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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 countrys 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, its a nightmare scenario to not know, in realtime, how many of which spares or ammunition Indias 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 todays 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.


Inventory Management

Inventory Management

rolled out. Being a replacement system, IMMOLS posed significant challenges, says Air Marshal Chengappa. Many of these were sorted out, Chakrabarty says, because the project was initially started with two teams: one from TCS and the other from the maintenance core of the air force. They thrashed out the functionalities, which many applications required, right at the start bypassing a requirements mess that could have stopped the project cold. The support extended by top officials at the IAF played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the project, he adds. The final phase was covered in the last eight months. Initially, there was the need to get buy-in, clear internal validation and go through several leadership cycles (within the Air Force). The nature of the program was holistic and enterprisewide, which meant that it had a longer evolutionary phase. The application tackles two essential Tanmoy Chakrabarty, VP & head, global government industry, TCS processes in order to achieve efficient materials management: the procurement/ supply chain management cycle, and the repair management 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, at which these two cycles are churned by echelons of the IAF hierarchy. This e-decision support decision-makers at various techno-logistics echelons or system will enable the techno-logistics hierarchy to fully the infrastructure. This, in turn, is dependent on the time tap all available material resources and accurately forecast taken for the execution of every activity in each cycle. future requirements. It captures the business logic of the IMMOLS ensures the movement of these two cycles, IAFs logistics, thus ensuring standardisation across units. which leads to efficiency in terms of cost and time. Further, being a truly IT-enabled service, it reaches The application built on Microsoft .Net and out to the end user in the IAFs supply chain. Aided by its implementation cost the IAF Rs 55 crore. It was an online accounting system and audit system, 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, no issue is strictly enforced. It materials management at all levels of hierarchy. fulfils the IAFs vision of realising a lean and dynamic Being a custom-designed application software, logistics organisation. 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. of its business that deals with governments, recollects how, The IT infrastructure covers a nationwide installation we carried out a pilot for around 22 sites of the Indian Air of computing platforms, campus LANs and other Force. The application, he adds, received extensive testing, hardware equipment, says Chakrabarty. What TCS which included software development, acceptance testing, did was to develop and deploy an enterprisewide training, 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. inventory management control capabilities of all The project started in 1993-94 and just the initial pilot items present in the Indian Air Force, right from the took a few years to build and roll out, after which the air headquarters to the battlefield command operating projects endorsement came through, and final phase was station, he adds.

The support extended by top IAF officials played a crucial role in the success of the project.

Logistics management is under the the fast retrievability of information also maintenance command of the Air Force, became much easier to organise for the where all items in excess of 500,000, SNAPSHOT IAFs top brass. whether they are aircraft spares or ration IMMOLS IMMOLS will also generate reports and clothing for the airmen, are controlled, (itemised stock register) at the unit level on ObjECTIvE: to align the maintained, and their procurement available material, usage patterns, among IaFs inventory, processes automated. others. Further, it aids the valuation of replacement and Under the earlier, manually-intensive stock, and gets increasing complex as it repair cycles, creating efficiency on and off system, plenty of inventory sat idle and it travels up the IAFs hierarchy. For instance, the battlefield. took a lot of time to replace critical spares at the command level (the air force has COST: required across stations. It was also a seven), Chakrabarty says a real-time status rs 55 crore very complex exercise since the Air Force of inventory is available. PILOT: maintained a varied inventory of aircraft and And as the IAF gets their nuts and bolts 22 sites material. Streamlining this task, introducing in place, and closes their ranks in a world DEPLOyED AT: the concept of just-in-time procurement and of network-centric warfare, the Indian skies 130 sites giving the IAF full control over their inventory will hopefully be a safer place. CIO were some of the drivers behind IMMOLS. The IAF now has real-time access to information on any spare part or piece of equipment at the push of a button, information that would take weeks to collect. At the unit level (the lowest level), the records of specific items, various stock levels, replenishment cycles, usage patterns and metadata standards used to maintain Assistant editor Harichandan Arakali can be reached at

Photo by bhag Irath

IMMOLS Gets its Wings

The impact of IMMOLS.

IMagIn g by MM Shan Ith

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.

consolidates and updates the budget details by accessing data from the e-procurement documents generated in the system.

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facility to green-flag e-documents within and across units. this will help reduce processing time involved in the physical despatch of paper documents across units.

the quality of provisioning data will get better since it will be based on real demand figures and trends. IMMolS provides online allocation and stock status of every item. the facility can be utilized for bringing in better accountability in the system.

availability of stock data online is expected to bring non-moving items into sharp focus. once the inventory fat has been located, it can be removed. a history of costs will progressively be made available on IMMolS. this may then become an objective tool for price negotiations.

Personnel work folder. IMMolS provides user-specific personnel folder interface to view pending jobs. the approval of an e-document can undertake online query and clarifications from the subordinate recommenders.

budget management. the IMMolS application software dynamically

Financial concurrence and sanction. IMMolS provides the

Source: tCS


O C T O B E R 1 5 , 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 , 2 0 0 6