Marine Corps logistics systems are better on MERIT

Until a little over a year ago, managing the Marine Corps' logistics systems was a case of having too many balls in the air.

'We had so many [systems] that were trying to collect and report on readiness data, and information generally was 30 to 90 days old,' said Michael A. Williamson, deputy director for studies and analysis for the Logistics Command in Albany, Ga.

'As you looked across the Marine Corps enterprise, no one was using the same information, so we couldn't really focus on fixing problems because we were focused on reconciling data,' he said.

Now, Marine logisticians and other materiel readiness users can monitor supply and maintenance information on more than 185 weapons systems from a single PC.

The Logistics Command uses a tool that centralizes the data, which not only makes it easier to find but also makes a vast store of diverse information readily available to many users. Combining the data makes problems much easier to identify and solve, Corps officials say.

The Marine Corps Equipment Readiness Information Tool (MERIT) reduces the time it takes to track supply and maintenance information, largely by integrating 'treemapping' software, developed by the Hive Group of San Mateo, Calif. The software lets users analyze thousands of records from hundreds of systems in minutes.

In addition, the Hive Group added a workflow engine to the software with wizards that make it possible to connect treemaps to data sources quickly. Hive teamed with Concurrent Technologies Corp. of Johnstown, Pa., to integrate MERIT with the Corps' legacy systems.

'We attached to our readiness data the ability to drill down through our readiness and supply chain to see the underlying causes associated with readiness deficiencies,' Williamson said. 'So now, for the first time, we began to tie together data that was previously stovepiped, and we took a process that usesd to be incredibly research-intensive to two seconds to identify a problem and 10 seconds to find a cause.'

Treemapping software, also known as 'visual analysis software,' presents large volumes of quantitative data, such as spreadsheets and business reports, into a single, interactive digital map. The software creates color-coded rectangles that represent attributes of the data being viewed.

The software lets users analyze thousands of data records in minutes. For example, a force commander can look at the digital map and see that a particular weapon system is coded in red. If they clicked on that system, it might take them to a maintenance link so they could see if the item is being repaired.

'We're not creating any data,' Williamson said. 'We're taking all the data that existed in stovepipes and legacy apps and presenting it in a decision support tool.'

MERIT stores data in an Oracle database and a Java tool to deliver information through a Web browser.

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