Inventory Management


By H a r i c H a n da n a ra k a l i

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The benefits of inventory management Why creating a sizeable pilot is important
Vol/1 | ISSUE/23

REAL CIO WORLD | O C T O B E R 1 5 , 2 0 0 6

Il lUStrat Ion by b In ESh SrEEdharan

and a Network


An Indian Air Force project promises to make inventory management a matter of real-time. This means that the country’s air warriors will eventually be better prepared, and better kitted out, for combat.

n a world that is inexorably moving towards networkcentric warfare, as the Americans call it, imagine an Air Force that depends on manually-intensive processes to keep track of where 500,000 pieces of spares, equipment and other material are located. In the actual event of a war, it’s a nightmare scenario to not know, in realtime, how many of which spares or ammunition India’s defence forces have, where they are needed the most, and how quickly they can be forwarded. It took nearly 13 years, but the Indian Air Force is now the owner of a computer software application, implemented across 130 units that not only tracks inventory but also generates vital decision-support reports for the top brass. Computer services company Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which built and deployed the application it calls the Integrated Materials Management Online System or IMMOLS. Air Marshal B.U. Chengappa, the air officer-incharge (maintenance), with whom the logistics buck stops at the IAF, says the “implementation of IMMOLS is a historic moment for us in the IAF”. Information superiority assumes great importance in today’s digitized battlefields. IMMOLS is a strategic IAF initiative that facilitates the translation of information superiority into combat power by the effective utilization of inventory resources, says Chengappa. IAF has achieved logistics e-governance by shifting gears from a manual system to an e-enabled online environment. IMMOLS has facilitated attaining integrated logistics functionality, a composite of all support considerations, and ensured economically viable support for weapon systems throughout their lifecycle. IMMOLS also provides knowledge-based decision models for the quick resolution of ‘sustainment’ problems. In the days to come, IMMOLS will be instrumental in reducing the turnaround time of weapon systems, an improvement in provisioning activities and a significant cost savings in inventory holdings. The project was conceptualised as an online materials management system that would improve the availability of items/spares, which would lead to enhanced serviceability of weapons systems and reduce inventory costs by minimising nonmoving inventory. The complexity of logistics management in the IAF stems from the geographical dispersal of operational sites and the technological diversity of its weapons systems and spares. High costs, limited sources and high lead times in the supply of military aviation standard items/spares add to the challenge of providing cost-effective logistics management.


and closes their ranks in a world DEPLOyED AT: the concept of just-in-time procurement and of network-centric warfare. consolidates and updates the budget details by accessing data from the e-procurement documents generated in the system. the approval of an e-document can undertake online query and clarifications from the subordinate recommenders. at which these two cycles are churned by echelons of the IAF hierarchy. The nature of the program was holistic and enterprisewide. This. no issue’ is strictly enforced. Being a replacement system. (itemised stock register) at the unit level on ObjECTIvE: to align the maintained. This e-decision support decision-makers at various techno-logistics echelons or system will enable the techno-logistics hierarchy to fully the infrastructure. various stock levels. because the project was initially started with two teams: one from TCS and the other from the maintenance core of the air force. It was also a seven). introducing in place. after which the air headquarters to the battlefield command operating project’s endorsement came through. Further. VP & head. It materials management at all levels of hierarchy. whether they are aircraft spares or ration IMMOLS IMMOLS will also generate reports and clothing for the airmen.” Logistics management is under the the fast retrievability of information also maintenance command of the Air Force. among IaF’s inventory. I 2 the quality of provisioning data will get better since it will be based on real demand figures and trends. it aids the valuation of replacement and Under the earlier. The IAF now has real-time access to information on any spare part or piece of equipment at the push of a button. analysis and several other initiatives before it logistics management system that encompasses the was rolled out across all 108 sites of the Indian Air Force. this may then become an objective tool for price negotiations. it can be removed. clear internal validation and go through several leadership cycles (within the Air Force). replenishment cycles. The IT infrastructure covers a nationwide installation “we carried out a pilot for around 22 sites of the Indian Air of computing platforms. IMMolS provides online allocation and stock status of every item. which meant that it had a longer evolutionary phase. The final phase was covered in the last eight months.Net — and out to the end user in the IAF’s supply chain. 7 Personnel work folder. IMMOLS posed significant challenges. creating efficiency on and off system.” he adds. which many applications required. the IMMolS application software dynamically 6 Financial concurrence and sanction. the records of specific items. Further. IMMOLS implemented in a distributed manner at various depots is a functional system cleared for e-audits where the of the IAF and replaces the current manual system of concept of ‘no e-voucher. processes automated. thus ensuring standardisation across units. 2 0 0 6 | REAL CIO WORLD Vol/1 | ISSUE/23 Vol/1 | ISSUE/23 REAL CIO WORLD | O C T O B E R 1 5 . Streamlining this task. TCS processes in order to achieve efficient materials management: the procurement/ supply chain management cycle. says Chakrabarty. and their procurement available material. are controlled. 3 budget management. It captures the business logic of the IMMOLS ensures the movement of these two cycles. he adds. inventory management control capabilities of all The project started in 1993-94 and just the initial pilot items present in the Indian Air Force.Inventory Management Inventory Management rolled out. the facility can be utilized for bringing in better accountability in the system. right from the took a few years to build and roll out. of its business that deals with governments. plenty of inventory sat idle and it travels up the IAF’s hierarchy. Chakrabarty says. and final phase was station. They thrashed out the functionalities. a history of costs will progressively be made available on IMMolS. What TCS which included software development. he adds. this will help reduce processing time involved in the physical despatch of paper documents across units. usage patterns. recollects how. 4 5 facility to green-flag e-documents within and across units. right at the start — bypassing a requirements mess that could have stopped the project cold. manually-intensive stock. which leads to efficiency in terms of cost and time. “The support extended by top officials at the IAF played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the Photo by bhag Irath IMMOLS Gets its Wings The impact of IMMOLS. once the inventory fat has been located. IAF’s logistics. availability of stock data online is expected to bring non-moving items into sharp focus. future requirements. logistics organisation. usage patterns and metadata standards used to maintain Assistant editor Harichandan Arakali can be reached at hari_a@cio. and the repair management cycle. “The support extended by top IAF officials played a crucial role in the success of the project. IMagIn g by MM Shan Ith 1 Increased asset visibility (including transit assets) at all echelons of IaF hierarchy will help top brass make decisions that will exploit available material resources and bring about a quantum reduction in downtime of weapon systems. For instance. is dependent on the time tap all available material resources and accurately forecast taken for the execution of every activity in each cycle. Efficient IMMOLS has the capability of providing online asset materials management at the IAF is directly related visibility as well as transit asset visibility to various to the speed. CIO were some of the drivers behind IMMOLS. SNAPSHOT IAF’s top brass. it reaches The application — built on Microsoft . being a truly IT-enabled service. Many of these were sorted out. Aided by its implementation cost the IAF Rs 55 crore.” The application. campus LANs and other Force. IMMolS provides the Source: tCS 54 O C T O B E R 1 5 . became much easier to organise for the where all items in excess of 500. and gets increasing complex as it repair cycles. says Air Marshal Chengappa. hardware equipment. 2 0 0 6 55 . took a lot of time to replace critical spares at the command level (the air force has COST: required across stations. The application tackles two essential — Tanmoy Chakrabarty. in turn. Initially. fulfils the IAF’s vision of realising a lean and dynamic Being a custom-designed application software. global government industry. the battlefield. there was the need to get buy-in.000. others. did was to develop and deploy an enterprisewide training. the Indian skies 130 sites giving the IAF full control over their inventory will hopefully be a safer place. information that would take weeks to collect. Chakrabarty says a real-time status rs 55 crore very complex exercise since the Air Force of inventory is available. At the unit level (the lowest level). It was an online accounting system and audit system. received extensive testing. PILOT: maintained a varied inventory of aircraft and And as the IAF gets their nuts and bolts 22 sites material. IMMOLS caters to all facets of materials management Tanmoy Chakrabarty. a vice president at TCS and head at various levels of hierarchy in the Indian Air Force. acceptance testing. IMMolS provides user-specific personnel folder interface to view pending jobs.

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