Connectivity, interoperability and access to the right information at the right time are important for any business. For the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces (DND/CF), these elements are essential to conducting and supporting operations.

Knowing the status of all the tanks, aircraft and ships possessed by the CF is no small task. There are a significant number of defence resources that have to be moved, managed and maintained, and there is an incredible amount of financial information related to these requirements.

Enter the Defence Resource Management Information System (DRMIS), a product of the Financial Management Accounting System (FMAS) and Materiel Acquisition & Support Information System (MASIS). In essence, it is a means to capture and record Defence business.

More specifically, it is a computer-based tool that supports every element of the business process in terms of defence resources: a single solution that has replaced hundreds of stand-alone computer and paper-based systems to create a much more effective and efficient process that links engineers to supply managers to vehicle technicians to accountants.

DRMIS allows everyone involved in the life of an asset – a Leopard tank, for example – to work within the same system in near real time. If an engineer responsible for the configuration of the tank determines that a part needs to be replaced across the entire fleet of tanks, he or she can easily enter that information into the system. At the same time, the person responsible for buying the part nationally for the fleet is alerted to the need to order that part.

Continuing down the business line, technicians in all of the workshops responsible for maintaining the tanks can see that they have a demand to make a change or repair and can turn that demand into a work order. Parts are then drawn against the order and once the technicians have completed the work, the engineer in Ottawa can see that it has been completed. It is a seamless, efficient and transparent business process.

“Basically, now you’ve got all these people linked electronically. It’s changed the way they’ve done business,” says Barry Moore, director of DRMIS. “It’s a transformational implementation and the benefits here are huge.”

Field applications
To fully understand DRMIS, it is best to look at how it actually works in the field. A perfect example is the closure of the CF combat mission in Afghanistan. Before DRMIS, personnel at Forward Operating Bases would have brought their equipment back to the airfield in Kandahar. From there, people would have shipped the equipment to the supply depot in Montréal where it would have been assessed for one of several actions: return to a unit for repair/use, repair in Montréal or send for overhaul, or cannibalize followed by disposal.

During the mission close-out in Kandahar, DRMIS allowed this process to get started much earlier and much more efficiently by letting all those involved know the condition of the equipment while it was still on the ground in Afghanistan. It allowed engineers in Ottawa to make decisions regarding its future repair in Canada or its disposal in theatre. Arrangements for the purchase of spare parts and the negotiation of repair and overhaul contracts was also done ahead of time so that when the equipment arrived back in Canada, repairs took place at pre-designated and forewarned locations (Montréal, a contractor’s facility, or unit locations) as early as possible.

Another area where DRMIS has proven its worth is as a deployed system on ships at sea. It keeps the naval repair facilities on shore abreast of the status of ships while they are at sea, thereby allowing the planning for necessary repairs to take place before the ship’s return.

“The fleet maintenance facility can see what’s wrong with that ship; they can determine the parts they have to order. They can put long lead time things in place so that when the ship arrives, they are ready to execute the work,” says Moore.

In fact, it is this deployed capability that has garnered significant international attention for the system. Moore explains that Canada is part of a 17-country coalition called the Defence Interest Group (DEIG) that shares information regarding implementations of SAP in support of defence business and operations. Canada leads this group in the use of SAP for deployed operations and is the only country in the world to have a resource management system of this kind on its warships.

Past, present and future
MASIS, the materiel-based predecessor of DRMIS, came about in the late 1990s as a response to a reduction in both the CF and the civilian workforce at DND, the idea being that a computer-based system for managing materiel would enable fewer people to do more. MASIS became the main tool used by engineers, maintainers and procurement personnel until 2010 when it was integrated with the departmental financial system to create DRMIS.

Currently, DRMIS is fully in place supporting engineering and maintenance processes for the Royal Canadian Navy. This functionality is approximately 95 percent complete for the Canadian Army and approximately 30 percent complete for the Royal Canadian Air Force. By the end of 2013, engineering, maintenance and supply chain processes will be fully in the DRMIS solution for all three environments and for all equipment (less legacy aircraft fleets within the RCAF).

In addition, Moore indicates that it is the Department’s intention to continue to roll out DRMIS to replace other legacy or aging systems currently in use – like those used to manage real property – resulting in the streamlining of additional business processes and providing better overall accountability.

“That’s the whole idea with Enterprise Resource Planning capabilities – they’re enterprise-wide so they integrate and automate processes end-to-end across the department,” he said.

Jes Ellacott is a communications officer with the Information Management Group.