The Bowman C4I tactical communications system is a critical element to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence’s (UK MoD) Armed Forces success in combat operations. However, the management and visibility of military assets throughout the Armed Forces supply chain was difficult.
To improve efficiencies in military asset management and visibility, the UK MoD developed a Unique Identification (UID) policy to uniquely mark and identify specific ranges of equipment within the defence inventory.
Under the UID policy, two-dimensional (2D) UID bar code labels must be affixed on specific military assets. The data in the bar codes contains information such as a serial number, part number and a unique item identifier (UII). Each item’s unique information is then scanned and stored in an item registry database. The information collected in the database creates a number of significant benefits and efficiencies for the UK MoD, including automated receipting, issuing and stocktaking of marked items, and the ability to access an item’s status, history and configuration.
As the UK MoD’s UID Enabling Contract holder, Camcode Global was charged with helping the UK MoD implement a strategy to identify, track and manage its entire inventory of Bowman C4I tactical communications systems.
To ensure its Bowman assets were identified, up-to-date and ready for deployment, the UK MoD mandated that all Bowman assets must be tracked through UID bar code labels. The goal of the UK MoD’s Bowman identification initiative was to mark 300,000 assets at multiple locations across the UK MoD’s scope of operation, which includes the UK, Canada, Germany, Kenya, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Afghanistan, Brunei and Belize. In addition, all of the Bowman assets in Afghanistan must be marked before the 2014 troop draw-down.
One of the main difficulties in identifying and labeling Bowman assets is the constant need for phased capability releases, software upgrades, and platform improvements. Each time a Bowman asset is upgraded, its part number and NATO Stock Number (NSN) change. This means the data for each Bowman’s UID label constantly changes. In addition, old UID labels must be removed prior to the installation of a new UID label. However, old data must be captured and reported to the UK MoD before a new label could be applied.
Another issue facing Camcode Global was the quick-moving and unpredictable nature of the UK MoD’s operations and equipment rotations. Lead times for receiving and processing Bowman systems were often extremely short.
Since data management is so critical to the UID process, Camcode Global developed data validation methods to reconcile old data against new data during the Bowman upgrade. These proven data management systems monitored serial numbers, part numbers, NSN and CAGE codes and matched them to the new NSN, providing accurate data for every Bowman asset. This allowed the UK MoD to track each asset throughout its lifecycle.
Camcode Global also developed a process to remove existing UID labels and replace them with new UID labels. Data for each label was captured and reported to the UK MoD. This re-label and reporting process was completed for each Bowman asset.
To resolve the issue regarding the quick-moving and unpredictable flow of Bowman assets, Camcode Global developed on-site label production centers in the UK and Afghanistan. The Camcode Global engineering team produced DuraBlack® labels with Sandshield overlaminate for each Bowman in order to meet the on-demand requirements for harsh operating environment labels.
Since December 2012, more than 175,000 Bowman assets have been accurately identified and marked. Camcode Global is on pace to mark all 300,000 Bowman assets by September 2014.
Camcode Global’s procedures for uniquely identifying and labeling Bowman assets allowed the UK MoD to solve many of its asset visibility, management and traceability issues.
Utilizing a UID program that’s backed by an accurate item database allows for faster inventory checks and greater accountability in military asset management for the UK MoD.