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U.S. Air Force

Modernizing the management of personnel protective equipment

Summary

Providing better-fitting gear to aircrew, particularly female pilots, is one of the U.S. Air Force's top priorities. Their Human Systems Division engaged us to build a platform for modernizing how they manage personnel protective equipment.

Gear technician helping a female pilot put on her helmet.

The challenge

Key personnel who work for organizations in the defense, security, safety, and healthcare fields often experience critical issues with ill-fitting gear that compromise their job performance, their personal safety, and the safety of others. These organizations generally don't have sufficient data and systems in place to meet the complex protective equipment needs of their diverse workforce.

For the U.S. Air Force's Human Systems Division, solving this problem is a top priority that goes all the way up to the Secretary, and even Congress. Female pilots in particular lack consistent access to — or, at least, awareness of — properly-fitting tactical gear and equipment options, exposing them to serious injury or mission failure.

"In certain situations, having ill-fitting gear, such as harnesses and survival vests, can result in a loss of life. If an aircrew member ejects from the aircraft with equipment that doesn't fit, they can be severely injured or lose their life."

Captain Lauren Ellis, U.S. Air Force

The solution

To address this challenge, the U.S. Air Force's Human Systems Division engaged us to build a digital platform called GearFit. The current product vision for GearFit encompasses several important capabilties, such as user-driven feedback, issues reporting & analytics, catalog management & ordering, and training videos. The target population of users includes all aircrew, the operational groups who support them, and potentially other military branches.

Given the ambitious scope of this initiative, along with the acute problems that female pilots are currently facing, we started by engaging the Female Fitment program managers under the Human Systems Division to build an application that would gather acccurate and actionable equipment feedback from aircrew and surface it to a range of stakeholders. With that data, these stakeholders could then develop and communicate high-quality insights regarding the successes and/or failures of personal protective equipment currently employed by aircrew across the Air Force. Thus far, this focused effort has involved:

  • Researching the needs of female pilots
  • Designing and implementing a set of unique application interfaces that move data across the organization to rapidly intake aircrew feedback
  • Expanding the depth of the data by integrating with legacy systems
  • Presenting the data with visualization and analysis for stakeholders across multiple offices
  • Incorporating the ability to directly reach back to aircrew and gain deeper context and provide support
  • Initiating discussions to engage a previously disengaged user group, technicians, that will enhance the quality of data provided

The results

  • Delivered an alpha version of the platform within three months
  • Preparing to launch a beta version in production with a user base of 300–500 users in spring of 2020
  • Product recognized by General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, at the Air Force industry conference WEPTAC
  • Demoed to the Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett