Case Study: Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF)
A Case Study on Support of U.S. Military Operations in Afghanistan & Iraq
Courtesy: Savi Technology
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), U.S. Central Command, and the U.S. Army
Program ManagerAutomatic Identification Technology (PM-AIT).
Since 1994, the DoD, through PM AIT, continues to award multi-year procurement contracts to Savi Technology to provide Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) transponder tags; fixed, portable and handheld readers; and associated hardware, software and professional support. These near real-time solutions enable Total Asset Visibility (TAV) for the DoD. In addition to its own products, Savi provides all forms of RFID products and solutions through a full spectrum of RFID partners. The value of the three IDIQ contracts exceeds $250 million.
Client's Top Requirement: Total Asset Visibility (TAV)
The genesis of using RFID to obtain TAV came from the inability during Desert Shield and Desert Storm to know the contents of containers and track and locate supplies in the DoD supply chain. Over 40,000 containers were shipped to the Gulf, with redundant materiel and supplies resulting in enormous "iron mountains" of containers staged in ports and holding yards. At least two-thirds of these containers had to be opened to see what was inside.
To prevent a recurrence of these inefficiencies and lack of visibility, the U.S. Army, through its Logistics Transformation Agency (LTA) and PM AIT worked diligently to install a worldwide RFID infrastructure, called the DoD In-transit Visibility (ITV) Network.
The DoD ITV Network is comprised of more than 800 locations with over 1,300 read and write stations to track and locate the flow of military supplies and equipment ranging from boots and food to bullets and missiles through the supply chainboth in times of peace and conflict. The DoD ITV network is the world's largest active RFID system that tracks and locates over 300,000 shipments per year in near real-time throughout the global DoD supply chain. In January 2003, the United Kingdom (UK) Ministry of Defence (MOD) elected to extend a like capability throughout the UK MOD supply chain. In November 2003, the DoD Joint Chief of Staffs J4 offered to extend the use of the DoD ITV network to all Coalition Allies.
RFID Comes of Age and Proliferates
As the DoD and Army's operational tempo (OPTEMPO) increased in recent years, so too did the use of RFID tagging of containers and Air Lines of Communication (ALOC) pallets. In March 2001, the DoD ITV system recorded 3,148 tag reads by interrogators. In March 2002 more than 28,000 tag reads occurred; however, this massive growth only served as a sentinel of much greater volumes to come. With the deployments and operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2002 and 2003, the tag reports exploded to more than two million tag reports in March 2003. The DoD's explosive growth in the use of Savi's RFID tags, interrogators, other products and services was fueled by the U.S. Central Command's demand for visibility of all materiel and supplies being shipped to support OEF and OIF. As a result of this demand, the use of the ITV network came of age as a standard for end-to-end supply chain visibility. The benefits from the use of Savi's technology are well documented; however, the OEF and OIF "lessons learned" show that many more returns are yet to be realized from total integration and institutionalization of the near real time event data into the DoD's logistics systems.
How It Works
Through the use of Savi's technology, along with other technology providers, the DoD installed a worldwide RFID infrastructure and network to track and locate materiel and supplies moving through the vast, complex, and multi-national end to end supply chain. The DoD TAV network uses linear and two-dimensional barcodes, optical memory cards, active RFID tags, and GPS systems to track tri-walled shipments, commercial and ALOC pallets, and ISO containers through over 800 checkpoints in more than 45 countries.
Asset tracking begins with the aggregation of item data to case contents, to pallet configuration to visibility inside the shipping container to shipment units in a truck, plane or ship. The DoD uses Savi's active, data-rich battery-powered tag to provide "in the box," nodal, "on demand" and "between node" visibility. The "between node" occurs when Savi's RFID tags are coupled with satellite and GPS technology. The Savi RFID tags can store up 128KB of data (80 pages of text).
The DoD created its own format for the Savi tag. The TAV format provides license plate data, detailed commodity information, and specific transportation transactions. The DoD shipper uses their existing logistics systems coupled with Savi's TAV Tools and Unisys' Transportation ITV Processing (TIPS) software and Savi's Tag Docking Stations (TDS) to write the TAV data to the RFID tag. The write record is automatically sent from the TDS to the DoD TAV servers in the U.S., Europe, Korea, and Southwest Asia. As the RFID tagged shipments travel through the DoD supply chain, the RFID tag identification (ID) number is automatically collected by Savi's RFID interrogators. The RFID tag IDs are automatically associated with the interrogator's ID and location and all three data elements are automatically routed to the appropriate DoD TAV server. In addition, at some sites and for some DoD systems, tag data is extracted and automatically populated to existing DoD logistics systems. Through this automatic and near real time data collection, the DoD logistics operators can see the arrival and departure of shipments at any of the over 800 locations. In addition, if there is a crucial requirement to locate a specific item at any of the nodes, the logistics operator can query the TAV system to find all the locations where the item is located.
Finally, and probably most importantly, logistic operators can use Savi's handheld interrogators to send a query to a RFID tag on a shipment to gain "in the box" visibility without opening the container. Lastly, when required by operational necessity, the RFID tags when coupled with satellite and GPS, can provide "between node" visibility. Deployed units in OEF, OIF, and other locations use Savi's Mobile RFID Flyaway Kits, also called Early Entry Deployment Support Kits (EEDSK), to provide RFID infrastructure in contingency operational areas. The EEDSK contains hand-held interrogators to read RFID tags, satellite phones for network connections, and solar panels to generate power to allow connection to the DoD TAV servers.
"Precision-Guided Logistics" in OEF/OIF a Quantum Leap in Efficiency
The application of RFID tracking technology in OEF and OIF benefited war fighters by allowing them to have unprecedented real-time visibility and dynamic routing and management of suppliesa quantum leap over a decade prior.
Numerous accolades came from OEF and OIF logisticians and combatants for the "in the box," "on demand," and "nodal" visibility for materiel and supplies. By using handheld interrogators, users could instantly locate needed supplies such as milk or water or avoid opening unmarked containers holding hazardous materials.
Perhaps the bottom line on the cost savings attributable to ITV and RFID-enabled achievements lies in the fact that during OIF 30 percent fewer troops were deployed than in Desert Storm; however, the Army used 90% fewer shipping containers. The use of the RFID tags and the DoD TAV network significantly contributed to the reduced container usages as well as facilitated port clearance and rapid processing of materiel and supplies through theater distribution centers to ultimate consignees. During OIF, USAF GEN John Handy, U.S. TRANSCOM Commander remarked: "In Desert Storm, we had mountains of containers that never even got opened the whole time we were there. That's not happening this time, and that kind execution of our business will be a significant part of the success of the mission." The significance of TAV to mission success was pointed out by John Osterholz, Director of Architecture and Interoperability in DOD's Chief Information Officer's office. Mr. Osterholz noted that the use of RFID enabled the United States to be fully prepared for war in half the time it took to gear up for Desert Storm, and allowed users to "dive deep" into the information flow and quickly get items to the units that needed them.
A true boots-on-the-ground perspective on the dramatic efficiency gains associated with the advent of "precision-guided logistics" was provided by U.S. Army Major Forrest Burke, Chief of Logistics Information Management, Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC). Said Major Burke: "What would have taken several days to locate in the first Gulf war, we can now find in 20 minutes. Back in 1991, I had a clipboard and carbon paper." According to the National Defense Transportation Association, which honored Savi with its 2003 National Transportation Award in September, "Savi Technology has demonstrably advanced the art and science of defense transportation by providing the DoD the technology to move away from brute force logistics (large stockpiles of materiel) in the operational theater and toward the precise delivery of materiel to the required location at the right time."
U.S. Forces... and Beyond
As mentioned earlier, in addition to the deployment of its RFID solutions within the U.S. Department of Defense, OIF also saw Savi Technology's hardware and software successfully leveraged in support of British forces within the Coalition. The U.K. MOD noted that it recouped its multi-million dollar investment in the technology within two weeks of implementation just prior to OIF. Tracks for tanks were urgently needed in the theater, and the UK MOD was about to lease the costly Antonov the world's largest air cargo planeto transport the equipment from the UK to the Middle East. However, after querying the TAV network, British forces found tank tracks with affixed RFID tags already in theater, thus saving the substantial cost of leasing the aircraft for an expedited shipment.
Building on Success: the DoD RFID Mandate
Based on the logistics tagging and tracking successes of OEF/OIF, on October 2, 2003, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced a policy to institutionalize and extend the use of Savi's data-rich active RFID products across the Department to include shipments from DoD vendors. This innovative and overarching RFID policy includes the mandated use in early 2005 of the new Electronic Product Code (EPC) passive RFID tags for product, case lot, and pallet identification and location. During 2004, the DoD will conduct several prototypes to demonstrate the how the EPC can be used to add additional asset visibility for DoD's supply chain. The EPC when coupled with Savi's active RFID tags will allow the DoD to gain the much sought after automatic nested visibility to alleviate many of the issues identified as part of the "last ugly mile." Fulfilling the "nested visibility" mandate, according to DoD, is "critical" to logistics transformation and will help to "improve business functions and facilitate all aspects of the DOD supply chain." The new RFID policy and the corresponding RFID tagging/labeling of DoD materiel are applicable to all items except bulk commodities such as sand, gravel or liquids. The policy will require suppliers to put passive RFID tags on the lowest possible piece part/case/pallet packaging by January 2005, and immediately affix active, data-rich RFID tags to higher-level assets such as air pallets, containers, equipment and transport modes. DoD has been the primary catalyst for development of state-of-the-art RFID and with this mandate will stimulate even further advancements both throughout the armed forces and the commercial supply chain. In promulgating the policy, the DoD continues to demonstrate its global leadership and foresight in accelerating wider adoption of RFID technologies for supply chain applications. Savi Technology is proud and privileged to have worked closely with the DoD for nearly a decade in designing, developing and providing data-rich active RFID tags, readers and support software. Savi is fully committed to taking lessons learned from OIF to develop the next generation of RFID-enabled solutions that extend the breadth and depth of real-time, total asset visibility of military supplies in times of peace and conflict. By continuing to work with partner solutions, Savi is committed to being the "on ramp" to the TAV system by "nesting" its solutions with EPC-compliant tags and other technologies for both end-to-end and top-to-bottom visibility.
Savi is the proven leader in global supply chain security and real-time asset management with over 14 years of logistics infrastructure experience. Founded in 1989, Savi Technology is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, with offices in Hong Kong, Johannesburg, London, Brussels, Singapore, Taipei, and Washington D.C.