On the battlefield the challenges the military faces change very, very quickly. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there was a push from the Pentagon to digitize the battlefield, including using real time analytics. Dr. Noel Greis, Director at the Center for Logistics and Digital Strategy at University of North Carolina, explains how an innovative collaboration involving Saffron was able to help Boeing manage the battlefield supply chain using real time data analytics.
The supply chain is an essential, complex and very costly element of any war zone. Loss or delay of materials or assets could seriously impact a conflict situation. Nevertheless, in the past, supply chains have been managed in a relatively straightforward manner. Soldiers monitor inventory, and request resupply when levels run low.
The advent of the digital, sensored battlefield presented a new opportunity to manage the supply chain more efficiently, using real time analytics to help improve decision making.
Boeing has a very large, defense systems division, and works with the Department of Defense. Boeing contacted Dr Greis at the Center to see if she could help them develop some new tools that will enable them to manage the battlefield supply chain, in real time. A collaboration was put together including a company that did battlefield sensors, and the idea was to sensor up the supply chain.
The supply chain included platforms in the battlefield (e.g. tanks or supply trucks). So think of the battlefield as a huge sensor field with all the vehicles sensored.
Inventories are also sensored.
Then you can now take all of that information and bring it into an information space.
Saffron was then used as a data analytics tool to make sense out of that information, making recommendations about how to allocate the inventories.
One asset which is invaluable is fuel. With the sensors able to track when fuel was needed, and the delivery location, Saffron’s real time analytics are able to make more effective recommendations.
Although the system was designed to be autonomous, there are options for a human to be in the loop, so that if Saffron recommended re-supply on a certain date, of a certain amount, at a certain time to a certain set of vehicles, the commander could okay it or not okay it.
The commander would still be part of the decision making process, but it made fuel delivery more efficient, more accurate, and involving less guess work.
The implications in a commercial sense are obvious.
With greater information awareness along the supply chain about inventories, companies in the logistics sector could be more cost effective.
Anything which currently relies on human judgement for determining when something is needed could be supported by real time analytics, which would verify when materials, goods, and assets are actually required.
The same efficiencies Boeing sought on the battlefield with Saffron will have commercial implications globally, as business embraces Big Data.
Dr. Noel Greis, is the Director of the Center for Logistics and Digital Strategy, University of North Carolina, and is an executive advisor to Saffron.