Liberating ERP for mobile defense units

Liberating ERP for mobile defense units

An exciting new IT initiative will enable German warships to respond faster to both combat and routine challenges, by delivering 24/7 access to the full power of ERP.

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Warship in sea

Torsten Kaiser, Partner, KPMG in Germany

We’ve all experienced the frustration of losing a Wi-Fi connection in a coffee shop or on a train. Inconvenient though this may be, it is nothing compared to the danger of losing broadband in the midst of a combat zone, leaving you isolated and extremely vulnerable to enemy movements.

Mobile defense units, whether airplanes, helicopters, ships, tanks, armored carriers or trucks, rely heavily on ERP and need steady connectivity to the main centralized server hosting the ERP. Every decision, from battlefield maneuvers to ordering supplies, informs the system to generate appropriate responses and actions.

Given such dependence, today’s military is required to spend huge amounts every year on satellite links to ensure that every part of its forces can stay online and access the ERP.

Unfortunately, as we all know, in certain spots on air, land and sea, latency is high, while bandwidth is low and can even drop off altogether.

But what if you had your own ERP to accompany you wherever you went? Once just a dream, this concept is soon to become a reality, thanks to a groundbreaking new approach.

Independence and reliability

The Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, officially started work on building one of the world’s first, smaller, decentralized ERP systems – a subset of the main SAP – which will be situated, initially, on certain types of warship. When completed, these will replicate many of the capabilities of the main ERP, giving the commanders far more independence whenever they’re unable to access the host server.

Once a connection has been restored, any data in the mobile system will synchronize instantly with the force-wide ERP. With so much ERP functionality available locally, there will be less need to use satellite connections, which should cut telecommunications costs and help make better use of declining defense budgets.

At a stroke, maintenance and replenishment become far more efficient, as the ships will be able to evaluate stocks of ammunition, food and other vital supplies, check for damage or wear and tear and relay relevant details to base at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mobile units can also tap into the organizational part of the system to deal with routine or one-off situations. If a vessel is carrying special operations troops that are not part of the ship’s crew, these individuals’ details will still be held in the onboard ERP, so that the captain remains fully aware of everyone on board should an emergency evacuation be required, or if the troops need to be mobilized at short notice.

Faster response, on sea and land

The new ERP systems should be operational within 4 years. In the meantime, the Bundeswehr, and indeed other forces, is looking at installing similar systems on smaller assets such as tanks or trucks. This presents a greater technological challenge, given the limited space.

ERP is fast becoming the backbone of modern defense organizations. Innovations of this magnitude will help accelerate functionality and lead to better-equipped forces able to respond more swiftly in conflicts and peacetime.

Read more about ERPs for defense, which features a series of insights on the use of technology in ERPs for modern defense forces including profiles of the "Five Eyes" (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada).

Torsten Kaiser has extensive experience in IT consulting in the private and public sector, specializing in defense, home affairs and security services.

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