AFCEC streamlines CE work tasks with mobile IT initiative

  • Published
  • By Shannon Carabajal
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Civil Engineer Center recently introduced a new tool to help installations collect, manage and use civil engineering data more efficiently.

The tool – a custom-designed mobile tab for the NexGen IT system – gives civil engineer field technicians a user-friendly option for accessing, logging and updating work task information directly from job sites.

“This new feature allows complete cradle-to-grave record keeping within the digital IT environment, replacing the current process requiring field technicians to pass data back to the shop for entry into NexGen IT,” said Bryan Muller, operations maintenance subject matter expert for AFCEC.

“By using the mobile tab, shops can collect data more quickly, reduce costs associated with work activity data collection, and improve the accuracy and quantity of captured data,” he said.

NexGen IT serves users across every Department of the Air Force installation, consolidating civil engineering data from many functional areas including real property, facility space management, operations, energy and cost accounting. The system provides a global view of Air Force infrastructure status, supporting day-to-day operations and facilitating agile decision-making through enhanced data transparency across the enterprise.

With a target population of over 10,000 military and civilian technicians, there is huge potential to improve efficiency leading to enhanced maintenance effectiveness, Muller said. Plus, better data leads to better decisions, he added.

“Our goal is to get a greater percentage of data entry directly accomplished by technicians in the field while still fresh in the mind of the technician. Field entry allows quicker access to updated data and provides the potential for more accurate information and a more detailed history over time.”

AFCEC began developing a mobile concept design in 2022 with a capability that could work on a device loaded with a standard Air Force desktop configuration and connected wirelessly to a government network. Later that year, AFCEC received about $520,000 in innovation funds from the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center for hardware and accessories needed to pilot test the initiative at four installations.

During the pilot phase, workforce productivity increased and installations achieved enhanced efficiency in managing data, work assignments and identifying materials for tasks. Pilot bases also reported a better overall user experience for people engaging with work task data records from receipt to completion, Muller said.

Technicians are using the mobile tab every day at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, one of the pilot bases, said Mark Rauch, facility systems branch chief with the 88th Civil Engineer Group. He said the tab helped usher in more efficient processes for his team.

“We were in the middle of change management regarding our technicians having rugged laptops in the shop trucks; thus, having access to use NexGen IT in the field,” he said. “One of the big difficulties in getting buy-in from the shops was that NexGen IT was somewhat difficult to navigate. The mobile tab really went a long way toward getting buy-in.”

Technicians use the tab to enter data into NexGen IT on the fly, Rauch said, logging time on work tasks, entering work resolutions, completing work tasks, checking stock, attaching equipment to work tasks, creating purchase requests and searching work task history.

“Prior to the mobile tab, technicians would have to find their way around multiple tabs within NexGen IT; most of the basic functions are now found on the mobile tab,” he said.

The custom tab was released enterprise wide in January. Procurement of mobile hardware, associated accessories and necessary network connections is a unit responsibility, but AFCEC developed implementation guidance and began offering training in February to help bases transition. 

The long-term goal is to for data entry to become a short, on‐site activity embedded with tasks performed on a job site, Muller said.

“Other bases should start using the tab,” Rauch said. “If they don’t like it (at first) they need to give it some time to grow on them, it really is easier.”