News | May 6, 2022

Technological Reflection

By DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs DLA Disposition Services

 

"
Computer: An electronic device for performing high-speed arithmetic and logical operations. "

-Glossary Definition from DRMS World, DAISY Special Issue June 1988

 

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century, technology has evolved and progressed at an incredible pace compared to any prior point in history; and modern technology has accelerated the speed of progress. After all the first powered, manned flight at Kitty Hawk and the moon landing occurred within 60 years of each other.

Since the inception of Defense Property Disposal Service, the forerunner of Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services, in September 1972, the constant change and progression of business technology in the workplace has remained a fundamental aspect for employees learning and performing their duties.

"
What makes the computer special is its adaptability. It will take instructions and information and process them to produce new information."

-DRMS World December 1986

In the early days of DPDS, employees used IBM punch cards to account for all manner of transactions and reporting. Keypunch machines transferred information onto punch cards.

“One of my jobs was to hand stamp the bidder ID number on about 4,000-6,000 alphabetized IBM punch cards,” said Barb Ritter, a former DLA Disposition Services employee for over thirty years, when describing some of the technology in use during the mid-70’s. “I was carrying about three or four boxes when I slipped on the tiled floor. The cards went everywhere!”

The implementation of word processing was an immense leap forward for office productivity when introduced into the agency in the mid-70’s. A 1977 survey of DPDS employees indicated that 98% of all office correspondence was handwritten. Handwritten communication was then typed, checked for revisions, then retyped into a finished format. Computerized word processing helped reduce the tedious workload of transcription.

"
Amanda, you’ll never never teach a welder to use a computer!"

-DRMS World, Special Issue August 1991

The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Automated Information System, better known as DAISY, launched across the DRMS enterprise in1990. In the years prior to DAISY, the rollout of desktop computers across the DLA allowed users to become increasingly familiar with computers. As DAISY was a completely automated system, it required a network of computers on which to operate. DAISY replaced the entirely mechanical punch card process used to account for property. At the time, over 12,000 line items of excess military equipment were turned in each day to DRMOs worldwide. The automation of the previously mechanical procedures provided greater accuracy and increased the timely retrieval of information.

In 1994, another major technological milestone was the launch of the public DRMS website in December. The initial website allowed customers to view available inventory and request items through Reutilization, Transfer and Donation. Additionally, the site sent electronic mail to notify customers of new inventory as it became available.

In 1996, the DRMS home page was included in the Web Yellow Pages- a hardcopy handbook of commonly used web addresses.

"
I visited the documentation area and saw a prehistoric looking computer sitting in a corner. I was told it was a keypunch machine."

-DRMS World, Special Issue August 1991

In 2012, the Reutilization Business Initiative replaced the legacy DAISY inventory program. By the time DAISY was decommissioned, it was used continuously for more than 20 years. RBI brought end-to-end transaction auditability for property accounting that was lacking in DAISY and had been mandated by the Government Accountability Office. RBI was comprised mainly of two existing information systems already used throughout DLA: Enterprise Business System and a tailored version of Distribution Standard System. These integrated systems work together as one cohesive unit.

Also in the early 2010s, mobile platforms were incorporated into the daily workflow for DLA Disposition Services employees. Smartphones and tablets were implemented as force multipliers, allowing employees increased access to communication and information.

In 2019, the RTD Photo App was released, allowing receivers the ability to upload quality pictures of excess property from their smartphones to RTD Web. This increased the visibility of available property, further improving reutilization rates and overall customer satisfaction.

"
I remember when we typed Congressionals on pre-IBM selectric typewriters. I remember shaking at the end of a page, afraid of making a mistake. You were really special if you had an IBM selectric typewriter"

-DRMS World, Special Issue August 1991

An additional capability that allowed Disposal Service Representatives flexibility to travel to customers and receive property in place was the Mobile Office Initiative. This device combined a platform to lock a laptop in place, an adjustable arm, a label printer that created the standard labels attached to property being turned in by warfighters, and a small paper printer in a mobility-focused package.

Looking toward the future, Warehouse Management System is nearing implementation for property accounting management and will replace programs introduced by RBI in 2012. DLA Distribution and DLA Disposition Services currently use Distribution Standard System, which replaced DAISY. DSS was programed using COBAL programming language, pioneered by Grace Hopper in the 1950s.

“COBAL was used and built for transactional-based business mainframes that are now outdated, so we are moving WMS to the cloud,” said Paul Abel, DLA Distribution J4 director, when commenting on the antiquated DSS. “We recognize this update as a strategic move toward the future for DLA.”

For additional milestones about the technology that DLA Disposition Services has used over the years, please visit the History page.