Defence Industry

How to prevent assets from going AWOL in the military environment
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 23 May , 2022

Armies and military bases have to keep track of a considerable amount of assets, from big-ticket items such as planes, missiles and firearms, to smaller supplies such as parts, tools, and IT equipment. Keeping track of these assets, even the larger ones, isn’t easy. In recent years, there has been a spotlight on internal operations in the military, exposing issues of inefficient asset tracking, monitoring and recovery.

In 2014, ABC News reported that the Department of Defense’s Inspector General’s audit for 2013 found that the 401st Army Field Support Brigade did not report 15,600 pieces of missing equipment valued at approximately $419.5 million in a timely manner. A long-term investigative report by Reuters also revealed that the Pentagon has experienced many challenges in effective asset management and tracking, and can often “spend money on new supplies it doesn’t need and on storing others long out of date”. These issues not only adversely affect Defence budgets; the repercussions can be far more serious if these inefficiencies lead to equipment and supply shortages that negatively impact training, special operations or emergency response.

Asset management inefficiencies are by no means an isolated issue, and many organisations, military and otherwise, rely on outdated manual asset management techniques (*cough* spreadsheets and other written asset management systems) that are time-consuming, full of pitfalls, and not updated in real-time. Here are five frequent military asset management missteps we have seen time and time again:

  • Manually entering data, which inevitably leads to costly errors
  • Tracking assets in a spreadsheet or static database that isn’t updated in real time
  • Using a manual system to track assets makes it more challenging to keep track of their maintenance, ageing and depreciation over time
  • Difficulty tracking user changes and accountability
  • Relying on one or two people to track assets, increasing the risk of fraud and diminishing the ability to scale the organisation

Marching orders from military asset management experts

Military operations are renowned for precision, focus, efficiency and accuracy. However, having to rely on legacy technology and manual processes makes it challenging for internal administration to reflect the same level of excellence. It’s important that military units take the same highly organised and efficient approach to internal operations as they do to defending their country. A successful solution needs to seamlessly link people, vehicles, equipment, vessels and medical supplies even in the most remote locations outside of cellular range.

As we’ve discussed, military bases incorporate a vast number of assets across different buildings and even different sites. Various stakeholders need to have information on this constantly moving pool of assets at hand for numerous applications, such as finding mission-critical equipment, managing maintenance and replacement schedules, and tracking each asset type, number and location for audits. Trying to record assets manually is cumbersome, time-consuming and riddled with errors and risks, and an unnecessary amount of military budgets are taken up with maintenance, re-purchasing, loss, damage and theft of critical assets. There’s a smarter way…

The only way to achieve the precision, efficiency and cost-effectiveness that are critical to the success of military operations is to deploy a highly automated, real-time military asset management, tracking and maintenance solution that gives you total visibility and control. Having a dedicated smart asset management tracking system helps military operations keep accurate records of assets and save time when locating a specific asset on the base.

Using technology such as  Smarter Technologies’ smart asset tracking and management system enables military bases to easily track and manage valuable company assets, conduct audits and instantly access and create managerial reports. The system uses the military-grade Orion, The Real-Time Data NetworkTM and smart, IoT-enabled devices to track, monitor and recover assets in real-time without the need for GSM networks. Data is reported into a centralised database that is updated in real-time. These wireless and sim-free solutions protect and monitor armouries, track individuals in real-time, enable fuel sensing, supply chain and inventory management; high-value freight, vehicle and document monitoring; and asset theft and damage prevention.

When choosing a smart solution for military asset tracking, it’s important to consider the type of network solution. With the sheer volume of high-value assets in the military, traditional GPS tracking solutions lack the required scalability and efficiency. That’s why the Orion Data Network uses both Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and GPS technology. GPS is that GPS relies on a line of sight connection between the tracker and the assets, whereas RFID does not, making it more suitable for the military context. An RFID network such as Orion enables both long- and short-range tracking so that officials can control your assets wherever they are located globally, even when operations and manoeuvres are taking place in very remote areas. Crucially, the ability to utilise a different Mhz than many other networks means Orion is able to transmit a lot more data than many competitors while remaining compliant with regulations, and delivering data in real time.

Let’s look at the current ware in Ukraine, for example. Ukraine soldiers are using drones to target Russian soldiers and gather intelligence from the sky. However, it has become harder and more dangerous for Ukrainian drone pilots as Russians are fighting back against this tactic by using technology that allows them to see where drones are being launched, and where they land. This gives Russian forces a location point to target Ukrainian soldiers. Because of this, the pilots have changed their strategy and rarely land their drones right next to their position and will wait before going to retrieve them. By attaching a smart tag to the drones, they would be able to locate this and retrieve this equipment quickly after landing.

Implementing a smart network solution also allows for virtually limitless applications as it can be connected to a huge variety of different sensor technologies. For example, in addition to location tracking, geofencing capabilities create perimeter security solutions. Bases can also install devices that alert relevant stakeholders in the event of container and content tampering and solutions, or warn them when an asset is damaged through shock or impact. Smart sensors can measure and manage a vast range of conditions and states, such as temperature, moisture and humidity levels, gas emissions, movement, pressure, as well as fuel and water levels can all be measured.

Smart technology is taking military bases from management missteps to asset management mastery, accelerating their decision-making abilities and the likelihood of mission success. In the current unpredictable global climate, the time to act is now when it comes to making military operations more efficient and able to execute their critical missions.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Matthew Margetts

Smarter Technologies Group Director of Sales and Marketing

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