Some organizations, when newly awarded a government contract, will attempt to create a customized approach to tracking and managing military compliance using a spreadsheet or rudimentary software— like Microsoft Access. They typically end up meeting only a small fraction of the total military IUID and RFID compliance requirements to asset and shipment identification.
While a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) record-keeping solution may work in the short-term for small contracts and a small population of assets, if you expect to grow, a DIY approach to asset tracking and reporting is not scalable without great effort or cost. By our estimates, the minimum labor costs to keep your systems IUID and RFID compliant with an internal, DIY system would be in the range of $250-$350K per year.
A common mistake that we see is for organizations to put in place an internal system that can generate serial numbers and 2D barcodes but fails to implement a verification process to grading the barcode and overlooks the need for an audit trail of the entire transaction. This approach leaves an organization exposed to rejected invoices, rejected shipments or, worst of all, a failed audit. Listed below are basic functions that must be part of an asset tracking and reporting system for the military.
- Generating UIIs and IUIDs for asset identification to military standard 2D barcode marking technology with barcode verification and validation to MIL-STD 130 (latest revision).
- Creating Military Shipping Labels for shipments to the military with automated RFID-embedded label printing and RFID verification to MIL-STD 129 (latest revision).
- Producing invoices and DD250s with electronic reporting to iRAPT and the IUID Registry.
- Managing and reporting all custody transfers and inventory updates with electronic reporting to iRAPT and the IUID Registry.
- Creating Advanced Shipment Notifications (ASN) and CLIN level electronic reporting to iRAPT and the IUID Registry.
- Generating an audit trail and complete transactional history for all UIDs, shipments and electronic reported transactions.
To meet all requirements identified above, it would require at minimum multiple,full-time software development personnel to research the requirements, design an approach, engineer and maintain a system for full compliance.
In addition, the main problems with using rudimentary tools like a spreadsheet and MS Access are the following:
- No integration capability: rudimentary software tools that provide for “rapid” prototyping like MS Access and MS Excel do not leverage robust integration techniques used in modern software programming. In other words, your data becomes a “silo” to any other system.
- No business rules: basic software tools lack the business rules and data controls that your users would need to manage all data elements to the military reporting standards. This means that inaccurate or incorrect data could be easily created and reported to government systems which would require significant time and effort on your part to fix.
- No audit trail: insufficient software programming tools can capture and store current data but they don’t store historical data without significant time and expense in programming them to do so.
You can “get by” using MS Excel or MS Access as a makeshift DIY database for all of your asset tracking and reporting to military compliance — especially if you only have a few items to manage—but we don’t recommend it because it leads to a dead end and significantly more expense in later years. Assuming you want to grow your military business, relying on such a manual system to maintain your records for the DoD becomes grossly insufficient in the long run.
Modifying an ERP or Legacy Software System Is Not Worth the Hassle
DIY asset tracking and reporting also refers to organizations that attempt to adapt their current non-military Enterprise Resource Planning systems or legacy systems to military standards. While adapting an existing ERP system to handle electronic iRAPT transactions seems like a logical “kill two birds with one stone” type of solution, it ends up causing far more headache and expense than it is worth for two reasons:
- Chances are good that your ERP or legacy software system was not built to incorporate military standards and reporting in any way, shape, or form. When you attempt to incorporate military standards into an existing ERP, it is essentially like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The military rules, regulations, formats and standards require significant changes throughout many complex areas of the ERP or legacy system.
- To build a custom ERP for your organization that can handle both the commercial and government asset tracking and reporting requires a dedicated team and is extremely expensive.
Why Military Supply Chain Differs from Commercial
It makes sense why organizations first attempt to create and utilize a DIY solution for maintaining internal IUID and iRAPT records since most don’t understand the scope of the requirements in their contract and the ongoing changes that will take place to government reporting over time. Many organizations rationalize iRAPT requirements by stating, “Well, we manage our current supply chain successfully, so we can easily incorporate asset tracking and iRAPT reporting requirements without altering our current systems too much.” Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Commercial supply chain industry standards and government supply chain standards are like oil and water—they don’t mix well. The US Military, as the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, will always have a unique approach to meeting their supply chain needs. This unique approach has a significant impact on all Defense Contractors and the suppliers who support them. This is in part because commercial and government supply chain tracking evolved separately from each other in order to accomplish different goals.
To understand how your business needs to be organized to meet military standards, you need to understand how and why those standards evolved. If you have just recently been awarded a contract with the DoD or if you haven’t followed all the changing initiatives in military tracking over the past 12 years, you are already at a disadvantage.
All of today’s current military marking and reporting requirements have evolved over the past 12 years since the initial launch of WAWF in 2004. Dozens of iterations to MIL-STD 129, MIL-STD 130, WAWF, iRAPT and the IUID Registry have taken place over that time–and continue to evolve. Knowing how these standards and systems work together is essential to building and integrating software and hardware to meet these standards and maintain compliance.
Endless Expense to DIY
To keep up with changing government systems, it is essential to hire dedicated personnel who understand the military requirements for tracking and reporting and how the ongoing changes would impact your internal system. They should know how to further develop your software to support these new requirements in order to stay compliant.
The responsibilities of your military compliance iRAPT systems expert would need to include the monitoring of iRAPT and IUID Registry working groups, developing change requests for your software engineers, creating requirement documents for software developers, and ensuring requirements are implemented correctly. They also should be responsible for developing user training on these new updates.
Unfortunately, many organizations choose to forgo investing in personnel dedicated to maintaining compliance with the DoD’s constantly changing standards. Without dedicated personnel to manage your compliance to military standards, you increase your organization’s risk of failing to adapt to new updates. Failing to adapt to changing military standards can lead to rejected shipments, delayed payment, and increases your risk of failing your next audit.
Expanding Government Systems
Current systems created for DoD contractors and military personnel that are continually in flux:
- Wide Area Workflow has become the e-Commerce system for transacting business with the military. Transactions include invoicing, advanced ship notices, receiving reports, asset registration, custody transfers, asset lifecycle updates.
- iRAPT and the IUID Registry are part of the huge e-Commerce suite that the military continues to revise. Dedicated WAWF, iRAPT, and IUID Registry working groups meet throughout the year to support these changes. (A2B Tracking participates in these working groups to track updates and anticipate new changes).
If you do not know how to properly track, report, and record government assets according to these requirements, your next DCMA audit will not just be unpleasant, but could be detrimental to your contract and your business.
Preparing for a DCMA Audit
When DCMA auditors show up at your workplace, they will want to know how well your operation understands and executes against the compliance obligation and will compare what they observe against military standards and their expectations. One of the biggest weaknesses that we see for many DIY approaches to compliance is their lack of an audit trail.
Managing your data properly and being prepared for the eventual DCMA audit is critical to the long-term success of your government contracts. In order to be prepared you will need to be able to produce a complete transactional history of all UIDs, shipments and transactions. Unfortunately, many DIY approaches do not have the ability to easily support an audit trail and end up failing their organization with their inability to do so.
Finding Yourself at a Dead End
Once your shipment has been rejected a couple of times or you may have failed an audit while using your DIY approach, you know you have reached a dead end. You recognize that you are out of your depth and need to invest in your own internal systems and personnel to meet the full scope of military requirements. But making such a drastic change to your systems to comply with military standards is overwhelming. You really have only two options when your DIY approach has failed you:
- Shut down your current DIY approach and commission an expensive and lengthy custom software development effort for your organization.
- Utilize a commercial off-the-shelf system that is purpose-built for IUID and RFID compliance, asset tracking, managing military assets and automating reporting to military systems with the support of expert personnel who do all of this everyday.
Don’t Risk Your Military Contract
Meeting all of the compliance obligations in your military contract needs to be a serious concern for your business. “Getting by” with an internal, DIY system may have worked in the past but things have changed and there is more pressure than ever for DCMA to require IUID and RFID compliance. Learn more about the potential risks and complications that are associated with using an inferior solution to tracking and managing military assets. Download our recent eBook: The Problems with a DIY approach to Military IUID and RFID Compliance.