Sybase Solutions Keep Critical Fleet Operating at Peak Performance
If you think regular supply chain logistics management is stressful, imagine being tasked with sustaining U.S. forces worldwide. That is precisely the role of the Military Sealift Command (MSC). As the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense, the Military Sealift Command (MSC) is responsible for providing strategic sealift and ocean transportation for all military forces overseas. This involves transporting tons of wheeled and tracked vehicles, helicopters, equipment, fuel, supplies, and ammunition.
Given the critical nature of their mandate, it's not surprising that MSC places a high priority on keeping their fleet well maintained. A large component of this involves ensuring that the inventory aboard vessels is sufficient to support the repair and personnel requirements throughout any voyage. Ideally, these requirements are looked after before heading out to sea, as planning ahead helps to minimize emergency purchases that increase the cost of doing business. Ongoing monitoring also keeps maintenance procedures and allowances up to date so that, when a problem does arise on the water, it can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
Maximizing ship readiness requires the timely exchange of accurate information between engineering, logistics and financial systems, both ashore and afloat. Historically, MSC relied upon stovepiped applications that didn't communicate with one another and manual data replication, all of which resulted in chronically outdated information regarding ship configuration, allowances and inventory. Recognizing this, MSC sought help from Sybase partner CACI International Inc, specialists in providing IT and network solutions for defense, intelligence and e-government.
Sending Out a Data S.O.S
"Early automated systems were an improvement over manual record keeping, but there were still drawbacks," said Jim George, director of MSC's Logistics."Database updates were created for the ships on a regular basis, but even under the best of circumstances, the shipboard database was updated only every 30 days. Additional training and time was required for ships' force personnel to perform updates and export feedback. We were looking for a system that would efficiently get the information to the ship as soon as possible and would reduce the amount of time those on board spent maintaining the database."
In the early 1990's, MSC created a shore-side system called the Configuration and Logistics Information Program (CLIP). This Oracle-based system was used to store ship configuration data for the entire MSC fleet. Although CLIP was a definite improvement over paper-based methods, it still represented an island of information that couldn't share data effectively with other systems.
In order to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the CLIP system, MSC froze development on the Oracle® system and began leveraging Sybase Replication Option for Oracle to replicate data from the legacy CLIP database to a consolidated Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) database. MSC then turned their attention to building a number of solutions aimed at continuously improving the integrity of data in the CLIP system. They also wanted to streamline the flow of information from CLIP to the MSC fleet, and back again.
MSC choose Sybase technology because 1) their replication model supports ships that have intermittent Internet connectivity; 2) easy implementation for quick solutions; 3) supports replication to other database vendors; and 4) reduces workload for shipboard personnel.
Sybase to the Rescue!
With the help of Sybase's leading technology, MSC began building out the architecture to include several new data anywhere solutions:
Shipboard Configuration and Logistics Information Program (ShipCLIP) –
This system runs aboard each vessel and provides shipboard engineering and supply personnel with a ship specific reference tool for retrieval of critical configuration, logistics, inventory and technical information. The ShipCLIP database subscribes to ship-specific data from a consolidated CLIP Sybase SQL Anywhere database using Sybase SQL Remote technology.MSC IS Portal –
The consolidated ASE database is accessed through the MSC IS Portal which provides single signon to several Department of Defense and commercial logistics databases. Replication Server manages data replication
between MSC IS Portal and the consolidated database,while SQL Remote™ and MobiLink are used to replicate with shipboard systems.MSC Availability Support Program (WinMASP) –
TheWinMASP extraction process takes a "snapshot" of the current configuration for any particular ship using MobiLink technology. This snapshot is then extracted onto a laptop for the Logistician to take along when conducting an availability study on any docked ship. Once inventory data on the ship configurations, parts and supplies is captured, data from WinMASP is loaded back to the central CLIP database for general availability.
Sybase Technology Drastically Reduces Turnaround, Administrative Costs
MSC is currently piloting the ShipCLIP system, to great success.
"With the new system, ships are now getting data in less than 24 hours," said Mr. George."The updates are performed automatically freeing up ship's force personnel to perform other tasks. Less time is spent retrieving and updating data, both ashore and afloat. The data is entered once and the new system takes care of making it available to the right people in a more timely and efficient manner."
Another benefit of ShipCLIP is the decreased time for moving operational feedback data , between ship and ashore,
in the form of configuration change requests, allowance change requests and fleet feedback reports on shipboard allowances. Prior to the ShipCLIP 4.0 deployment, this process could take up to 30 days each way. With ShipCLIP, the same data is available both shoreside and afloat within one day.
Lastly, the new ShipCLIP system integrates inventory and government property data, thereby providing vastly improved total asset visibility. Leveraging SQL Remote to replicate data from each ship directly to the consolidated database provides an accurate view of what assets are in fleet, which ultimately streamlines the decision-making process.