The velocity management approach to battlefield distribution does more than streamline current processes; it transforms them into new processes that accommodate the complexities of the logistics pipeline.
To maintain the logistics continuum, logisticians must ensure that tactical concepts support strategic policy objectives. With that principle in mind, let's examine the battlefield distribution concept in light of the new strategic approach of logistics velocity and see how it supports the strategic objective of velocity management.
Flaws in the tactical distribution system led Major General Thomas W. Robison, commander of the Army Combined Arms Support Command and director of the Combat Service Support (CSS) Battle Lab, both at Fort Lee, Virginia, to launch a fundamental modernization of the Army's tactical materiel distribution system.
In August 1994, General Robison originated the "battlefield distribution" concept, which implements distribution management on the modern battlefield. Battlefield distribution positions new technology at distribution nodes, develops new processes to perform current CSS distribution functions that accommodate the complexities of the logistics pipeline, and introduces a "hub-and-spoke" distribution process. This concept uses speed and responsiveness to move critical supplies under positive control through a distribution system from the source to the soldier.
In the fall of that same year, the RAND Corporation submitted a report to the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (DCSLOG) that called for improvements to current logistics processes-thereby endorsing a need already recognized by operational commanders. That report was entitled Velocity Management.
Velocity management, as defined by the RAND Corporation, "aims to substitute velocity and accuracy for mass in the logistics system." But how applicable is the tactical objective-battlefield distribution-to the strategic objective-velocity management-and can battlefield distribution be implemented?
One of the strategies recommended by the RAND Corporation to improve dramatically the responsiveness and efficiency of the Army's logistics systems was to reengineer all logistics processes. RAND recommended velocity management as one approach to reengineering and four measurements to gauge its success: availability and readiness of materiel; repair cycle time; costs; and order and shipping time (OST).
Though the first three parameters selected were not surprising to logisticians, it was unusual that OST variability was considered a precise indicator of the quality of distribution. According to Major Steve Lyons, a logistics officer in the CSS Battle Lab, "Variability [of OST] is a more accurate indicator if you are trying to reduce inventory levels." Previous performance measurements indicated that the practice of maintaining large stockpiles of materiel was being replaced by speed and responsiveness in distributing materiel. Speed and responsiveness are the cornerstones of the battlefield distribution concept.
Logisticians know that distribution requires a fundamental integration of materiel and movement management functions. This integration requires more than just making technology enhancements to management information systems. First, the distribution manager in all tactical logistics organizations must be identified clearly. Battlefield distribution supports this idea by placing the responsibility for distribution management in the support operations section. Second, battlefield distribution adds a movement control capability to the support operations section. Finally, the battlefield distribution concept harnesses technology to pinpoint responsibility for materiel as it is handled at and between distribution nodes.
Validating the Concept
Once conceptual solutions are identified, the Army must meld compatible technology with current distribution systems and processes. To test the battlefield distribution concept, the CSS Battle Lab; the Strategic Logistics Agency in Alexandria, Virginia (reorganized as the Logistics Integration Agency in September 1995); and the DCSLOG of U.S. Army, Europe (USAREUR), conducted a technology demonstration in April 1995. Using a real-world distribution system, the demonstration combined various technologies to sustain USAREUR's daily tactical mission.
As explained by Lieutenant Colonel John Bucher, a logistics officer in the CSS Battle Lab, "We wanted to demonstrate the ability to precisely measure the amount of time that cargo spends at each node in the system." This type of accurate data is what velocity management must have to demonstrate that speed and control of logistics materiel are more important than mass.
Technology used in the demonstration included the automated manifest system (AMS); radio frequency automatic identification technology (RF AIT); Army total asset visibility (TAV) and intransit visibility (ITV); and the shipping, tracking, and redistribution system (STARS). The AMS is a system developed by the Defense Logistics Agency that uses laser optical memory cards to store multipack and trailer-load transaction data. The system facilitates rapid and reliable receipt processing at supply support activities. RF AIT transmits data from tags on containers over radio frequencies to collection receivers called interrogators. This information then is transmitted to a central data base and "fused" to provide transportation and manifest information. TAV and ITV use fused data to provide real-time asset visibility and intransit visibility information to materiel management centers and movement control centers. STARS automates the break bulk area of the "hub-and-spoke" distribution system in use in USAREUR. [The break bulk point, or the "hub," is the activity to which multiple shipments are consigned for further distribution by way of transportation routes, or "spokes," within a predetermined transportation system.]
The initial focus of the demonstration was tagging all sustainment cargo to be shipped to three supply support activities in Europe from Defense Depot Region East (DDRE), the container consolidation point in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Source data information (military standard requisition and issue procedures [MILSTRIP] and military standard transportation and movement procedures (MILSTAMP]) were downloaded from the DDRE computer to the RF tags before the tags were placed on containers or air pallets. When the tags passed any interrogator installed at distribution nodes, arrival or departure information was automatically generated. This system accurately measured the time cargo spent traveling between each node in the system. AMS and STARS allowed positive identification of critical materiel and more responsive break bulk operations. These technologies enabled battlefield distribution to improve efficiency and reliability using the inherent tenets of velocity management-speed and responsiveness.
Improving Combat Service Support
The velocity management approach to battlefield distribution reengineers ongoing logistics processes as it reduces stocks carried by forward CSS elements. This enhances not only customer support but reduces the "logistics tail" under force projection. (The "logistics tail" refers to the amount of support needed to sustain the combat force [the "teeth"]. By reducing the "tail," a force can move faster with more resources devoted to combat units than to support units.) During the USAREUR demonstration, both the concept and strategy were confirmed, and distribution trouble spots were pinpointed while expediting materiel processes. This technology heralds the change to dynamic CSS and, at the same time, provides the soldier in the field better solutions and methods for tailoring logistics support. The final measure of success is not just streamlining current processes but transforming them into new processes that accommodate the complexities of the logistics pipeline. ALOG
Major George G. Akin is a student at the Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University, the Ordnance Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, and the Army Logistics Management College's Logistics Executive Development Course. He was previously assigned as a logistics staff officer in the Combat Service Support Battle Lab, Fort Lee, Virginia.