The word ‘logistics’ includes many mechanisms and activities needed in every army, also in the Polish Armed Forces. What they need to be effective in is modern IT systems.
Among many US generals, Norman Schwarzkopf was one of the most characteristic. He was a soldier of flesh and blood who has experienced many different situations. He fought in Vietnam, took part on the invasion on Grenade in 1983, and he became the main commander of the coalition forces during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, which is commonly considered as one of the most skillfully conducted war operations in the history of the United States. Schwarzkopf later emphasized that an effective campaign was to a large extent possible owing to the military logistic forces: “Their effort was almost of Herculean might to mobilize and support Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, particularly in the weeks preceding the launch of war activities.” Some call it the war of logistic forces, because decisive for its success was a quick transfer to the region of operation of a large number of people and a significant quantity of machines, ammunition and equipment. The instant land operation in Iraq, which followed, was merely a runoff. Martin van Creveld, Israeli military historian, in his book Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton on the history of military logistics, said openly that logistics constitutes 90% of military activity.
Inventory in Cloud
Logistics is the basis for all kinds of activities of all armies, and the Polish Armed Forces are no exception here. The immensity of logistic challenges covers many equally important subsystems: management, materiel, technical, transport and mobility, infrastructure and medical care. Additionally, there are two crucial elements such as the support to the allied forces during their stay in Poland as well as activities for economy mobilization and strategic reserves.
Logistic forces are responsible for, inter alia, technical servicing and overhauls of equipment; for supply of ammunition, fuel, grease and spare parts; for organizing transport of personnel and machines, logistic cooperation with allies during exercises in Poland, abroad and on missions; for maintenance and development of infrastructure, and the premises for military units (buildings, administration, renovation and repair); for military medicine (in Poland and on missions). That is still not all, as the tasks are numerous.
Personnel and technical management of entire armed forces, but also warehouses, ground infrastructure or finances requires specialist tools. For that, since 2010 gradually the integrated multi-level IT system of the MoND has been being implemented. It is the ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) software, known on the civil market, but here adjusted to the needs of a specific customer, i.e. the army. The system is to integrate all duties and tasks supervised by the MoND. In logistics, these are the functionalities supporting, among others, resources inventory, storage and distribution of supplies. Moreover, apart from logistics, the system is to globally cover such issues as budget, trainings and planning.
The most important feature of the ERP system is based on cloud computing. It means that data entered by one user are immediately seen by other users. In resource management, it is absolutely vital, since at the same time all users can be using it: accountants, storehouse managers, analysts or planners. The system also facilitates the circulation of documents, reduces decision-making time, as well as it simply saves money.
Gradually, new modules are being created and introduced in the system; they are marked with letter symbols. So far, a number of crucial ones were implemented, such as FI (financial accounting), MM (materiel management), and PWE (technical exploitation support).
Technical exploitation support of equipment is one of the most important tasks for logistics, no surprise that the MoND’s system was launched relatively early. It covers 49 different types of military equipment used by Polish army. These are F-16 aircraft, KTO Rosomaks, PT-91 tanks, Langusta missile launchers, equipment for engineering, command and communication – in total, about 1,800 pieces. All of them need fuel supply, grease, spare parts, ammunition of proper parameters, regular overhauls and servicing, and require monitoring their life cycle.
According to Col Piotr Górski, the Inspectorate of Armed Forces Support: “The subsystem’s module for exploitation support, ZWSI RON, has been implemented since 2015. In the first run, the solution supporting F-16 aircraft was developed, while KTO Rosomak armored vehicle was first to launch the system implementation within land technology. The exploitation support covers all variants of special vehicles, which use Rosomak’s chassis as carrier platform, including the Rak self-propelled mortar.”
The PWE module enables, among others, clear identification of specific machine, monitoring its exploitation span, which is crucial for defining its life cycle. Breakdowns, modifications and periodical overhauls and repairs are listed. The condition for creating the so-called digital model, which is entering to the system detailed descriptions of every unit of equipment and its components. As emphasized by Col Górski, “high complexity level of contemporary military equipment requires, in case of a ship or an aircraft, that a number of elements to be included in a digital model and a number of work schedules or tasks related with servicing sums up to even several thousand entries which must be included in the system.” The very process of preparing a digital model of a given equipment is quite a challenge for logisticians, but it eventually pays off. It allows for optimal use of machines and devices, e.g. by planned overhauls and servicing resulting from technical norms and producer’s recommendations. This, in turn, prolongs the their exploitation time, which ultimately saves money.
The integration of PWE module with other ZWSI RON modules makes it easier to issue from a military warehouse any exploitation materiel or spare parts for a given machine. The system listings also have the option to assess a current stage of servicing or overhaul works, and, based on this, predict any potential use of a given equipment.
The utility of the system in case of, for example, aircraft is confirmed by Captain Cyprian Gałaj, the 32nd Tactical Aviation Base: “It’s necessary to apply this type of solutions, i.e. IT system, which would concentrate all data and information needed for proper exploitation of technologically advanced aircraft. The system must include information about periodical and current overhauls. There’s a need to maintain database with spare parts, so we can make their rational deliveries.” He adds: “The system allows us to anticipate overhauls and aircraft servicing, and we also have a visualization of the condition of our machines, that is of what exactly we have right now at our disposal for use during training or operation flights.”
Within the module for the subsystem of logistics management available is the functionality allowing for automation of storage processes. Such solutions for years have been applied on a civil market, because they simply pay off and provide for more effective management of collected resources. Systems such as ADC (Automatic Data Capture) allows for entering data with the use of barcodes, which immensely accelerates the work in warehouses and all kinds of storage rooms, reduces cost and practically eliminates mistakes which can occur with manual product description. The use of barcodes and GS1 (Global System One) – the system for international identification standards – improves communication between the army and producers or suppliers. It allows for rapid identification of products stored in warehouses, which helps to optimize the supply chain. The name of a producer or a supplier of a specific spare part can be easily found, as well as any faulty products can be found and removed (or replaced) for safety reasons.
The automation of army warehouses with IT systems is one. Still, quite essential is also the organization of these warehouses. Here, the exceptional role is played by large-area general materiel depots, being the sort of logistic hubs in the European network of logistic centers, where weapons, vehicles, specialist equipment, fuel, grease or combat resources are stored. They also aim at increasing logistic capabilities of the states involved. In Poland, such warehouses are located in Kutno and Piła, and are managed with the use of a specialized EWM module (Extended Warehouse Management). In 2022, the launch of EWM module is planned for the Military Center of Pharmacy and Medical Technology (WOFiTM) in Celestynów, and eventually to all materiel depots of the Inspectorate for Armed Forces Support.
At present, ongoing is the implementation of the PZM module of the uniformed service. It is a great challenge, because it relates to 55 military economic departments, including 165 warehouses of uniformed service. Expected advantages are however clear: the module is to facilitate equipping soldiers and MoND employees with uniforms and equipment by simplifying procedures and service (e.g. by using scanners for barcodes); the circulation of documents etc. is also going to be more effective. After the PZM module is implemented, the traditional (paper) register of personal equipment cards of soldiers will have been withdrawn by 2022.
The MoND IT system is continuously being developed and expanded. There are another modules in the preparation stages, which deal with materiel planning, food service, grease and fuel materiel service, military infrastructure or transport management.
Along with Allies
One of the tasks of logistic specialists is planning and coordinating the cooperation with allied forces during exercises in Poland and abroad, but also during a mission. This should be facilitated by the LOGFAS (Logistic Functional Area Services) system. Its tasks include enabling the interoperability of joined forces by normalizing and automation of data transfer. It allows for logistic resources management during all phases of both, joint exercises, but also military operations and crisis response. NATO gives access to LOGFAS to the allied armies and international headquarters. Here also, just as in the case of ZSWI RON, database is the basis for all subsystems and modules.
According to LtCol Krzysztof Kawalerski, the Inspectorate for Armed Forces Support, “LOGFAS modules are already being used during exercises with headquarters, staffs and troops, including computer-supported exercises with JTLS (Joint Theatre Level Simulation). The system is in its early stage, which means that an exercise database is being developed for use during trainings. The next stage will be real-life databases.”
LOGFAS depends on ZWSI RON, but there are efforts to integrate both systems, Polish and allied. Such integration will definitely facilitate planning and conduct of joint operations when working with allies. LOGFAS is planned to be used for national needs and reach its operational readability in 2026.
autor zdjęć: Weerasak Saeku - Shutterstock, Natalia Wawrzyniak / 10 BKPanc, Michał Niwicz