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The Art of the Possible – Automated Communications Asset Management

Fifth in a Series, February 2023

Current Situation


Asset Information Management Solution (AIMS) is a process-based, digitized asset management application developed, deployed, and supported by Troika Solutions. AIMS capabilities focus on solutions to support the asset management of items that require high security, restricted access control, and the strictest accountability and auditability. It is specifically targeted at the management of assets that are routinely issued from and returned to a secure, restricted access facility.


AIMS is designed to provide a portfolio of Built-For-Purpose (BFP) modules that support different types of asset commodities such as weapons, ordnance, communication security, hazardous material, and tools. Automated Armory (AA) is a currently deployed module of AIMS. The advantage of BFP modules is they are customized to fit the customer’s specific requirements as opposed to the customer having to adapt their processes and procedures to accommodate the limits of the technology.


AIMS-AA is an issue and inventory application that accommodates and digitizes the accountability, assignment, stowage, issue/draw, recover, receipt, reporting, and inventory for serialized and non-serialized weapons, optics, and associated SL-3 and ancillary ordnance equipment. This includes accountability of access and permissions, as well as the full array of custody requirements.


Recently, we have seen a high level of interest in the deployment of an AIMS module to provide automated asset management of communications equipment. The desire is to implement a solution that provides the same confidence and compliance focused on accountability, security, and efficiency for communications assets as is already being provided for armory assets across the Marine Corps and Navy.


Art of the Possible

The architecture framework of AIMS is specifically designed to provide the flexibility and agility to readily deploy BFP modules that support different types of commodity assets. This is specific to those assets maintained and accounted for within restricted or limited access facilities and includes: weapons, ordnance, communication security equipment, hazardous material, and tools.


Modules serve as the user interface to a single, flexible, scalable, yet robust database secured with industry best practices. The framework is based on the four functional pillars depicted in Figure 1 below:


Figure 1: AIMS Functional Pillars


Based on this framework, the preponderance of adaptation is instigated by the Transactions pillar. The functionality of the other three pillars is largely form fitting across multiple commodities and driven by transactional actions. This serves to provide a solution tailored to the commodity’s processes and rules for accountability and security.


Relying on our architectural framework, a new module to support asset management for communications equipment could be readily provided and would leverage many of the functions currently deployed for armory operations.


Based on recent discussions and explorations with the user community, we believe a module to support asset management of communications equipment, material, and storage facilities would meet or exceed user’s requirements. To serve this goal, we have developed a concept of operations and roadmap for an AIMS-COMM module.


What AIMS Does – Digital Capabilities


Current AIMS functionality that could be readily applied for an automated communications module is listed by pillar below:

Transactions Pillar

  • AIMS allows every serialized asset to be assigned to a stow location. Location Assignment can be unique (e.g., rack) or aggregated (e.g., room). Non-serialized assets can also be associated to a location and/or an asset. This also includes the ability to kit serialized and non-serialized items with a parent asset and associate to the singular stow location. Stow locations can be established to support categorization or differentiation of required security levels and/or access permissions.

  • Provides custody accountability down to the serial number level. Includes: custody and levels of sub-custody; location within the facility; availability, assignment, issue and return status.

  • Provides digitized inventory control procedures based on categorization of assets, location of assets, and other directed requirements. Functionality allows Serialized Inventories to be done digitally (w/o paper) in AIMS. Digital inventories can be done either via a digital reader or a physical reading.

  • Functionality supports Serialized Inventories to be done via an AIMS printout (which can be sent electronically to remote locations). Whether digital or paper, inventory lists can be user formatted (e.g., serial number sequence, location, custody, etc). This means inventories can be done in a manner that may be more efficient than serial number sequence.

  • Supports auto generation of digitized standard or ad hoc forms.

Data Pillar

  • Enables a user designated organizational structure based on established command relationships, to include supported and supporting as well as parent/child authorities.

  • Provides digital data collection/input for assets and personnel. This includes the ability to scan serial numbers and Common Access Cards (CAC), use fingerprint biometrics for entry, and RFID to track asset location.

  • Allows the ability to disconnect from a main suite to use remotely and then synchronize use and transactional data when re-connected.

  • AIMS imports Consolidated Memorandum Receipt (CMR) data (TAMCN, NSN and Serial #) from GCSS-MC.

Access/Security Pillar

  • Allows users to set and assign entry and access rules based on permissions, requirements, and restrictions. Entry, access, permissions, and transactional actions can be differentiated by specified levels of security.

  • Provides a key log function for tracking inventory, use, and return of keys for all authorized individuals.

  • All actions are recorded digitally with traceability between access and transactions.

Decision Support Pillar

  • All assets not physically on hand are visible in AIMS by custody and location. This eliminates the search for paperwork, notebooks, etc.

  • Provides configurable dashboards for tracking selected actions related to access, transactions, individuals, or performance.

  • Supported by conducting surveys at periodic intervals to track performance management.

  • Provides standard and ad hoc report development.

  • Auditability of every transaction (e.g., stow location change, custody change, etc) and every access action digitally captured with full audit trail.

What AIMS Improves: Process-Based Effectiveness and Efficiencies


Current customer reported improvements based on AIMS functionality that readily apply to communications accountability and security processes are listed below.

  • Provides instantaneous accountability and visibility of every asset. This includes views from total aggregation down to individual serial number, assignment, custody, and location data.

  • Prevents the most common and challenging accountability mistakes, including inadvertent duplication of assignments, and unauthorized entry or assignment.

  • Significantly improves the accuracy of required inventories, while decreasing the time it takes to conduct an inventory, all with best practices for auditability of inventory actions.

  • Provides visibility of accountability or custodian documentation. Follow up actions are reduced while providing improved visibility of pending actions.

  • Provides a detailed history of every instance any asset left the facility.

  • Improves readiness and identifies trends that can lead to less waste of manpower and inventory losses by integrating inventory, asset management and operational functions.

  • Provides more effective and efficient support to “customers,” effectively speeding up procedures for issuing and recovering assets and providing directed documentation for assignments and reporting.

  • Eliminates handwritten actions, often contained in multiple logbooks or folders.

  • Provides and simplifies more reliable, accurate reporting.

  • Allows importing and exporting of data via various file formats such as Excel, Word, and PDF.

  • Allows more effective utilization of limited personnel and the ability to establish performance management and subsequently track metrics and trends.

Required or Supporting Actions


Troika has published a discovery checklist of specific processes, procedures, business rules, and directive requirements that would need to be addressed to develop a demonstratable pilot. The next step is to conduct an organizational visit to complete the checklist and then coordinate a working demonstration.


Conclusions

The functionality of AIMS purposefully adheres to orders, directives and manuals that control accountability and security functions but lack efficiency controls. Many of these controls are rooted in paper-based procedures. As such, efficiency, accountability, and security are constrained from the improvements, results, and adherence that can be provided by a modernized digitization tool. A few operational examples that specifically relate to communications assets include:

  • Using AIMS would be a great benefit for the turnover of assets or accounts during unit rotations. As one unit is deploying out, they leave all their assets behind. A returning unit falls in on the remain behind unit’s assets. Similarly, the deploying unit will fall in on assets that are at the deployment location. AIMS’ ability to efficiently, effectively, and accurately support this could singularly justify the purchase of AIMS.

  • Communications units do a lot of kitting. Currently this is all paper based and provides significant challenges for auditing. AIMS’ ability to do this with auditability is a strong emphasis.

  • COMSEC accounts have some unique requirements regarding the process of deliberate and directed destruction of COMSEC material. The process itself is not much different than the return to depot of unserviceable weapons. It requires permission-based roles and strict certification of the event, and auditability.

  • AIMS data capture of transactions, access, and auditability would likely also be highly beneficial in supporting the bi-annual physical security surveys that are conducted by an external organization. This is especially beneficial since there is likely a high turnover of personnel (and even organizations occupying a facility) within a two-year period.

AIMS focuses on accountability, security, and efficiency. Its value is rested in its ability to provide confidence and compliance for in the processes and procedures related to an organization’s assets that have the highest and most challenging accountability and security standards and requirements.


Troika welcomes feedback and suggestions related to this article. Feedback can be emailed to splaut@troikasol.com.

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