Mincom will this month start the next tranche of a massive rewrite of the Australian Defence Force's logistics and supply chain system that could touch $1 billion before its completion in 2017.
Mincom would not reveal the value of the contract for Phase 2B.2 of Joint Project 2077 also known as the Military Integrated Logistics Information System or MILIS.
It was due to be delivered last year but was delayed to the middle of next year owing to the late delivery of its preceding module, 2B.1 that was due at the end of 2008.
That earlier project that delivered financials, inventory, maintenance and asset management and distribution to the ADF, will now be ready in July.
Staffing and testing were causes of the later start dates for the system based on Mincom's Ellipse software, said Mincom general manager of defence, Bruce Jacquemard.
"Change management was a big issue - a system with 15,000 users is changing from one day to the next," Jacquemard said. "Although there's a good plan in place they (Defence) wanted to make sure they could focus [on that]."
A 2008 Defence Department presentation highlighted human factors such as cultural shifts and training at the ADF among issues to impact the generational project's adoption.
It suggested changing staff as a shortcut to the new processes and to counter "inertia" in the defence forces.
Jacquemard said Defence held off to allow fresh staff to rotate through at the beginning of the year instead of the end of the year as was planned.
The new logistics network will replace the troubled standard defence supply system, also based on Mincom software, that in 2002 was criticised for shortfalls during the ADF's East Timor deployment.
Jacquemard said the MILIS "delta" phase or 2D was planned from late 2013 to mop up any outstanding issues but scope creep could lift the price of the final bill and the delivery date of subsequent capabilities outside what was envisioned.
A key component of MILIS, which was gradually knitting together or supplanting more than 100 disparate logistics systems, was its ability to manage the supply chain and logistics of troops in forward areas as easily as if they were back at barracks or in Canberra and operate when communications are down. It could handle requests from a single soldier in the field to larger formations.
The project kicking off integrated with Phase 2C, delivered two years ago, which attached radio frequency identification tags to pallets and big objects to trace them in transit.
Jacquemard said Defence was working on greater "granularity" to allow individual items to be tracked.
Once operational, logistics officers can raise purchase orders from forward locations to be supplied from warehouses or shared between units, such as two ships at sea.
Although satellite communications makes it easier to push a network to the front lines, there are times when units will have their communications blacked out for operational reasons, Jacquemard said. In those instances, logisticians won't need to continually raise new purchase orders because existing ones will be queued to send back once communications are re-established.
Personnel interact with MILIS through a modern browser user interface instead of a variety of screens and text inputs that was criticised in the legacy SDSS. And although it was capable of integrating modern enhancements such as Google Maps, that capability was traditionally shunned by the world's military, Jacquemard said.
"In our commercial part of our world with mining companies the system has the ability to support Google Maps or ESRI [geographic information systems]," he said.
"In Defence, because of the secure nature of that environment, the architecture supports it but it's up to the Defence Department to decide how they allow certain map information to be easily integrated into the system.
"The [RFID] tracking interface allows visual implementation but many defence departments won't allow it to integrate the maps."
ADF supply chain timeline
November, 2002 - Australian National Audit Office identifies problems with standard defence supply system and Log IS leading to loss of $800 million in materiel and breaches of UN conventions in East Timor.
2003 - Joint Project 2077 (MILIS) conceived to replace Defence's troubled SDSS and LogIS logistics systems.
December, 2004 - Defence's $55 million supply chain revamp criticised by Commonwealth Auditor-General Pat Barrett.
Q4 2008 - JP2077 2B.1 scheduled to go live. Provided mobile warehousing, IT controls, automated stocktaking, interface to ROMAN financial management system; user-friendly web interface, better data-entry controls, system-wide reporting. Delayed.
2009 - 2B.2 slated to go live (delayed to the first half of 2011).
July, 2010 - Phase 2B.1 to go live (projected).
2011 - First half - 2B.2 to go live (projected)
Sources: Defence department, The Age, The Australian, Mincom
In phase: ADF moves to integrated supply-chain network
- Phase 1: Completed 2003. It set the context for the program and confirmed the scope and concept needs for the improved Defence logistics information system.
- Phase 2B.1: Introduces the Military Integrated Logistics Information System (MILIS) single system, including an interface into the Defence financial system (ROMAN) for improved asset management. Goes live in July (was to be 2008). Activities include an organisational change program, extensive technical and business testing and planning for transition into service.
- Phase 2B.2: Builds on the previous phase to improve supply chain management. Stage One started last month.
- Phase 2C: An interim radio frequency identification asset-tracking system for supplies in transit was delivered in March, 2007. It was deployed to sites in Australia and the Middle East Area of Operations.
- Phase 2D: Tidies up any work not completed and improvements such as to engineering, maintenance and asset management. To be introduced 2017 following Government approval in 2013-14.