expense and revenue status for all programs at Anniston, from something as small as a 9 mm pistol to an M-1 Abrams tank. They recently added capabilities that allow managers to run "what-if" scenarios in order to project future needs. Anniston officials used the new technology and process to determine the effects of war on their operations, and now they are using it to predict effects on their operations now that the war is ongoing.

Robbins-Gioia staff also developed several software tools that give Anniston employees even greater visibility into operations.

The Desktop Unified Parts System takes all the information about material in the depot's legacy Standard Depot System and puts it into an easy-to-use format available on users' desktops, saving them from logging on to the legacy system and viewing various screens, Sparrow said.

"It is much easier to use than the legacy system itself, and the information they are able to get out of the DUPS program helps them make sure the material they need is on time and on the line when they need it," Sparrow said.

Robbins-Gioia employees also recently finished the first phase of the Abrams Integrated Management Material Tracking System, which standardized the internal tracking of material used on one of the M-1 Abrams tank rebuilding programs at the depot. When completed, the tracking system will provide Web-based visibility into material from the depot and two outside contractors.

Before Anniston had the Production Economics Program and related software tools, it took as long as a month, as opposed to a day, to ascertain the revenue and expense of the depot's programs. Getting the information involved poring through reams of printouts, manually extracting data and putting it into a spreadsheet, Sok said.

The daily data made available by the Robbins-Gioia software has improved depot efficiency and is saving money, Sok said.

"If we didn't have this capacity, we would probably we working a lot more hours now," he said. "During Desert Shield and Desert Storm [1990-1991 conflicts with Iraq] we were working 12 to 14 hours a day, and it took a week to get data. Today I can get it by the end of the day or first thing in the morning. We can analyze [our needs] and adjust quickly. It has saved us lot of work hours and a lot of money."

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