Gleason Research Associates, Inc. (GRA) has been in business for approximately 31 years, kicking off in 1982, and has cultivated significant experience in Army property management and software development along the way. Initially, GRA developed and built its Auto-Scan Tracking System (ASTS) to fulfill a need that was overlooked in the Army’s Defense Property Accountability System (DPAS) for inventory tracking in 1996. While the Army eventually upgraded DPAS to the Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced (PBUSE) system now used as the official method to account for property, ASTS still acts as an intuitive end-user interface to supplement that system.
According to Sharlene Hicks, vice president of business systems and services at GRA, “The Army’s system was built to provide full functionality at the Supply Sargent level of operation, and for that purpose, it is a well-written and well-planned system. One of the issues we noticed was that, while PBUSE provided the platform to account for government inventory, there was still a strong need for a useful tool to actually track the equipment. This is when GRA saw the opportunity to create a system that would eventually serve as a valuable complement to PBUSE.”
The Army is structured so that a Property Book Office can issue hand receipts, which act as an account, to track the equipment that the organization has assigned to each individual. Those hand receipts can also be broken down into sub-hand receipts. To increase PBUSE usability out in the field, ASTS—a web-based SQL database, simplistically speaking—traces the hand-receipt and government-form transactions that the military requires for tracking property out in the field. These transactions can include corrections, additions, lateral transfers and more.
In 1997, GRA decided to upgrade the ASTS database with a barcode scanner to further facilitate property tracking in the field, but the initiative was not as successful as anticipated due to hardware failures from the third-party product. While ASTS underwent many upgrades and iterations over the years, it wasn’t until about five years ago that GRA discovered its ideal hardware match.
A Solid Relationship Forms
When GRA discovered Intermec’s CN3 and CN70 mobile computers, the company pounced on integrating them with its inventory tracking database to add barcode-scanning capabilities. GRA developed a software program to set up on the CN3 and CN70 mobile computers to interface with ASTS. That software program automates the actual inventory of items out in the field, as well as the addition of items, flagging items for disposal, reprinting barcodes and more, as opposed to manually taking inventory with a paper and pencil, hurrying back to an office with a desktop PC and relaying the information—all with the expectation that errors are not tolerated.
To further complicate matters, military personnel work in extreme environments, which can include temperature, wind and moisture constraints that could affect the mobile computer’s ability to scan, yet Intermec’s CN3 and CN70 proved their mettle even in theater. Hicks concurs, “Intermec has a very sound technical product and our customers are very happy.”
The time required to conduct full-blown inventories went from between six months and a year down to merely days using Intermec mobile computers and GRA’s ASTS. Because GRA already developed the software and had experience with previous barcode-scanning devices, implementation basically consisted of testing the mobile computers and deploying them, which approximately took a month. Luckily, most of the company’s customers were very open to training and learning how to automate inventory tracking because it saves so much time. That being said, GRA provides training on how to:
- Perform a military or commercial inventory with the software that’s loaded onto the Intermec hardware.
- Use the web-based ASTS, and the CN3 and CN70 mobile computers.
- Upload, generate and interpret results.