Army Medical Logistics Business Lingo Is Surprisingly Sporty

Story by Ellen Crown on 04/08/2019
Rugby players have a head start if they're working for the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency's Business Support Office (BSO).

That's because the vocabulary the BSO team member's use while supporting the development of technological solutions for the Army's most complex medical logistics requirements is originally based on the sport.

Take the word "scrum" as an example. In rugby, scrum refers to a maneuver where all the players work together to get the ball from one end of the field to the other. In the BSO, the word scrum refers to how their team works together to manage continuous change.

"The kind of people who play rugby tend to be pretty passionate and dedicated, and we're like that too," said BSO Director Todd Bishop.

This isn't a language the USAMMA or the BSO invented. In fact, it is based off a framework made popular in the mid-1990s by a small group of tech developers (and rugby enthusiasts) who wanted to overcome one of the biggest pitfalls in their growing industry the time between when a need is identified and when a solution is implemented.

Often, private sector and public organizations faced significant lag years or even decades -- between when they identified a requirement and when they could implement a final solution. It was called the "waterfall approach" because developers would wait until they had finished all phases to push forward a solution. Unfortunately, many times they would find that the solution they had worked so hard to deliver was obsolete by the time it was ready. So instead of slow-building large scale changes, the scrum process focuses on continuous delivery of updates through short projects called "sprints."

"That is the process used to support business change management within the Theater Enterprise-Wide Logistics System, known as TEWLS, which consolidates numerous military logistics functions into a single application and database," explained Bishop. "Our core principle is that business drives the development of IT. IT development does not drive the business."

TEWLS began as the "USAMMA Revolution in Logistics" and was one of the first successful SAP implementations in the Department of Defense. TEWLS has become the system of record for USAMMA, as well our Medical Materiel Centers in Korea, Qatar and Europe.

Today, TEWLS support is just one part of the USAMMA BSO mission, and it isn't theirs alone. In fact, they work as part of an integrated team with the Joint Medical Logistics Functional Development Center (JMLFDC) and U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Europe (USAMMCE) BSO. Together, these three organizations make up the TEWLS Customer Center of Excellence.

"Our team has to understand our users' business processes as well as TEWLS processes, and marry' the two," said Bishop.

Curtis Dalton, a supply systems analyst, has been with USAMMA for more than 30 years. Proudly, he claims the title of, "Oldest Founding Member of the USAMMA BSO." Over the past three decades, he has seen dramatic changes and technology advancements throughout the agency and he says one more is just around the corner.

In July 2019, the TEWLS Customer Center of Excellence is expecting to push live a new web-based capability for building and fielding medical sets. Historically, USAMMA's set building and fielding teams have used databases that do not communicate directly to TEWLS. That means that when they field medical equipment to a unit, there is often a delay in updating the system of record and that update had to be done manually. The new capability will connect directly into TEWLS and allow real-time medical materiel visibility.

"The set fielding system improvement will greatly improve the accountability, accuracy, flexibility, and serviceability of sets, kits and outfits, and equipment data maintained by USAMMA for fielding units," said Deputy Chief of USAMMA's Forward Sustainment Directorate Greg Gehler. "The system improvement will electronically update the USAMMA medical equipment records of units during a fielding, reducing processing times, man hours, and data errors."

As with most system improvements, the new set building and fielding capability is designed to work best when connected to the Internet. However, anyone who has been with the Army as long as Dalton knows that austere environment and secure fielding locations may limit Internet access.

"No WiFi, no problem," Dalton said. "The teams can use the tool even when it is disconnected from the Internet. As soon as they get connectivity, the tool will then automatically populate into TEWLS."

Additionally, the improvement provides greater information security over previous processes.

"IT security requirements are only going to increase, and this improvement allows us to keep up with our responsibilities to protect our data," Dalton said.

Training is also a key function of the BSO. As teams develop new capabilities, the TEWLS Training Team, an integral part of the USAMMA BSO, participates to identify, analyze and document potential TEWLS training changes or additions that impact the end user. This coordination is a vital link to ensuring that all on line TEWLS training modules are up to date with all changes that are implemented during the monthly sprints. This team strives daily to equip the user with an updated "playbook" of sorts, designing and developing interactive simulations, printable step-by-step lessons and job aids, and interactive online courseware.

The TEWLS Training Team delivers onsite training for all Army Reserve medical logistics companies who deploy to Southwest Asia in support of medical logistic activities in theater. Additionally, they deliver training to all active duty Army medical logistics companies as the Army medical logistics community transitions to Corps Focused Medical Logistics (CFML).

Beyond TEWLS and training, the BSO team is charged with the responsibility for cataloguing all new medical and non-standard medical National Stock Numbers (NSNs). As with TEWLS, this is not a mission they complete alone. To manage the catalogue, they work closely with the Defense Logistics Agency to submit requests for new NSNs and ensure item descriptions and illustrations are correct.

One of the BSO's next big priorities will be to optimize their strategic sourcing tools to allow for real time updates on mass changes to prices or part numbers, instead of having to make changes one at a time. Bishop said, "While this may seem like a small change, it is a huge improvement for USAMMA and the Army."

"I am very proud of the BSO and the work we do," added Bishop. "I couldn't ask for a better team."



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