Special Logistics Forces

Defense Department draws on "elite" logistics consortium for real-time asset tracking

Tempe, AZ  November 19, 2001  When the U.S. Department of Defense needs to track someone or something down, it turns to its elites. In the hills and valleys of distant countries, those elites may include Army Rangers or the much-rumored, though never-confirmed, boys of Delta Force.

But when the DoD needs to track pallets of supplies and other assets throughout its far-flung supply chain, the department can now call upon a newly formed "elite strategic consortium" of top providers of real-time asset tracking solutions.

The recently established U.S. Defense Logistics Consortium is a broad-based coalition that includes leading providers of real-time logistics tracking hardware and software, as well as integrators of all forms of automated data collection, ranging from bar code scanners and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to real-time locating systems (RTLS) systems.

"The military services and other defense agencies are utilizing RFID to improve the timeliness and accuracy of transportation movement information into our in-transit visibility systems," said Lt. Gen. Daniel Brown, deputy commander in chief for the military's U.S. Transportation Command. "We are always receptive to technology solutions that enable us to streamline our procurement process and make our operations more efficient and effective."

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Savi Technology has been pegged as the project manager for the coalition. Savi will also provide systems integration expertise.

Savi has a track record with the DoD, having built and operated the world's largest wireless monitoring network for the department, securing RFID Procurement contracts and renewals totaling nearly $200 million along the way.

"Savi has a proven track record in providing a comprehensive solution that enables the U.S. military to manage the global logistics supply chain through a combination of wireless tracking systems and customized software on the Internet," said Ken Wykle, senior vice president for Savi's public sector business. Wykle formerly served as administrator for the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and deputy commander in chief for the U.S. Transportation Command.

Savi has also sub-contracted independently with different members of the new consortium and others to help fulfill all contract requirements.

"Our partners have helped build this infrastructure, and now as a formalized group we can act as an 'elite' logistics team to meet the military's demands on a moment's notice over the long-term," added Wykle.

Other current and future members of the consortium include:

 ·        Intermec Technologies Corp., of Everett, Wash., which designs and manufactures RFID technology and which has been selected by major global standards organizations for use in the development of international item-tracking standards. Intermec is a long-time DoD supplier;

 ·        Northrop Grumman Information Technology, which provides systems engineering services to develop new automated information technology (AIT) systems, enhance existing AIT systems or augment existing business processes through the integration of AIT;

·        RF Code, which designs, develops and manufactures real-time locating systems for long-range wireless data communications to manage and track physical assets, information and personnel. Savi and RF Code recently announced a "preferred partners" pact to work jointly on supply chain monitoring and management projects, emphasizing service to enterprises with complex logistics operations for maintaining component parts;

·        Symbol Technologies, a provider of mobile data transaction solutions, including solutions based on its wireless mobile computing and bar code data capture products. Symbol was named prime contractor by the U.S. Department of Defense to provide products to support projects such as the deployment of materials and personnel and tracking supplies;

 ·        Systems & Process Engineering Corp. (SPEC), a communications hardware integrator providing the next-generation handheld RFID technology, which reads Savi RFID tags and interfaces with bar code scanners from Symbol Technologies and other companies. This product, when integrated with SPEC's Falcon Gateway messaging system, makes up SPEC's Deployed Asset Visibility System;

 ·        Titan Systems Corp., a government information technology business;

 ·        Unisys Corp., which has supported DoD RFID requirements by providing worldwide systems integration, installation, software development, maintenance and site training for in-transit visibility during real-world contingencies; and,

 ·        WhereNet Corp., a provider of wireless supply chain visibility solutions for locating, tracking, and managing critical resources in real-time. The WhereNet RTLS system can be used in a variety of military applications, including asset management and vehicle inventory management.

Other leading suppliers also are being invited to join the coalition, which will compete for future RFID Procurement contracts as a single unified group.

In August, 1997, Savi was originally awarded the RFID procurement contract to provide RFID hardware and software to enable the military services to locate, monitor and track the status of goods and supplies anywhere in its worldwide supply chain. A 1996 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that the DoD could have eliminated $2 billion in wasted costs if it had deployed Savi's technology during the Desert Storm operations in the early 1990s. The procurement contract was extended for two years in October 2000 after another thorough review of available technologies and qualified providers.

Savi Technology initially provided RFID hardware and related products and services. In the past several years the company has evolved into a provider of software for asset management and security that can be accessed through the Internet. The company now integrates hardware solutions, including from other companies, with its own software platform.

The Defense Department isn't the only organization turning to wireless asset tracking solutions. To learn how Ford Motor Co. used the technology to track vehicles at its truck facility in Wayne, Mich., reducing "duh time" and cutting labor costs, look for the Net Best Thing column in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business.