Red Hat, Inc., the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced that the Department of Defense (DoD) worked with Red Hat to help improve aircraft and pilot scheduling for United States Marine Corps (USMC), United States Navy (USN) and United States Air Force (USAF) aircrews. Using modern development practices and processes from Red Hat Open Innovation Labs that prioritized end user needs, the project team identified unaddressed roadblocks and gained new skills to build the right solution, a digital “Puckboard” application, for their unique scheduling challenge.
Application development for mission-critical processes, like United States Armed Forces flight scheduling, needs to start at a fundamental level by understanding and addressing the real problem.
Taking on the “puckboard”
The problem facing squadrons was seemingly straightforward: how to improve and digitize the management of flight training operations. The existing process was entirely manual, each representing pertinent information like a pilot’s name, associated with their training syllabus, location and time of flights. Simple at a glance, the number of cognitive variables contained within this undertaking made it stressful for the operator and difficult to scale across squadrons and bases.
For more than a decade, various project teams within the DoD had tried to improve the system via custom built applications, aircraft scheduling software and hybrid solutions. None of these deployments withstood the test of time or could be replicated if the operator took a new role elsewhere. The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization tasked with accelerating commercial technologies into the military, took on this challenge.
Process and power from open innovation
To help understand the holistic problem and not just discrete elements, a cross-functional team from DIU, USMC, USN and USAF engaged with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs, a DevOps and open source residency program guided by Red Hat’s Global Services experts. During the immersive, human-centered design engagement, Red Hat experts worked alongside the project team to evaluate and validate the problem space and develop a strategic approach for creating a new flight scheduling system. What became clear was that with the variety of planes and pilots facing each operator, each with their own requirements, any ultimate solution would need to address all of these variables, not just a handful.
Beyond helping the team identify the core underlying problem for end users, Red Hat Open Innovation Labs helped provide guidance and strategies for more effective application development within the associated USAF, USN and USMC groups. This led to the replacement of the traditional waterfall approach with an agile methodology, lean product development and DevOps practices that are more adaptive.
Building an internal, open pipeline
The skills and tools gained from the Red Hat Open Innovation Labs engagement has enabled the project team to lay the groundwork for a flight scheduling solution that isn’t tied to a single person or unscalable technology. But perhaps most importantly, the team is now able to share their knowledge and processes across their organizations with the intent to build an internal open source pipeline of not just technology, but also open practices that can help shorten development cycles and bring usable applications to end users faster.
With the digital “Puckboard” application in development, the project team now hopes to be able to more effectively capture data that was previously disparate or not captured at all (like on a puck or whiteboard). By enabling a digital transformation of the manual flight scheduling process, the USMC, USN and USAF hope to add artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) predictive capabilities to the solution, providing even more efficiency to the process.