Software solution credited with saving time, money

What’s in everyone’s office? How much did that cost? Is everything bar-coded, identified and listed? When are subhand receipts due? What if something is missing? Why isn’t this easier? These were all questions Sharlene Hicks asked repeatedly every day. In 1993, Hicks was an inventory clerk helping the government maintain property books for hand receipt holders. She found herself going through mountains of paper, filling out form after form, and tracking financial data — all by hand. Doing inventory took months. Items went missing or “fell through the cracks.” Accountability was tough, and financial responsibility was tougher. Hicks knew there had to be a better way. So she went to work to find a way to automate what nobody else wanted to do. She started by creating forms in a simple FileMaker Pro database. After accepting a position with Gleason Research Associates Inc. in 1995, she began developing a software solution to simplify the inventory process. The result of her determination along with the hard work of the GRA software development team and inventory staff — the ASTS system. ASTS took a completely manual process and automated it from top to bottom. In 2002, the system was converted to a SQL database with a web-based interface and continues to evolve as technology and customer needs change. The Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center became the first user for the ASTS software with integrated bar-code system in 1996 and became the first site- license holder for the ASTS software in 1999. Then Aviation and Missile Command came on board. Then came customers from the U.S. Military Academy, USAREUR, TRADOC, Armament RDEC and CECOM. Now ASTS has over 1,000 users managing hundreds of thousands of active records and over $800 million in inventory — all while saving valuable staff time. And time saves money. Larry Spring, of AMCOM G-4, Logistics Branch, has been relying on ASTS since 2004. Initially he had visibility and tracked 20,000 items. Now that number is 80,000 and climbing with visibility of more than 300 hand receipts and 240-plus users with access to ASTS. Spring is hopeful that as legacy Army systems such as the Defense Property Accountability System go away, more of AMCOM subordinate organizations will adopt ASTS as a management tool for durable property. As the Army’s only Networthiness certified software solution for property management, ASTS is also the only automated system available to track durable items under $5,000. Spring says ASTS allows his property management to be centralized for all assets — over and under the $5,000 threshold. And seeing everything in one place is invaluable. Every property record includes all identifying information such as bar-code, serial nomenclature, the item’s photograph, purchase price, vendor, method of purchase, warranty expiration dates, current location/user, and status of property book transactions. ASTS also alerts the user if an error is made on manual entry or if something has changed through the interface with the Army’s DPAS and PBUSE systems. “Quite simply, the enterprise solution gives users command of their durable property,” Spring said. “It saves time and money.” For instance, with the name stamp that tells who did what and when, the system allows tracking of an item as it moves from place to place. Regular monthly walk-throughs of inventory of assets are much better controlled, and users can see more items more often. “It’s a time saver because items can be immediately identified, pre-populated forms are generated automatically for additions, turn-ins, corrections, sub and temporary hand receipts,” Spring said. “Those responsible have the capability to manage the equipment properly and easily.” The more equipment there is, the more it helps. But even more importantly, ASTS saves money — and lots of it. “Before ASTS, AMCOM was losing hundreds of pieces of inventory and thousands of dollars per year,” Spring said. “Since ASTS, lost property has dropped drastically. G-4 has now instituted a training program for the management of durable property, and we continue to strive to have complete control of our property from cradle to grave.” No more duplicate equipment orders. No more missing paperwork. No more digging through purchase orders to find original cost. No more equipment mysteriously walking out of the gate. No more stiff financial repercussions for the hand receipt holders. Many users also take advantage of GRA support services. With both the software and support in place, ASTS customers have never failed an IG inspection or audit. For Spring, it’s about having the controls in place to account for every piece of property, saving time and money, and having the means to communicate within the command to track assets and properties at all times. For Hicks — now VP of business services and systems for GRA – it’s about making her customers’ lives easier by freeing up staff to concentrate on their mission instead of managing property. Her frustration was the Army’s gain. She built a better mousetrap.