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WinWare Inc.

Quality Insider

Luke AFB Achieves Better Inventory Management Through RFID

RFID helps air force base fulfill mission to provide knowledge-enabled logistic support to the warfighter.

Published: Monday, October 12, 2009 - 08:17

What does a 13-person military team need to survive in Iraq and Afghanistan for five days by themselves without any base support? What types of protective gear and critical life saving items are needed? How much? Inside the storage warehouse of the 56th Security Forces Squadron (56SFS) at Luke AFB where these items are stored are the massive 463L aircraft pallets that hold up to 10,000 lb of equipment. These readiness pallets must be all set to ship in 24 hours even if one hasn't shipped in three years. Having the inventory in stock when needed is imperative. Matthew Owen, Resource Advisor 56 SFS, knows precisely the items needed for the readiness pallets, from the food and water to the weapons and ammunition. Managing these supplies and other types of inventory are his top priority.

The 56 SFS warehouse is not unlike most other storage warehouses where expendable and durable inventory are stocked. Items are received from vendors and from the government. There are two sections—the mobility section and the supply section. In the mobility section are pallets that contain the supplies needed for the war fighter in a foreign location, such as tactical supplies, combat weapons, night-vision goggles, and ammunition. The supply section includes items used by their base security teams, such as police duty gear, holsters, second-chance vests, and ATV's, even items as mundane as pens, pencils, and paper. Because the costs of these items range anywhere from items valued at a few dollars to a single item valued at $250,000, it's important for Luke AFB to have accurate tracking data.

Initially, in 2003, a barcode tracking system was implemented. The warehouse used barcodes to manage the flow of product into and out of the supply section and barcodes on the pallets used in mobility deployment. A batch scanning product was used to input the data into their database for tracking. This database was independent of other base locations. While this system helped to manage the flow of product, it did not provide a complete solution for some of the other inventory management challenges. Challenges such as:

  • Security and accountability issues
  • Tracking routine maintenance and calibration schedules
  • Reducing labor costs
  • Improving internal and headquarter-level visibility

In June 2008, a lean event was held at the headquarters level. One of the goals was to seek ways to streamline the inventory management processes to fulfill their mission to provide knowledge-enabled logistic support to the warfighter. RFID had been previously recognized by the United States Department of Defense as a transformational technology that facilitates automated visibility and assessment management.

"Since we already had the barcode system in place at the Luke AFB warehouse, it was noted during this conference that we would be a prime example to implement an RFID inventory management system," explains Owen.

Luke AFB consulted with American Barcode and RFID (AB&R), because they already had an established business relationship with them as a systems integrator within other areas of the base.

"Luke AFB already had proven processes in inventory management, so it wasn't necessary to re-invent the wheel," says Mike Moss with AB&R.

His recommended RFID solution for them was the CribMaster Accu-Port and CribMaster Last-Point-Read Tracking Module. Each product is one of the products available in a full suite of inventory management solutions all driven by CribMaster software.

It works like this. The Accu-Port allows an authorized employee to walk into a secured location with their RFID badge and walk right out with their item without having to enter employee codes or scan their badges. The RFID recognizes the individual wearing the device and tracks the inventory and the personnel accountable.

At Luke AFB, where a higher level of accountability is needed, the Last-Point-Read (LPR) Tracking Module was installed. The LPR can determine where the product was last seen, who had it, and what direction it was going in. Since their go-live date in January 2009, not only has CribMaster provided increased security and accountability, it has also provided:

  • Improved scheduling in preventative maintenance, calibration, and shelf-life items
  • Improved asset tracking
  • Ability to link information across all authorized command structures

Having just begun the journey with better asset and inventory tracking through CribMaster and RFID, what are next steps for Luke AFB?

According to Owen, officials will gather and evaluate the data for six months to one year to determine cost savings and greater efficiencies. With the help of CribMaster and by leveraging RFID to the fullest extent possible, it will be possible to improve the ability to deliver to the warfighter the right material, at the right place, at the right time, and in the right condition.



About The Author

WinWare Inc.’s picture

WinWare Inc.

WinWare Inc., established in 1992 in Marietta, Georgia, is dedicated to creating enterprisewide systems that manage tools and other indirect material in the industrial workplace.  The company is committed to providing expert software and
hardware solutions for today’s manufacturing inventory problems, and serves aerospace, airlines, automotive, consumer products, food, hydraulics, medical devices, military, petrochemical, power generation, precision machining, and recreational vehicle industries.