Marines track supplies with wireless net

The Marines automated the supply tracking process by outfitting workers with mobile scanners and wireless local-area networks

When deploying its troops, the Marine Corps has to ensure that they receive the appropriate supplies, munitions, spare parts and meals. Tracking the whereabouts of these items had been a tedious, time-

consuming task. But last year, the Marines decided to automate the process by outfitting workers with mobile scanners and wireless local-area networks.

After examining the options, the Marines selected Symbol Technologies Inc.'s PDT 7240 mobile computers and Spectrum24 LAN.

"We like the scanners' rugged design, because if an item can be broken, a Marine will find a way to do it," joked Capt. Gary Clement, Automatic Identification Technology project officer of the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. The PDT 7240 was built to withstand repetitive drops on concrete surfaces and is environmentally sealed to protect against rain and dust.

The wireless LANs, which support about 500 access points, streamline data entry. At Marine Corps logistics bases, bar codes are printed on polyester labels and affixed to items that need to be tracked. Then, the handheld PDT 7240s can scan the data and send it via wireless networks to central servers for real-time inventory updating. In remote

locations, the PDT 7240s communicate supply information to wireless laptops, which in some cases are fueled by solar power.

The data is then shipped to the Marines' logistics system where it provides officers with timely and accurate information about which items are in what trucks, warehouses or ships.

"The new networks helped us eliminate many of the manual processes that were in place for tracking supplies, so we now have a much clearer picture of which items we are using," Clement said.

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