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377th LRS tests mobile technology to streamline vehicle maintenance process

Graphic of mobile app screens.

The 377th Logistics Readiness Squadron is testing the mobile software app Mustr for ground vehicle maintenance.

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

The 377th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kirtland AFB is working with a vendor on an Air Force innovation project to adapt and extend a software prototype that could transform ground vehicle and other equipment maintenance and logistics across the Air Force and Air National Guard.

Officials with the company, Adyton, say their product, called “Mustr,” is secure mobile software designed to operate on any smartphone, functioning like a standard phone app with inherent understandable processes. It enables online and offline functionality, to support users who are not always in cell or Wi-Fi connectivity. Mustr also enables an SMS-only option for responders who chose not to download a mobile app. It is not a chat or messaging tool, nor is it a collaboration software. Instead, it enables focused communication with an emphasis on reducing comms noise, generating structured responses for decision-making, and organizing data for reporting and easy leader visibility.

Maj. Marc Bleha, 377th LRS commander, said the project began here in the summer of 2021 with a simple question: “Why do we still use paper to inspect a vehicle?”

Adyton representatives gave an example of transforming a work process that still uses 20th-century tools.

“Today, way too much time is spent filling out equipment inspection forms — forms that have not been updated since 1979. When you consider the frequency of vehicle logistics form completion, the impact potential is huge. When some of the vehicle maintainers walked us through the paper trail that they have to keep and maintain, we found on two Air Force forms that 14 out of 18 fields were redundant — they can be pre-filled or made easily selectable. Imagine writing your vehicle’s VIN every day of the year and then writing the license plate any time you fill out a form. Extrapolating that to how often a typical service member fills out that form in a given year, that’s 98,000 unnecessary fields. Our research revealed that data entry costs the Air Force 10% of its ground maintenance capacity every calendar year. With the product extension prototyping and adaptation work going on now, service members will have a path to unlocking these digital, streamlined workflows. The idea is that we completely digitize the daily inspection and repair inspection process to generate clean, accurate and structured data, so that someone can know how many forklifts are in the shop at any given time, or how many functioning buses a base has available to move troops.”

Bleha explained how his squadron is using the software locally, while it is in development, with testing and evaluation of the application to be completed in August 2022.

“The intent is to have Mustr support unit vehicle management through the vehicle control officers on inspection processes, statuses, required schedule maintenance, and more. We are evaluating on how to push the data into our DPAS vehicle maintenance module, so when a vehicle is dropped off for maintenance, we directly transfer the vehicle operator’s data from the application to our maintenance in-check process. Additionally, on the back end, we are coordinating the development of a real-time vehicle status dashboard for the vehicle control officers and leadership.”

Bleha described the past and current paper-based process, and how the new software streamlines workflow.

“For vehicle in-check at maintenance and unit inspections, we still use paper checklists or inspection cards, which require monthly filing and management. Automating the process will create not only real-time tracking, but develop trends and analysis on our vehicle fleet to better support the users. The data may drive discussions with Air Force fleet management on changing specific scheduled maintenance requirements bettering the Air Force fleet. Operating on an effective scheduled maintenance routine increases vehicle availability and provides leadership the capability of scheduling missions with known resources.”

He said there are multiple benefits.

“First, the user interface is mobile and online so it’s a one and done — no need to take it back to the office and upload data. Second, the capability to capture and provide real-time vehicle status for the fleet will support scheduled mission requirement or worst-case in a crisis action response; logisticians will immediately know what assets are available and where they are if the vehicles need to be side tasked. Finally, the analytics will provide the ability to forecast future maintenance trends, identify disparate unit challenges that affect the entire fleet, and put our data to work for us so we can operate in a more effective, predictive manner — thus saving time and money, and increasing vehicle availability.”

Bleha credited the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research program for funding the contract.

“This is an AFWERX/AFVENTURE Small Business Innovation Research Phase II contract. Without AFWERX support, we would continue to work through the manual processes. We appreciate the ability to flex industry to move us away from past practices by applying current technologies to create a better future for our Airmen. If anyone is interested in more information, Tech. Sgt. Justin Gregg is our project manager, through Tiger Spark.”