NexLog (Next Generation Logistics) Innovation Cell
By DON Innovation
The Next Generation Logistics (NexLog) initiative has accelerated the Marine Corps’ adoption of emerging technologies into logistics capabilities. Seeking ways to provide dynamic combat service support to the Marine Corps of the future, NexLog has been diligently working to address the growing gaps with innovative capabilities through three thrust areas: Additive Manufacturing (AM), Unmanned Logistics Systems (ULS), and Smart Logistics.
The NexLog team was established in October 2015 to accelerate the development and adoption of innovative and disruptive technologies for logistics capabilities. Since its creation, the NexLog Team’s efforts have transformed the path of Marine Corps logistics innovation, creating a measurable impact. Nearly every Marine has become familiar with the products of NexLog, ranging from a Logistics Innovation Challenge, to unit-level 3D printing, to the development of Cargo Unmanned Aerial Systems (CUAS).
Using social media and agile/lean practices, the NexLog team launched the Logistics Innovation Challenge in July 2016 to solicit submissions from Marines for ideas to solve modern logistics problems. After more than 400,000 views of LtGen Dana’s challenge video, the team received over 300 submissions and consequently, connected 18 of the winning ideas to research labs, providing funding to further develop the ideas for possible transition to programs of record. By leveraging the combat and operational experience of Marines at all levels to improve how the Corps fights, the Logistics Innovation Challenge successfully demonstrated the need to utilize crowdsourcing for capabilities development. This effort was synchronized with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s Rapid Capability Office effort for hosting the “Commandant’s Innovation Challenges”.
In order to exploit the emerging technology of Additive Manufacturing, an, NexLog authored and signed the first service-level policy for AM, allowing commands with 3D printers to manufacture needed parts following a rapid evaluation of the part’s suitability by Marine Corps Systems Command. The Marine Corps’ Interim Policy on AM empowers Marines and commanders to provide solutions for their readiness challenges by providing them with discretion to print certain items immediately and creating a process for authorization to print other items, directly from Program Managers, for the rapid fabrication of needed parts. This first step in employing AM throughout the Marine Corps has the potential to dramatically impact readiness challenges currently facing the Corps.
NexLog also successfully integrated Expeditionary Manufacturing Shelters and Fabrication Labs (“Fab Labs”) in the Corps’ maintenance battalions, which provided a space for maintenance Marines to experiment with the technology and develop necessary skills. To sustain these efforts, NexLog was the first service to deliberately and uniquely budget for AM, successfully approving POM-18 budget for AM technologies. Additionally, in October 2016, NexLog partnered with Navy Labs to print and detonate the first 3D printed munition. Over 15 units including infantry, maintenance, EOD, intelligence, and special operations now have 3D printers. Furthermore, the 7th Marine Regiment has deployed with 3D Printers, making it the first unit in military history to deploy to a combat zone with 3D Printers operated by service members (previous sister service printing was completed by contractors). NexLog plays an active role in the White House’s Interagency Working Group for Making as a result of their creation of “Marine Makers”.
The Unmanned Logistics Systems thrust area has sought to develop the ability to automate the lift and distribution capability of the Marine Corps. The NexLog team successfully sponsored the Cargo Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) wargame in November 2016, with its results informing the requirements for a family of cargo-oriented UASs to provide autonomous, assured delivery from ship-to-shore and to widely distributed forces inland. The Unmanned Logistics Systems focus area has the vital task of promoting the development of the lift and distribution capabilities that will enable future distributed operations. The NexLog-sponsored CUAS wargame provided guidance for the requirements of future development of a family of CUAS platforms, which will offer the potential to automate the logistics challenge of providing combat service support to widely distributed forces while simultaneously preserving lives at risk on vulnerable convoys. Additionally, partnering with Penn State University, MITRE, and the Army Research Lab, the NexLog team developed a 3D printed UAS in order to provide units with the organic capability to manufacture mission-tailored, on-demand UAS assets.
The Smart Logistics thrust area combines concepts of Sense and Respond capabilities, Big Data, and Command and Control capabilities. The NexLog team is pushing the development of mobile applications for the use of logistics Marines in garrison and tactical environments to expedite the delivery of combat service support throughout the Operating Forces. The Smart Logistics focus area offers the potential to weaponize information. With sensors embedded in military equipment, Marines providing input on logistics statistics, and a dedicated Command and Control for logistics capability. Logisticians and commanders will be provided with real-time information on the status of their forces, their requirements, and courses of action based on data.
NexLog was founded with a passionate, aggressive focus on warfighter-driven exploitation of opportunities enabled by emerging technologies and bolstered by uncharacteristically high levels of collaboration across DoD, academia, and industry. NexLog’s successes exemplify the potential to continue accelerating logistics capabilities development while revolutionizing the methods and pace of capability development across the DoD.
The NexLog Innovation Cell received the 2016 Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Innovation Award in the Innovation Leadership category in a prestigious ceremony officiated by Mr. Thomas Dee, performing the duties of the Under Secretary of the Navy, on 5 June 2017. Team members include: LtCol Howard K. Marotto, Capt Lamontie A. James, Capt Alexander A. Morrow, Capt Christopher J. Wood, Mr. Carmine J. Borrelli, Mr. Dana Sanford, Mr. Andrew R. Schaffer, Mr. Andrew J. Trout, Mr. Cesar A. Valdesuso, Mr. Timothy J. Bailey, Ms. Allison L. Gervasio, Mr. Tom Heffern, Dr. Joe Mickiewicz, Ms. Kaitlyn R. Penry, and Ms. Sally S. Scudder.
The SECNAV Innovation Awards recognize the top innovators within the Department of the Navy (DON). Their accomplishments are remarkable and serve as inspiration for the Navy and Marine Corps to think boldly and solve the fleet and force’s most challenging problems.