By Kurt Wendelken, SES, Assistant Commander for Supply Chain Technology and Systems Integration
(N2/N6), NAVSUP Headquarters
7:30 a.m., Apr. 3, 2028 - USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG 126), a Flight III Arleigh Burke class destroyer, is underway in the North Sea supporting exercise Joint Warrior 2028. Ship’s Supply Officer Lt. Lisa Ellis arrives in her office after supply department quarters on the flight deck. Logging on to her workstation, she is greeted by the Naval Operational Supply System (NOSS) supply officer dashboard. The dashboard shows her key supply department metrics for repair parts, consumables, food service, ship’s store and the status of Wilson’s casualty reports (CASREP) parts. A quick scan shows that the ship was red in repair parts, but green in all other areas. Clicking on the repair parts tab revealed an outstanding CASREP for Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA), and also that the digital twin of one of Wilson’s LM-2500 gas turbine engines recorded some readings out of parameters. Artificial intelligence (AI) was used to troubleshoot the issue, then automatically ordered parts overnight to correct the problem. Ellis is relieved to see that CASREP parts have arrived and that a rotary cargo drone would be coming from RAF Lossiemouth at 2 p.m. to deliver the parts for the CASREPS and LM-2500. NOSS also keeps track of daily food usage and ships store sales, and then passes that information regularly to Defense Logistics Agency and Navy Exchange Service Command. AI at both organizations analyzes the data received, and uses it to automatically create food and ships stores orders, which NOSS reports will be delivered to Wilson during her port visit in Faslane, Scotland on Saturday.
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USS Ross (DDG 71) participated in the U.K.-led, multinational exercise Joint Warrior 18-1, that exercises interoperability and cooperation in all applicable warfare areas. –photo by MC1 Kyle Steckler
It’s an exciting time for Navy Supply Chain Information Technology! Driven by the Chief of Naval Operation’s focus on digital, the Navy is making substantial investments in new logistics information technology (IT) systems like NOSS, making upgrades to existing systems like Navy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and enabling technologies like data analytics, robotics and AI. These investments will generate direct improvements to readiness, efficiency and the Navy’s audit efforts.
NOSS, the replacement for Relational Supply (RSUPPLY), is currently being developed and scheduled to start rolling out to the fleet in 2022. Unlike RSUPPLY, NOSS will be designed from the ground up to support our current manning concepts and rely on technology to reduce the amount of ship’s force work needed to run a supply department. Navy ERP, the engine ashore that is driving our supply chain, will also be improved. ERP’s underlying software will migrate from SAP R/3 to SAP Suite on Hana, bringing dramatically increased speed and the ability to simplify and improve the user interface. The migration will also take Navy ERP to the cloud, bringing the many benefits that cloud computing offers.
In addition to the Navy ERP cloud migration, NAVSUP is moving other key facets of the Navy’s supply chain IT to the cloud. Cloud computing will provide a flexible IT hosting that will allow infrastructure to respond rapidly to changes in demand, while taking advantage of massive economies of scale. Web-based applications running in the cloud are also able to be modified or cyber hardened much more quickly than traditionally hosted ones. As NAVSUP tech refreshes its applications, they will be moved into the cloud, either in a new platform or re-hosted in their existing platform.
NAVSUP, through its reform program, is also making significant improvements in supply chain IT. Navy Business Intelligence Services (NBIS), Navy’s first logistics focused data lake, was established by NAVSUP to provide a big data analytics capability that is being used to improve maritime and aviation readiness. NAVSUP has also developed Logistics Cell (LOGCELL), which is an IT capability that fuses data with an advanced visual collaboration system that enables effective collaboration among stakeholders to solve complicated logistics problems. In the case of the P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft, LOGCELL enabled a 25 percent reduction of back orders for repair parts, a 57 percent reduction in consumable part back orders, a 62 percent reduction in the average number of back orders, and avoided retail outfitting costs in excess of $114 million. Many other big data efforts are underway to improve readiness.
NAVSUP is also building mobile apps to improve communication and supply chain operations. Our first app, eSUPPO, used the capabilities of both the iOS and Android platforms to provide timely detailing and career information to Navy Supply Corps personnel and to allow them to provide instantaneous survey question feedback to leadership. We continue to develop new mobile capabilities as customers identify new areas where mobile apps can help. One area under evaluation is a mobile logistics playbook to provide afloat Supply Corps officers with key logistics information for different areas of operations.
We have efforts underway in robotics, both in the form of physical robots and robotic process automation (RPA). RPA is an emerging form of process automation technology based on the notion of software robots or AI workers. It is particularly suited to automate repetitive and administrative tasks, and is already being used outside of the Navy in human resources, customer service, logistics, and data migration and entry. We believe it will help us with contract administration and human resource administrative processing, and other uses that we’ve still not uncovered.
We are also piloting some efforts with physical robotics. We have identified robots that are equipped with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) readers and are able to automatically conduct wall-to-wall inventories. The robots roll through warehouses and are able to identify and count tagged material. NAVSUP has also partnered with Penn State University’s Applied Research Laboratory to investigate these and other emerging supply chain and logistics technology opportunities.