Thinking Small--Technologies That Can Reduce Logistics Demand

by Calvin Shipbaugh

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Microminiature devices promise to revolutionize logistics support. MEMS--tiny micromachines--and the field of nanotechnology, which develops components at the atomic level that use the physical properties of atoms and molecules, hold great promise for reducing the demand for logistics products and services. The use of microsensors and microprocessors will improve the precision of military weapons, thereby reducing the demand for ammunition. This in turn decreases transportation requirements. MEMS can expedite transport of supplies and help reduce waste and spoilage. MEMS should enable the Army to achieve reliability, decreasing failure rates for systems and prolonging the time between needed maintenance actions. Embedded sensors can help with security and safety issues. In the longer term, nanotechnology may have military applications in such critical areas as power sources and biomedicine. "Virtual" manufacturing through nanotechnology may provide a breakthrough for logistics supply and repair processes. For the coming revolution in technology to be applied smoothly to the U.S. Army, the Army must be vigilant in monitoring and embracing these new developments.

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Originally published in: Army Logistician, PB-700-00-2, v. 32, no. 2, March-April 2000.

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