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Apps, Analytics and Automation: The new digital age of defense logistics

Transformation required to support a modern fighting force

Overview

Today’s defense logistics environments were designed and built to deliver 20th century capabilities.

Simply replacing old technology with new is both inadequate and a missed opportunity. The current information revolution demands a more holistic transformation, integrating new digital technologies and business thinking to deliver superior capabilities.

Militaries slow to adopt digital logistics opportunities—incorporating analytics, mobile and cloud—risk being unable to effectively support a modern, integrated fighting force.

This need not be the case. By embracing four specific trends highlighted in Accenture’s 2014 Technology Vision, leaders can achieve more with less and build a more effective, future-ready defense logistics domain.

Background

Business leaders often describe the environment they deal with as VUCA—volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous—and the term describes the realities faced by defense organizations today.

From peacekeeping deployments and confronting amorphous terror organizations through to border protection activities, today’s military engagements require fast-changing, rapid respond-and-reset capabilities. This specifically includes the need to quickly surge, deploy and sustain military assets, rather than assuming a decade-long build-up towards possible conflict.

The reality is that today’s defense logistics environments were designed and built to deliver 20th century capabilities. Simply replacing old technology with new is both inadequate and a missed opportunity. The current information revolution demands a more holistic transformation—the integration of new digital technologies and business thinking to deliver superior logistics capabilities.

Militaries slow to adopt digital logistics opportunities—incorporating analytics, mobile and cloud—risk being unable to effectively support a modern, integrated fighting force.

Analysis

By embracing four specific trends highlighted in Accenture’s 2014 Technology Vision, leaders can achieve more with less and build a more effective, future-ready defense logistics domain.

Digital-Physical Blur
By digitizing the supply chain, defense forces will vastly increase the capture and use of relevant data that can in turn fuel predictive capabilities. This is significant: public sector organizations that implement predictive asset maintenance initiatives have realized 15-30 percent cuts in their total maintenance costs, providing a 10-fold return on investment. Even more crucially, such initiatives have reduced breakdowns by up to 75 percent—a potentially vital gain in performance if replicated in defense.

Business of Applications
Apps are already helping private sector logistics organizations transform their effectiveness, such as DHL’s SmartPOD app that gives vehicle drivers and others a means of capturing real-time data and electronic proof of delivery. This in turn also creates a real-time data feed that can be used to monitor and optimize operations to continuously meet the changing needs of their customers.

Data Supply Chain
The overall aim is to create a data supply chain that enables data to flow easily and usefully throughout the organization. For example, with predictive analytics, maintenance crews can better forecast issues and start to proactively prepare. Simultaneously, inventory systems can become ‘aware’, collaborating with supply chain partners to prime inventories ahead of requirements or automatically triggering procurement activities for forecasted deficiencies.

Harnessing Hyperscale
Enabling digital defense logistics has implications. Most obviously, having a massive volume of logistics data flowing through an organization requires significant storage and rapid processing capabilities. A recent data center migration project within Australia’s Department of Defense is expected to lead to savings on support and equipment costs, enhance the delivery of information and communication services and reduce energy consumption by the Department.

Recommendations

These trends and their underlying digital logistic technologies are powerful in isolation, but transformative when combined and aligned to support the modern warfighter.

Picture a technician, deployed to a remote location, responsible for the maintenance of critical military assets. Wearing Google Glass and streaming (via secure military CIS) a live feed to both their home base and industrial partners, the technician is able to operate with no degradation in technical support. As repair options are developed, the technician receives a live feed of in-theatre and home-base spares availability, also, via HR data, the availability of appropriately skilled personnel within their location.

At the same time, operational commanders are fully aware of any constraints that exist within the logistics environment and the actions being taken to overcome them. This enables true collaboration to take place across the entire defense logistics spectrum.

This scenario, and the number of industry examples before it, highlight that—far from being fantasy—a digitally driven logistics domain is fast becoming the reality for defense logisticians.