The Army is improving the accountability process of its web-based property accountability system, Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced (PBUSE), by improving the PBUSE automatic identification technology (AIT) functionality at the unit level. Software Engineering Center–Lee has taken a two-phased approach to implementing and improving the use of AIT, most notably for unit supply sergeants.
What is AIT?
AIT is a family of powerful technologies and devices that capture, aggregate, and transfer data to automated information systems. AIT reduces administrative and logistics costs in a wide variety of applications by increasing data accuracy (eliminating errors), speeding the collection and transmission of data, and making the entire data-entry and collection process more efficient. For example, AIT can assist in the data collection needed to achieve the objectives of total asset visibility, condition-based maintenance, and other logistics, medical, and personnel functions. AIT provides a reliable and consistent means to identify and track marked items as they move through the supply and maintenance pipelines.
Types of AIT Being Used by PBUSE
PBUSE uses two types of bar codes within its application: 2-dimensional bar codes and item unique identification (IUID) data matrices.
Two-dimensional bar codes use technology similar to linear bar codes but carry about 100 times more data and allow the identification data specific to a piece of equipment to be encoded in the barcode.
IUID of items is accomplished by marking each qualifying item with a permanent 2-dimensional data matrix barcode label. The data matrix is encoded with the data elements needed to construct the unique item identifier (UII), which is globally unique and unambiguous. The data elements required to form a UII include the format identifier, the manufacturer's identification (such as the commercial and government entity code), and the item's serial number.
How AIT Works With PBUSE
The AIT being fielded as components of unit-level PBUSE systems has a hand-held terminal (HHT) and a printer that applies thermal transfers to a durable Mylar label that can be applied directly to the equipment being tracked.
PBUSE AIT uses a client application on a local laptop computer to pass property book data and inventory results among the PBUSE enterprise server, the local laptop, and the HHT. Inventories are downloaded from the PBUSE server to the client application and pushed to the HHT. The user performs the inventory and marks it as complete. Inventories are then reported through the client and pushed to the PBUSE server. The user then reviews the inventory and resolves any discrepancies. Upon resolution, the inventory is archived in the PBUSE database.
The HHT is used to view and perform the actual inventory, to include adding items not already on the inventory list, scanning items not owned by the unit (data are tracked by the unit identification code [UIC]), manually entering or flagging items that cannot be scanned, and flagging items that need their barcode labels reprinted. When performing an inventory using an HHT, if the item is a bulk item (without a serial number, registration number, lot number, or component hand-receipt number), the user is prompted to enter the quantity.
The client application serves as the "middleware" and is installed on the laptop as a local application. Its functionality includes printing barcodes, managing HHT devices, and managing users for the HHT. (Multiple HHT devices, users, and UICs can be created, downloaded, and assigned in the client application.) The client application also serves to push and pull data to and from the PBUSE enterprise server and automatically install software upgrades and security patches onto the HHT.
The user also uses the AIT client application on the laptop to select a UIC to generate barcode labels. The user chooses items to barcode by downloading the latest hand-receipt data and selecting items from the list or by entering search values to filter the hand-receipt line item number (LIN), national stock number (NSN), or sub-hand receipt holder. The user will then review the list and select the quantity of labels to print on the barcode label printer. The labels are then applied to the specific items of equipment.
Phased Implementation Approach
In PBUSE AIT Phase I, released in 2008, the PBUSE inventory process was automated to provide commanders and property book officers with the ability to create, administer, and review the results of any directed inventory. PBUSE AIT was originally designed to automate the inventory processes in PBUSE. However, after seeing the success of these processes, Army leaders expressed a keen interest in adding functionality to PBUSE AIT.
In PBUSE AIT Phase II, released on 20 May 2011, the functionality includes the ability to initiate transfers of unit-level equipment from one sub-hand receipt to another and scan and process a lateral transfer through AIT. Phase II also added a barcode to the property book office-generated Department of the Army Form 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-in. It also added the abilities to inventory system nonexpendable components and to initiate corrective actions for inventory discrepancies.
Benefits of AIT
AIT provides many benefits to the logistics community. The real value of AIT is that with minimal human intervention, it is possible to rapidly capture, track, and transfer detailed information for equipment accounted for by PBUSE. It captures data faster and more accurately than manual modes and reduces common inventory errors. Inventory management is simplified, inventory records are archived indefinitely, and minimal training is required.
AIT provides the ability to direct inventories by LIN, NSN, or sub-hand receipt. It can create ad hoc inventories and provides the ability to see what inventories have been downloaded and completed. It can also be used to view inventory results and discrepancies identified during the inventory. AIT will show scanned, unscanned, and manually inventoried items and items scanned but not currently on the property book. It will also identify items for barcoding and print or reprint labels.
PBUSE AIT will assist the commander in performing inventory functions and save time through the better use of technology.
Users in the field are extremely pleased with the capabilities that PBUSE AIT is providing and the enhanced functionality that is forthcoming. One such testimonial comes from Army National Guard Staff Sergeant McGruder, who said—
I believe that it is a great system. I believe it's a fantastic tool. I am currently using it to prepare my unit to move from Tyndall Armory to the new Lawrence Armory. After carefully labeling of all of my serial numbered MTOE [modified table of organization and equipment] equipment, the inventory of the equipment into the Triwalls was a breeze. After syncing the inventories to PBUSE, I was able to print out the inventories and attach them to the DD Form 1750s, saving me from the time it would take to write down each number on the form. The printout not only showed what was scanned by LIN, NSN, and serial [number]; it also showed the date when it was done showing further proof that I actually did the inventory. The standard automated systems will be augmented by the suite of AIT devices that will provide valid, usable information, in a timely manner, with minimum effort on the part of the warfighter that must gather data and information to make sound logistical decisions.
A Department of the Army G–4-directed PBUSE AIT training/usage survey was conducted between 15 October and 15 November 2010. The responses received from unit supply sergeants in the field were very positive. Below are some of the comments collected: "The AIT equipment has reduced the time it takes to do an inventory by 65 percent."
"After the end item is properly identified and labeled, we can conduct an inventory in about one-tenth the time it used to take."
"With the PBUSE AIT, we were able to conduct inventories of our property in far less time than in the past. We went from spending 2–3 hours on inventorying a platoon-size element worth of stuff to only having to spend 30–40 minutes max."
"It has dramatically increased the proficiency and reduced the clerical errors that can happen during inventories."
"Sub-hand receipts are easily updated on the system on the spot rather than days, which can lead to lack of updates."
These responses were obtained before the release of the AIT enhancements within Interim Change Package 6.5.2. Imagine how much more beneficial AIT will be for the users with the enhancements.
Projected requirements for PBUSE AIT are to train and field over 12,000 units. Fielding began in November 2008 and is expected to run through the second quarter of fiscal year 2012.