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RFID Joins the Navy

Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Silverdale, Wash., is the site of a groundbreaking RFID deployment that is setting the stage for the future of Navy logistics operations.
By Jennifer Zaino
Dec 01, 2007—Several Ohio-class Trident nuclear submarines, the largest boats in the U.S. Navy's fleet, call Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Silverdale, Wash., home. After a tour at sea that can last two to three months, each submarine, with its crew of more than 100, returns to base for 21 days. During that time, crew members and on-base support staff must prepare the boat for its next mission, making planned repairs and replenishing parts that may be needed while at sea.

Down the road in Bremerton is the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center (FISC) Puget Sound, a multibuilding facility encompassing approximately 300,000 square feet of warehouse space, which services the submarines and on-base repair shops. It receives some 6,000 stock replenishments and new items each month, and stores roughly 110,000 repair and replacement parts. The FISC, which currently services 19 to 24 submarine refits a year, has the unique challenge of completing those refits in a short turnaround time. The system that was in place for receiving goods was manual, making it time- consuming and prone to errors. In addition, the FISC's legacy warehouse-management system did not provide an efficient way to account for materials or record the specific bin location of received inventory. The repair shops and boats sometimes had to wait for items, because there wasn't good visibility into assets.

The RFID deployment at the Kitsap Bangor naval base is setting the stage for the future of Navy logistics operations.

Radio frequency identification and new warehouse-management technology presented an opportunity to automate, speed up and increase the accuracy of the receiving process, and improve asset visibility. In March 2006, the Bangor RFID Evaluation (BRE) project was launched at the FISC supply department. "The underlying reason for this is that when submarines come into port, they are on a tight schedule," says Charles Kundtz, the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) project manager for BRE, who recently retired from government service. NAVSUP manages logistics for the Navy, providing its forces with supplies and services.

In addition to improving receiving, storage and distribution operations, one of BRE's objectives was to meet the U.S. Department of Defense's 2004 RFID policy. It required that all DOD organizations establish capabilities for reading passive RFID-tagged items in supply-management operations and use RFID, where appropriate, to automate information systems involved in receiving and inventory management.

The BRE project is the first rollout of RFID technology in a production environment in the Navy. "This is a milestone event for the DOD," says Jack Rhyne, project manager during the implementation at Bangor and currently senior architect for BRE, "and a milestone event for the Navy." Rhyne, who is employed by IT consultancy Main Sail LLC, one of the subcontractors on the project, is part of the implementation team brought together by prime contractor CACI.
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