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U.S. Navy Saves More Than $10 Million with Wireless Inventory Management System, PHIMS

Posted August 5, 2010

Navy improves Inventory ManagementAn aircraft carrier in the middle of the Indian Ocean is surrounded by 28 million square miles of water. The African coastline lies far off to the west, to the east. The carrier’s deck absorbs the relentless rays of the afternoon sun, at times registering 115 degrees in the shade. Raymond L. Gaiser Jr. has stood on such a deck during his time as an Alterations Program Manager for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Philadelphia. “The heat at times goes right through your shoes,” he said. “It literally blisters you.”

Below deck is another story, thanks to air conditioning. Comfortably cool, the crew can go about its business with hardly a notion of the extreme temperatures above. Should the massive air-conditioning system falter, however, you’d never see a repair order go out so fast.

Gaiser, now a logistics operations manager with NSWC, likely would be the one in charge of filling that order. From his 264,000-square-foot staging facility at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Philadelphia, he helps to oversee two other staging facilities with a combined parts inventory worth more than $225 million. Parts are assembled into specialized kits that replace, repair or improve any of the systems on Navy ships.

Six years ago, at Gaiser’s suggestion, the NSWC and Anteon Corporation implemented the first phase of a tracking system using mobile computers and printers by Intermec Technologies Corp. known as the Philadelphia Inventory Management System (PHIMS). It is now in its fifth phase of ongoing upgrades and implementations to fine-tune efficiencies. The new system is a vast improvement over the old paper-based way of tracking parts and kits.

Ignorance, Enemy of Bliss
With the new system, inventory accuracy is about 98 percent, up from about 50 percent under the old tracking method. Human error has been virtually eliminated and productivity has increased by 50 percent in the first year. One application of the system, called the Excess Material Improvement Program (EMIP), has saved the Navy more than $5 million. PHIMS paid for itself within the first three years of operation.

Keeping accurate, up-to-date records on some 15,650 item-types means never having to say the three little words, “‘I don’t know’ is absolutely the wrong answer,” Gasier said. “Admirals and Generals want to know where their assets are, and they want to know now.” Tracking these assets conforms to Naval Sea Power 21 Proclamations.

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Wisconsin Utility Replaces Leased Lines with Wireless Broadband for More Bandwidth and Operating Efficiencies

Posted August 5, 2010

Wisconsin Utility Improves Meter Reading with MotorolaThe challenge: find a cost-effective connectivity option to support
Automated Meter Reading (AMR) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) applications.

A few years ago, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation began exploring using alternate communications to support SCADA and AMR applications. The company was paying in excess of $100,000 per year in the city of Green Bay alone to lease four-wire circuits to connect its AMR head-end to its substations. In addition, the company was using a low bandwidth fixed radio system for SCADA operations for many of the same substations and it soon realized that the 2400-baud connection that the low bandwidth fixed radio system offered would not be enough to support long-term SCADA applications.

To meet the long-term SCADA needs, which included process control applications such as remotely checking power flows and status of the breakers in real-time, the company required additional circuits which would have put its leased line costs in the city of Green Bay alone at more than $200,000 per year.

Wisconsin Public Service immediately began looking for another solution to meet its connectivity needs. Company engineers explored many options. They considered using fiber, but soon discovered that even though the utility already had an extensive fiber network in place, running fiber to its substations in Green Bay would cost upwards of $1 million. The company also looked at options such as frame relay, cellular and satellite links and quickly rejected them, given their low throughput and high ongoing costs.

The solution: a high-speed wireless communications link that provided the right bandwidth for the right cost – and put Wisconsin Public Service in control.
After careful consideration, Wisconsin Public Service took a look at unlicensed wireless solutions. The appeal of these services included ease-of-deployment, low maintenance needs, reasonable cost, high capacity and proven reliability. The opportunity to own and control its own communications network also appealed to the utility.

Wisconsin Public Service reviewed many different unlicensed alternatives and selected Motorola’s Fixed Point-to-Multipoint Canopy® platform. Company engineers chose the Canopy solution based on its low cost, wide coverage, ability to support IP and its superior security. Two other big pluses: The throughput of the Canopy system is not affected by distance and is extremely resistant to interference. Wisconsin Public Service executives considered these characteristics an essential requirement for an unlicensed network. Another very important consideration was the ability to securely implement the solution. This was accomplished through a combination of Canopy security and external third-party tools and products.

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New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Enhances Response Capabilities

Posted August 5, 2010

DOHMH enhances capabilitiesSafer and Sound. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and subsequent anthrax outbreaks, decision-makers at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) took a new look at how environmental and radiation scientists and sanitarians gathered data following the events that would spawn a citywide public-health crisis. They found that some old methods no longer worked.

Simple things, such as providing locations for survey meter measurements, were rendered impossible. Before 9/11, department responders used pen and paper to record sample identification information and locations of environmental data measurements such as chemical concentration or radiation dose rate measurements.

To responders returning from field-testing and data collection, a data dump often required a good memory. “A lot of it was just recollection when they came back into the office with data,” said DOHMH City Scientist Mickey Jones. “We’d ask, ‘Where have you been? How did you get this?’ We’re trying to get response personnel off that mindset and into something much more organized, like this system is.”

The system she refers to uses the Intermec 760 mobile computer and Global Bay HazardPoint software for environmental emergencies. Global Positioning System (GPS) is used to automatically record address and landmark-dependent location information.

Pen and paper are replaced by a wireless system designed to contain incident-specific data collection forms with GIS-based (Geographical Information Systems) city maps. Instead of bringing a disk back from the field for sensor data uploads, the system provides GPRS transmissions in real time.

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Anniston Army Depot Tracks Parts, Saves Time and Money with Intermec

Posted August 5, 2010

Anniston Army Depot, located in Anniston, Alabama, is a major United States Army facility that employs more than 7,000 people. The site’s primary responsibility is the repair and rebuilding of tracked vehicles such as armored personnel carriers, tanks and tank retriever vehicles for the Army and Marines.

Gigantic machines such as the 60-ton M1 Abrams tank – comprised of as many as 27,000 parts – are shipped to Anniston, then completely disassembled. There, the parts are cleaned, repaired, refurbished or replaced, then reassembled into a complete vehicle that is returned to the fighting force.

It is an enormous challenge to keep track of the millions of parts as they move throughout the refurbishment processes across the Anniston Nichols Industrial Complex. Depending upon the part, items may go through washing, sandblasting, painting, acid bath, welding, etc.– up to thirty possible processes in all. These processes are conducted in over 50 buildings on the complex.

The previous manual parts tracking process was costly to the Army in both labor and lost parts. What they needed was an automated work in process (WIP) solution to help track each part as it moves through the refurbishing processes and the enormous Industrial Complex. Since Anniston will soon migrate to an SAP-based system, the new solution had to be SAP compatible.

Deploying Efficiency
Intermec Technologies was enlisted to provide a turn-key solution that would bring Anniston to the forefront of the Army Depot Overhaul facilities. This solution began with the implementation of a state-of-the-art wireless network. The wireless infrastructure is comprised of approximately 50 Cisco Routers and 109 Access Points in 50 buildings within the Industrial Complex. The wired network infrastructure was also expanded to support wireless communication with the addition of over 10 miles of cable and over one mile of fiber. Finally, more than 80 Intermec CK31 handheld computers and 40 Intermec PM4i printers were implemented to support the WIP solution.

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Filed under: Case Studies

US Navy Uses RFID Technology to Reduce Inventory Time by 98 Percent

Posted August 5, 2010

Intermec Helps US Navy Reduce Inventory TimeThe magnificent flying machines deployed by the United States Navy are technological wonders. While the planes and their pilots may be the stars of the show, deploying a Naval aviation squadron usually requires a skilled crew and a pack-up kit, or PUK, containing hundreds of replacement parts worth $10 million or more.

The U.S. Navy Regional Supply Office in Norfolk, Va. provides logistical support for the aircraft squadrons stationed at Naval Air Station Norfolk. Aircraft types based at NAS Norfolk include E-2C, C-2, MH-53, H-46, SH-3 and MH-60. When a squadron is deployed, a PUK of several pallets and five-by-five-by-five foot cartons of supplies, known as tri-walls, are sent along with it, traveling from the regional supply office command to the supply command assigned to the squadron. A typical E2C PUK contains 500-600 parts.

Before the PUK leaves Norfolk, both commands must agree upon the contents. In the past, one person called out part numbers from a printed list while two others — each representing a command — checked off the items on their own inventory lists. Any discrepancies were noted and manually entered into the system after the inventory was complete. This process usually took three people a total of 24 man-hours. At an average burdened wage of $28.83 per hour, the labor cost for performing one PUK inventory was in excess of $690. Multiply that by the 64 PUKs inventoried at least four times a year at Norfolk alone, and the Navy had a very costly logistical nightmare.

In addition, once the PUK was in the field, simply locating one part out of the 500 in the kit could take hours. And there was little visibility into the replenishment supply chain, sometimes resulting in multiple orders of the same part.

Testing RFID
To improve inventory management, the supply officers at NAS Norfolk looked to radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and the expertise of a team of logistics and RFID specialists, including Intermec Technologies, Serco, Phase IV Engineering, Boh Environmental and PSC Technology.

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Paul Bugar Trucking Inc. Increases Efficiency with Motorola’s Mobile Radios

Posted August 5, 2010

Motorola Improves Fleet ManagementThe trucking industry today is faced with a multitude of challenges with fuel cost increases placed firmly at the top of the list. However, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s report (“Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry—2008”), that’s just one of the top ten issues with which the industry must cope. Other challenges include slumping demand due to the economy; growing traffic congestion; increasing toll fees; and governmental regulations.

“It’s harder to make money these days,” says Paul Bugar, Jr., president of Paul Bugar Trucking Inc. “You just have to keep making adjustments.”

Lack of coverage and inadequate communications hinder productivity. One of those adjustments is ensuring that the operation has the tools required to run more efficiently and cost effectively. Several years ago, Paul Bugar purchased a two-way mixed radio system to enable better communications between dispatch and the drivers, as well as among the drivers themselves.

“The radio system had a little bit of everything but it served our purpose at the time,” says Paul.

As the business continued to grow and the coverage area expanded, the radios no longer provided adequate range and the company eventually began to rely more heavily on cell phone usage. However, this strategy had its own problems with spotty cell coverage in some rural areas, cell phone bills that reached thousands of dollars per month, and the danger of drivers diverting attention away from the road while they placed a call or answered the phone.

“We were unable to consistently communicate,” Paul says. “And when we could talk, many times there was interference from a local bus company.”

The radios had also been installed incorrectly so Motorola was called in to correct the situation. However the radios still didn’t get the coverage or performance Paul required. It was time to consider migrating to newer technology.

Quick return on investment and operational cost reduction
Motorola proposed a cost-effective migration achieved through ‘as needed’ replacement of Paul Bugar’s existing radios with the Motorola CM200 Mobile Two-Way Radios. Designed specifically for businesses like Paul Bugar Trucking Inc., the ergonomic control panel of the CM200 radios offered ease of use, even for drivers wearing heavy gloves. In addition, the durable radios can withstand harsh environments including rain, blowing dust, vibration and exposure to salt, fog and extreme temperatures.

Today, Paul has completed the phase-out of the old radios and the new system consists entirely of Motorola CM200s. The radios enable the company’s drivers to communicate throughout the entire coverage area of up to 40 miles and have already saved the company money.

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Palmetto Electric Coop Improves Field Inspections

Posted August 5, 2010

Motorola CanopySituation:
Founded by enterprising rural residents in 1940 to bring power to South Carolina’s Low Country, Palmetto Electric Cooperative has grasped the importance of innovative technology and productive partnerships for decades. Ten years after it first ran lines to rural Hampton County, it electrified Hilton Head, setting the stage for the island’s rapid growth.

Today, this customer-owned cooperative serves nearly 60,000 in a 3-county area that weaves together mainland and offshore. Palmetto’s relationships range from purchasing electricity generated by Santee Cooper to forging an alliance with Touchstone Energy’s national network of 600 co-ops. And for the past 25 years, Palmetto has relied on Motorola as a partner for progressive products and superior support.

Palmetto wanted capabilities to beat the bandwidth. Specifically, to increase bandwidth to its substations for the automated meter reading (AMR) system. Its older radio system was used for polled data, too slow to provide the speed of broadband to transmit data from substations to its main office. Other choices, such as phone lines and T1 lines, were cost prohibitive and problematic.

This proactive utility also sought ways to save costs on SCADA and mine the wealth of information at its 25 substations spanning 650 square miles. Could Palmetto cut down on time-consuming trips to substations and achieve data connectivity with one cost-effective network? Would the system grow as they added voice over IP?

Solution:
The Canopy system was the one solution that met myriad requirements. “We looked at the options,” says Gary Jeger, Vice President of Information Systems, “and Canopy was less expensive and offered higher bandwidth. We also looked at our needs in the future and Canopy was more cost-effective, its payback period was short and it’s a very reliable system, easy to maintain and easy to program.”

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US Naval Air Force Reserve Optimizes Resources and Labor with Mobile Computers

Posted August 5, 2010

Intermec ScannerThe U.S. Commander Naval Air Forces Reserve (CNAFR) maintains and repairs military aircraft such as the E-2C Hawkeye, an early warning radar aircraft; AH-1 Cobra, a strike helicopter; and EA-6B Prowler, an aircraft that jams electronic signals. Other aircraft include the FA-18 Hornet strike fighter and C-130 Hercules transport plane. During times of war, CNAFR sends troops to battle, reducing manpower on the base. This means fewer Sailors are available to repair aircraft.

Each piece of equipment within the aircraft must be in working order to assure the safety of the aircrew and optimize the chances for success in combat. So at the beginning of the War on Terror, CNAFR wanted a way to optimize the manpower on base while expediting the repair process so aircraft could return to combat as soon as possible. To do so, CNAFR teamed up with Intermec Technologies and partner Diamond Data System to help develop its Base Level Inventory Tracking System (BLITS).

Manual Processes Delay and Dislocate
Several Naval Air Force Reserve bases have warehouses that store equipment and parts for the repair of military aircraft. So when a repair part is not available at one base, logistics personnel must input a requisition for stock from another.

“Before BLITS, the sailors had to call the other base and track down the repair part,” said Lieutenant Commander Chris Stevens of CNAFR. “Parts were often tracked using spreadsheets, so users in one base weren’t able to read the spreadsheet in another without having to call someone to look it up. Ultimately, it took a lot of work, wasting unnecessary time and labor.”

Before BLITS was deployed, CNAFR used a bar-coded form to track orders. Sailors would also have to use this form when requesting parts to repair aircraft. Whenever a part was delivered to the base, a driver took the part into the warehouse and had the form signed by a recipient. Once the driver returned to the warehouse with the form, the data was manually entered into a database used for tracking parts between bases. Using this system, it wasn’t uncommon for items to be misplaced.

“With the long strings of numbers associated with aviation components, typos were made when inputting data,” said Stevens. “This could wreak havoc on our system because it showed that the wrong part was ordered or delivered. Another problem was misplacing parts throughout the supply chain. This resulted in increased labor and expenses because of the time it took to determine the origin of the mistake or the location of the part. ”

BLITS Tracking Features Deliver
In order to reduce the opportunities for error and optimize labor, CNAFR turned to Intermec to install BLITS. A key component of BLITS is Intermec’s CK31G mobile computers, which are used for tracking repair parts. Using the new system, when a driver delivers a part, it must be scanned by someone’s Common Access Card (CAC) for it to be received. When the CAC card is scanned, the system identifies who received the item and the date and time. This information is stored on the CK31G mobile computer until it is docked and uploaded to a central server.

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Bar Code Labels Stand the Test of Time on Signs

Posted August 5, 2010

Zebra Z Series PrinterChallenge
There are approximately 18,000 road signs to guide drivers through Kitsap County,Wash., which covers 396 scenic square miles on the Puget Sound. To properly track and maintain each one of those signs, Kitsap County had to manually enter sign inventory data and maintenance records into a database—an extremely time consuming and error-prone task. “The staff were spending an hour or more per day in the shop looking up information and transcribing what they had done in the field onto an electronic spreadsheet,” said Jeff Shea, a Kitsap County traffic engineer. “Weekly checks indicated that numbers were being transposed and sign information was getting incorrectly documented. With some 18,000 signs, it was imperative that we got a handle on correctly identifying the correct sign with the correct action.”

Shea wanted to find a less labor intensive way of recording information in the field and entering it into the computer system. Unaware of any existing automated sign management applications, Shea faced the challenges of finding appropriate application software, sourcing durable mobile computers that could operate in harsh weather conditions, and determining a way to permanently identify signs. To top it off, the solution also had to be easy to use and affordable.

Solution
They decided on SignTrack, and a durable labeling solution from Zebra Technologies that operates on easy-to-use Phaser mobile bar code scanning terminals from Symbol Technologies. This solution would lead Kitsap to become what is believed to be the first county road department in the nation to use handheld terminals and bar codes to manage road signs.

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Chippewa County Improves Emergency Response in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Posted August 5, 2010

Motorola Wireless BridgeSituation:
The need for reliable, cost-effective connectivity with the state’s emergency response system
The eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula consists of three counties—Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac—that are home to a wide range of residents. The area boasts a variety of locations and lifestyles: the bustling port cities of Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace and numerous rural communities as well as the tourist mecca of Mackinac Island. This mix of urban, rural and seasonal populations combines with long, hard winters and an area of 3,486 square miles to create a challenging emergency response environment.

To improve operations across the region, the three counties agreed to centralize emergency dispatch operations. Because it possessed the newest network and equipment, Mackinac and Luce Counties agreed to contract with Chippewa County to create a leading-edge regional dispatch center. There were three main objectives: help reduce response time, improve efficiency and increase safety for residents of the region. There was one major challenge: to convince the state of Michigan that wireless connectivity to the Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS) would not only be affordable, but also reliable and secure. Complicating matters was a very aggressive timetable. The goal was to have the system operational by December 1, 2008.

Solution: High-speed Motorola 4.9 GHz Point-to-Point wireless network
To accommodate additional call volume from the other two counties, Chippewa County needed to replace its existing dispatch system with a solution that delivered more bandwidth. The county explored a number of different technology alternatives for building the new network. Traditionally, Michigan dispatch operations have used licensed microwave-based solutions for data transport. But traditional licensed microwave networks can cost tens of thousands of dollars per link, well beyond the project’s budget. Another possibility was leasing T1 lines from telephone providers, but T1 lines have their own issues. One is cost; monthly recurring lease costs can run from $300 to $1,300 per month per line. Other problems include reliability, lack of availability of T1s due to the remoteness of the desired location, timing of deployment and loss of control due to dependence on an outside supplier.

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