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Not many people can say they saved $78 million. But Jack Mills, an information technology expert at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, is on track to doing just that.
Mills led a team that consolidated computer and data reporting systems at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Centers in Jacksonville, Fla., Cherry Point, N.C., and in North Island, Calif. The project, called OneNDMS, allows workers on the shop floor who are repairing aircraft and ordering parts to record and track their work more efficiently. It also allows their supervisors and Navy leaders to compile reports from reliable data.
The effort took a team, working across the nation, about five years to develop and implement. But the results earned Mills the Navy Information Management/Information Technology Excellence Award on April 1.
“We had two major objectives,” Mills said. “One was to save money and labor. And two was to facilitate the operations of our plants.” Mills, who retired from the Navy in 2002 and now works for the Fleet Readiness Centers, isn’t hoarding the kudos. “It was a proud achievement,” Mills said. “However, I won the award for what was a larger team effort.”
About 10,000 people use the system. In the past, Fleet Readiness Centers often had different computers, data systems and reporting styles. There were computer rooms with hundreds of servers. Managers juggled vacation time and sick days, ensuring system administrators were on site at each location. And, computer technicians and software engineers worked to make sure computers at different sites talked to each other efficiently. While teams developed new programs, about half of their time was spent testing. “Now, we’re in the 10 percent range,” Mills said. “That not only saves money, it enables us to get enhancements and changes to our customers much quicker.”
Mills’ team effort helped eliminate “chaos and confusion” and make “people’s lives more livable,” he said. Part of their work was making sure different administrators didn’t have to complete the same tasks in three different locations. In the past, there might have been five people doing a similar job. “Now, we might have three and they’re still doing it as effectively,” he said.
The consolidation has led to a reduction in labor, not filling jobs when people leave and in some cases, not renewing contracts. Now, computer administrators can manage the system, regardless of which coast they are operating from. And, the Fleet Readiness Centers are centralizing the work at the Defense Information System Agency.
“We still have lots of improvements to go,” Mills said. They are working to define clear ways to work so that operations aren’t dependent on any one person. They’re figuring out ways to keep those job descriptions relevant in an ever-changing environment “so they don’t become stale,” he said.
“We can be a lot more lean and mean,” said Tony Roberts, an information technology manager at FRC Southeast in Jacksonville. The system helps managers get rid of “dirty data,” or stuff that is wrong or just doesn’t make sense. It allows senior leaders to address funding issues, and workers on the shop floor don’t have to boot up their computers and decide which in a slew of icons they need to click to do their work. Software technicians created profiles for those workers. So, the computers already know which areas shop workers need to access. “You only get what you need,” Roberts said.
Mills helped make that happen, Roberts said. He made sure government leaders across the FRCs, other areas of the Navy and industry were speaking the same language. “He was kind of our shepherd,” Roberts said. He “kept us on the right path” and made sure “we were marching to a drum beat that allowed us to get it done.”