In-Depth

Medic app moved fast in rollup to Iraq war

WINNER: E-business Application Development

Soldiers need a reliable and immediate source of medical supplies. The Directorate of Medical Materiel for the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) provides the military and other federal agencies with the medical products and services they need every day.



Development Team: Front row: Ahmaria Payne, Col. Don Buchwald, Joe Perez. Back row: John Larish, Jonathan Chaiken, Bill Quinn, Emmanuel Reyes, Jay Eckardt.

Ordering was a somewhat automated process; the distribution component was not. When a customer ordered a medical item electronically, that request would go to a vendor as part of an EDI transaction or over the phone. Since there was no in-transit visibility (ITV) into an order, customers had no means of knowing where their shipments were in the pipeline. If a customer did not receive materiel and notified DSCP, personnel there had to track down the status of each order individually. Delivery lead times of up to two months, coupled with the lack of ITV, frustrated customers.

The Directorate decided to sponsor a project to expedite the sourcing and delivery of emergency medical supplies, while providing full ITV of orders. The project was to consist of two applications that would share a common database and bridge a host of legacy medical ordering and transaction systems.

"In the business world, something like this would take at least a year from concept to implementation," said Colonel Don Buchwald, head of the Medical Directorate and the overarching business owner of the project. "In the military, it's usually a longer process. But because the need was so critical, we pulled out all the stops on this."

Pulling out the stops was a necessity, given the project's short deadline. The distribution component of the application had to be built in time to provide operational support for cross-dock services once a contract for those services was put in place. (In a crossdock, goods arriving from the vendor already have a customer assigned, so workers can transfer an incoming shipment to a trailer bound for the appropriate destination without warehousing it first.) This meant that the contracting for the cross-dock services and the application development effort to enable these services would have to occur in parallel.

Because everyone involved realized the importance of getting the application done as quickly as possible, cost was not an issue. In fact, said Buchwald, "developmental costs were very reasonable." The development team leveraged existing technologies and infrastructure, including an HP N4000 database server, the Oracle 8.17 RDBMS, HP UX 11.0, a Compaq Proliant ML8500 Web server and Microsoft Windows 2000. Tools included PL/SQL, Active Server Pages, JavaScript, UnixScript, RSA ClearTrust and ActiveX.

Consisting of government employees and contractors, the development team included two database developers, three and a half Web developers and two systems analysts, one of whom was Bill Quinn, a senior systems engineer for AmerInd Inc., a technology consulting firm in Alexandria, Va. "We put our best people on it," said Quinn.

A major technical challenge complicated the task. The business processes needed to support an integrated, Web-based requisition management application for high-priority medical items were constantly changing, which made modeling the complex business rules governing dependent source execution actions particularly difficult. According to Quinn, the developers used ASP to develop the business rules from the app side and JavaScript to manage the rules on the client side. Development moved quickly, and an iterative development cycle was employed in which developers worked with the user community to define business rules and fixed functional requirements; they also issued beta releases for users to test.

Development of the Medical Air Bridge (MAB) distribution component was accomplished in five weeks, and the final iteration of the software was delivered on the same day the contract for cross-dock services was awarded.

The other piece of the app, the Contingency Automation Application (CAA), takes the requirements received by DSCP for medical supplies, runs a series of algorithms and classifies the requirements against the business rules to establish the appropriate sourcing option.

The MAB app went live on May 8, 2003. The CAA component went live on October 16, 2003. The suite supports operations in Europe and Southwest Asia, and will be extended to the Pacific Rim in the next few months. The most frequent time-to-customer receipt of medical supplies is now three days and can be as short as 48 hours.

APPLICATION PROFILE

Project: Medical Air Bridge/ Contingency Automation Application suite

Purpose: Provides the DSCP Medical Directorate with a Web-based, collaborative environment in which to receive, validate, identify, analyze, source and monitor fulfillment of requisitions for medical materiel.

Benefits: Eases workload congestion and enables faster receipt of supplies.

Platform: Windows 2000 TOOLS Caliber-RM, Oracle RDBMS, RSA ClearTrust, Microsoft DTS, PL/SQL, ASP, JavaScript, UnixScript, ActiveX

DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Joe Perez, Steve Frein, Ahmaria Payne, Bill Quinn, Jay Eckerdt, Emmanuel Reyes, Jonathan Chaiken, John Larish, Aaron Shafer, Col. Don Buchwald, Lt. Col. Roy Mullis, Lt. Col. Steve Downs

KEANE REPORT
MAB/CAA leveraged existing technologies already deployed within the client's environment, which provided considerable cost savings and enabled the program's immediate development without extensive configuration and security certifications required for new COTS products. The MAB/CAA suite's approach to the e-business application development initiative included: The use of wrappers and EAI to achieve integration with other medical systems; the implementation of innovative, leading-edge, just-in-time logistics with real-time in-transit visibility; the consolidation of numerous disparate, spreadsheet-driven orders into an integrated, Web-based environment with common data standards; integrated functionality, data and processes across disparate organizations; and a best practice iterative development cycle with interim milestones and user acceptance.

Keane Team Leader: Karl Garrison is a DoD/Federal Enterprise Architect with more than 15 years of experience. He is a Chief DoD Architect for Keane Federal Systems Inc.

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