February 28, 2013

NATO codification: Interview: André Maas, senior technical officer

Contributor:  Defence IQ Press
Posted:  02/25/2013  12:00:00 AM EST  |  0   


André Maas is the senior technical officer in NATO codification at the NATO Support Agency. Ahead of his presentation at the Afloat Support and Naval Logistics conference, Defence IQ caught up with him to understand a little more about codification…

Thanks for joining us today André. Please could you introduce yourself and give a little background about your experience in this field?

After graduation as an engineer in aerospace technology, I joined the French Ministry of Defence in 1974 and started my career in research and development and certification of aircraft engines. In 1985, I moved to the French National Codification Bureau where I held a variety of posts and was involved in numerous IT projects. In 1991, I was seconded to the German National Codification Bureau for 6 months. I was the French representative to AC/135 Panel A from 1998 to 2003 and chaired that panel from 2003 to 2006. In 2006, I joined NAMSA (now the NATO Support Agency NSPA) as the senior technical officer in NATO codification. Since that time, in addition to a variety of technical functions, I have worked on NATO codification modernisation projects.

Could you please outline what the NATO Codification System is and how it works?

The NCS is the item identification system of NATO. It provides item information on NATO Stock Numbers (NSNs) and organisation data in NATO Commercial and Governmental Entity (NCAGE) codes. The system is used by 28 NATO and 36 non-NATO nations. It is managed by NATO Allied Committee 135, and AC/135 has the largest membership (in terms of number of nations) of any Allied Committee in NATO. NSPA provides administrative, technical, and secretarial support for AC/135, including managing the NCS master database of NSNs. There are currently about 17 million active NSNs and more than 2 million active NCAGE codes. You will find a good overview of the NCS, including graphics that illustrate the basic principles, at www.nato.int/codification. At that site, highlight the tab called NCS Information on the left side of the screen, and click on the tab called Brochure on the NATO Codification System. To obtain a list of nations that use the NCS, highlight the tab called NCS Information on the left side of the screen, and click on the tab called NCS Country Codes List. When you get to the codes list page, click on the .PDF icon near the top of the page after the phrase NCS Codes Chart.  

How does delivering and operating a global standard for logistics help to improve multi-national interoperability? And how important will this multi-national cooperation be in the future?

The NCS is the global language of logistics and in that role provides the foundation for multi-national interoperability within NATO and beyond. NCS codes have been translated into 19 languages, and the NCS is used officially by the 66 member nations of AC/135. As a result, the NCS is at the forefront of NATO's outreach to non-NATO partner nations. Because of defence budget cuts in most nations, the increased NATO focus on cooperative logistics, and NATO's global strategic approach, the NCS will be even more important in the future than it already is
What are the challenges of designing and implementing this system? Do the advantages entirely outweigh these challenges?

The NCS was designed and implemented more than 50 years ago, and it has been a NATO standard since 1958. The biggest challenge today is keeping the IT side of the NCS current with the rapidly changing face of IT and being able to provide the data to its users in many different platforms, including mainframe systems, the Web, hard media like DVD, and mobile devices. Although that is a big challenge, AC/135 has no doubt that it can continue to meet it and that the advantages of a common language of supply far outweigh that challenge. AC/135 has also helped extend the NCS into industry with the development of ISO standards, as explained below. 

What stage are you at with NATO codification now? What's the next stage you're working towards?

The NCS is at a mature stage and is moving into the commercial world. With government, industry, and academic partners from around the world, AC/135 has helped to develop two standards, ISO 22745 (a standard for government/industry exchange of product data) and ISO 8000 (a standard for data quality) that are based on the NCS. AC/135 is also working to convert the current EDI to XML. The next stage will be promoting use of the ISO standards within industry and establishing Web services linkage with our customers' system. The publishing of the ISO standards will extend the reach of the NCS in terms of multi-national cooperation by extending the reach of its common language of supply.  

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The NCS is able to deliver a huge Return on Investment to its users, as has been documented many times, most recently by a study conducted by LSC Group of the United Kingdom. You will find an executive summary of that study attached with this message. People interested in the NCS will find current news and much other information at AC/135's Web site at www.nato.codification. The NCS is an open system, and many of its codes are available on the open Internet, including the multi-lingual directory of Approved Item Names and the NATO Supply Groups and Classes. That publication can be viewed by going to https://eportal.nspa.nato.int/ac135public and clicking on the tab labelled ACodP-2/3. 
Please note that government and industry users can subscribe to the NATO Master Catalogue of References for Logistics (NMCRL) on the Web or on DVD. The NMCRL provides access to the data of the 17 million NSNs and more than 2 million NCAGEs cited above. For information, go to http://www.nato.int/structur/AC/135/nmcrl/nmcrl_e/index.htm. Also, attendees at the Afloat Support and Naval Logistics conference  (as well as the Defence Logistics Europe conference) can try out the NMCRL on the Web for free for 30 days can do so by stopping by attending Mr. Maas's presentation at the conference or by sending a message to nmcrl@nspa.nato.int and citing this article.


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