HomeAbout UsBrowse This IssueBack IssuesNews DispatchesSubscribing to Army LogisticianWriting for Army LogisticianContact UsLinks































A Logistician’s Primer on
GCSS-Army (PLM+)

Since the early 1990s, the Army has been undergoing a transformation aimed at responding to a rapidly changing world environment. A significant component of this transformation has been the modernization of the Army’s logistics processes. The Army is transitioning its logistics processes from an echeloned, mass-inventory approach to a more efficient and responsive distribution system based on the availability and use of accurate information. As a key enabler of this process transformation, the Army decided to move away from multiple, stand-alone custom software applications to an integrated, commercial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. That solution is based on the mySAP Business Suite, which is being implemented as two distinct logistics domains, national and tactical. [“mySAP” is a product of the German software company SAP. It is an e-business software integration tool that allows users to access the applications that are appropriate to their needs.]

Now the Army is moving to connect the national and tactical logistics domains through a program called Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) Product Lifecycle Management Plus (PLM+). Army logisticians need to be more aware of what GCSS-Army (PLM+) is, how it fits into the Single Army Logistics Enterprise (SALE), and what benefits can be derived from it. [Under SALE, the Army will integrate its national and tactical logistics systems into one fully integrated, end-to-end enterprise.]

Bridging the National- and Tactical-Level Domains

In December 1999, the Army Materiel Command awarded a contract for the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) to Computer Sciences Corporation. LMP is designed to replace two legacy mainframe computer applications associated with logistics processes at the national level—the Commodity Command Standard System and the Standard Depot System. The first prototype deployment of LMP—to the Army Communications-Electronics Command—took place in July 2003.

In April 2002, the Army directed a change in GCSS-Army (Field/Tactical) [GCSS-Army (F/T)], shifting from a custom development strategy to an ERP solution. This critical logistics transformation effort is intended to re-place 14 legacy tactical or field logistics systems—such as the Standard Army Retail Supply System and the Standard Army Maintenance System—with GCSS-Army F/T and replace their custom-coded legacy applications with the mySAP solution. GCSS-Army (F/T) has completed the initial blueprinting phase.

Even though both the national and tactical solutions will use mySAP, integration of the Army’s logistics processes is not ensured. It requires a single, end-to-end business blueprint and the use of technologies that are optimized by SAP to manage business process interactions across business mission areas.

GCSS-Army (PLM+) is the critical link for integrating the current LMP and GCSS-Army F/T programs, as well as for the future implementation of SALE. With GCSS-Army (PLM+), the Army is establishing the organizational and technical framework for a fully integrated logistics enterprise as reflected in the SALE vision. By emphasizing a single solution, the Army will minimize the long-term changes that might have been required within the national and tactical domains if development of those programs had continued in separate development environments.

Product Lifecycle Management Plus

The GCSS-Army (PLM+) program is the linchpin of SALE. It provides the architectural planning that is crucial to bringing together, as a successful enterprise, the separate SAP ERP solutions being implemented by the LMP and GCSS-Army (F/T) programs.

Development of GCSS-Army (PLM+) is following an incremental approach consistent with available resources. This incremental approach prioritizes program resources to achieve incremental ERP capabilities that will improve support to the warfighters while preserving the SALE vision. When the initial GCSS-Army (PLM+) increment is completed successfully, the program will move to addressing product life-cycle management. End-to-end processes developed to encompass the entire logistics enterprise landscape, to include the national level, will be incorporated in subsequent GCSS-Army (PLM+) increments. The result will be an incremental approach to achieving the SALE vision.

The first increment of GCSS-Army (PLM+)—integrating GCSS-Army (F/T) processes into the enterprise architecture—involves translating business interface requirements into optimized messages that will flow through the GCSS-Army solution to and from users. The first increment also will include full functionality for managing and distributing customer and vendor master data. Thus GCSS-Army (PLM+) will support GCSS-Army tactical-level interfaces with users and establish the foundation for building further master data capabilities in support of SALE.

When fully deployed, GCSS-Army (PLM+) will assist with the Army’s complex, sophisticated weapon-systems management process. It will provide the catalyst for a product life-cycle management process that operates in an open, standards-based architecture and that can be integrated with the Army’s depot and manufacturing execution, supply chain management, customer relationship management, supplier relationship management, and ERP solutions. A fully deployed GCSS-Army (PLM+) solution will provide total life-cycle management, enterprise master data, business intelligence, and SAP Enterprise Portal capabilities.

Total Life-Cycle Management

GCSS-Army (PLM+) will provide a wide range of life-cycle management functions and capabilities.

Life-cycle data management. The integrated capabilities for product and process engineering offered by GCSS-Army (PLM+) will enable the Army to manage requirements, bills of material, routing and resource data, recipes, computer-assisted design models, and related technical documentation. [A bill of material is a formal list of all the component parts of a product. It contains data on the product, its assemblies, and their quantities and relationships.] GCSS-Army (PLM+) will provide sophisticated change-management functions that will help ensure consistency and accuracy of weapon system knowledge.

Life-cycle collaboration. GCSS-Army (PLM+) will allow the Army to link all elements of support from development partners, tactical units, and suppliers so that they can share project plans, documents, service bulletins, and other information across a virtual network.

Program and project management. GCSS-Army (PLM+) will enable the Army to plan, manage, and control product portfolios and the complete product development and depot management processes, including control project structures, schedules, costs, and resources.

Quality management. GCSS-Army (PLM+) capabilities will facilitate integrated quality management.

Asset life-cycle management. By using GCSS-Army (PLM+), the Army will gain the capability to manage physical assets and equipment availability over the life cycle of an asset, including purchasing, operation, maintenance, and planning for replacement of equipment.

Environment, health, and safety management. Through GCSS-Army (PLM+), users will be able to manage Army and Department of Defense (DOD) environment, health, and safety procedures effectively. This will enhance the Army’s ability to comply with regulations.

Enterprise Master Data

A part of GCSS-Army (PLM+), SAP’s Master Data Management (MDM) tool, will enable the Army to store, augment, and consolidate master data while ensuring consistent distribution of the data to all applications and systems within the logistics architecture. Working across multiple systems locations, MDM will leverage the power of a single logistics enterprise by providing a more cost-effective approach to data management. By ensuring consistent data across systems, MDM will improve the execution of logistics business processes, resulting in a richer and timelier decision support system.

Examples of data that can be synchronized across the Army enterprise with MDM include—

Customer master. This set of data includes critical customer information relating to accounts and locations and unique information about customer sets. Included are agency data required to conduct logistics processes, such as Department of Defense Automatic Addressing Codes (DODAACs), Unit Identification Codes (UICs), and geographic data.

Vendor master. Critical information on approved vendors relating to accounts and locations and unique information relating to products and services approved for purchase is included in this data set. In GCSS-Army (PLM+), the vendor master will consist of data from the Defense Logistics Information Service’s Central Contractor Registry and the DOD Routing Identifier Code.

Material master. This data set includes a homogeneous set of critical material information required by all business applications, both ERP and legacy. Included are critical elements such as item catalog information.

Equipment master. The equipment master is a homogeneous set of equipment information required by all business applications, both ERP and legacy. Included are critical serial numbers for air and ground systems, as well as selected sets of critical components such as critical air safety items.

Business Intelligence

Successful use of business intelligence hinges on the ability to provide integrated and actionable logistics information across the enterprise to assist in the critical decisionmaking process. The focus of business intelligence is to support mission needs effectively and efficiently by providing enterprise-wide key performance measurements, such as logistics scorecard information. To do this, timely and content-rich information, tailored to user requirements, must be available at all times. GCSS-Army (PLM+), as the logistics information hub, will provide the catalyst for the development of content-rich information critical to all levels within the Army.

SAP Enterprise Portal

The SAP Enterprise Portal unifies key information and applications to give users a single view that spans the enterprise. GCSS-Army (PLM+) users will access the GCSS-Army (PLM+) solution through the SAP Enterprise Portal. The Enterprise Portal will allow quick and efficient integration of the SAP solutions within GCSS-Army as well as third-party applications, legacy systems, databases, unstructured documents, internal and external Web content, and collaboration tools. Workflow functions will permit notifications about required approvals as well as changes and requests to create or update master data within MDM. The Enterprise Portal will provide GCSS-Army users, partners, and customers with instant, secure, and role-based access to the information and applications they need.

Benefits of GCSS-Army (PLM+)

To minimize total ownership costs within the Army’s ERP solution, with its integration of multiple instances of both SAP-deployed and non-SAP activities, the Army will move incrementally to a content-rich environment characterized by continuous analysis of relevant logistics information across the spectrum of the logistics domains. The focus of this analysis will be to identify emerging issues, problems, and faults associated with units, platforms, and components that have a direct bearing on readiness and costs. This content-rich environment will permit greater understanding of the underpinnings of the health of warfighting elements and allow the Army to focus resources to achieve the greatest advantage.

A fully realized GCSS-Army (PLM+) solution will provide a number of benefits. Among the most vital are—

• Integrating SALE architecture, including consolidating development environments.

• Providing a basis for SALE that satisfies all the requirements of the GCSS-Army (F/T) Operational Requirements Document approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.

• Enabling the concepts of total life-cycle systems management and end-to-end customer service.

• Providing visibility of logistics information on a real-time basis, available to all users, thus fulfilling the promise of assisting any authorized user, from any computer, at any time.

• Assisting in full Government compliance with the requirements of the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990.

• Attaining compatibility with the Global Information Grid (GIG). [According to the National Security Agency, GIG “will be a net-centric system operating in a global context to provide processing, storage, management, and transport of information to support all DOD, national security, and related Intelligence Community missions and functions...”]

• Promoting a single set of authoritative master data.

• Achieving compliance with the standards contained in the Army’s implementation of DOD’s Joint Technical Architecture (Joint Technical Architecture-Army) and DOD Architecture Framework and the requirements and documentation of the DOD Business Enterprise Architecture-Logistics.

• Leveraging the considerable experience and pool of artifacts associated with DOD standards and architectures available from LMP and GCSS-Army (F/T).

Increment 1 of GCSS-Army (PLM+) should be implemented by fiscal year 2007. The timeline runs concurrently with, and is synchronized with, the GCSS-Army (F/T) program to ensure the success of the Army enter-prise solution. GCSS-Army (PLM+) follow-on increments should be completed by fiscal year 2014.

Logistics modernization is a major enabler within the overall Army transformation efforts. Without this effort, the modernization of Army logistics that is so vitally necessary will fall short of the SALE vision.

Colonel David W. Coker is the Project Manager, Logistics Information Systems (PM LIS). He holds a B.S. degree in business administration, an M.S. degree in procurement/contract management, a master’s degree in business administration, and a master’s degree in national strategic resource management.

Lieutenant Colonel J. Gary Hallinan is the Product Manager, Product Lifecycle Management Plus (PLM+). He holds a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering, an M.B.A. degree, and an M.S. degree in logistics management. He is also a graduate of the Engineer Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Program Management Office Course.