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TSA tracks PPE supply data with MicroStrategy amid pandemic

The TSA has taken advantage of its lengthy relationship with MicroStrategy to develop tools to oversee its supply of PPE and keep employees as safe as possible during the pandemic.

Nearly two decades after first turning to MicroStrategy to improve efficiency, the Transportation Security Administration is now using the vendor's data analytics platform to protect its employees from COVID-19.

First established in 2002 following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the attempted attack on the U.S. Capitol, the TSA, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is tasked with the security of the nation's transportation systems. In large part, that means screening passengers and baggage at airport security checkpoints.

For two years, the TSA did so without using a BI platform. The agency did some basic manual data entry to track wait times and develop reports after the fact.

Long wait times to get through security and an inability to react quickly to alleviate them, however, prompted the TSA to turn to MicroStrategy in 2004 in an attempt to be more proactive.

In the years since then, the TSA has used the vendor's business intelligence platform to develop systems that provide real-time information that enables the TSA to improve throughput and quickly react to heavy traffic and long security lines. The agency also uses the software to preemptively allocate resources using predictive analytics capabilities to try to keep wait times as short as possible.

Beginning in 2020, however, MicroStrategy's analytics tools also enabled the TSA to use data to help protect its 50,000 employees from COVID-19 by making sure needed supplies -- gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and eventually vaccines, among other items -- get to airports quickly and efficiently.

"It could have been a daunting effort," Jim Watts, a program manager at the TSA, said on Feb. 4 during MicroStrategy's virtual user conference.

Jim Watts, program manager at the Transportation Security Administration, speaks during MicroStrategy's virtual user conference.
Jim Watts, program manager at the Transportation Security Administration, displays a dashboard that tracks the TSA's supply of personal protective equipment during MicroStrategy's virtual user conference.

But, he continued, because the TSA's Airport information Management (AIM) system that helps the organization manage its supply chain was built with MicroStrategy's platform and taps into the same database as the TSA's other data modules, the TSA didn't have to develop a new system to manage the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical supplies.

"It was a lower level of effort," Watts said.

Using MicroStrategy's platform, the TSA was able to build applications to enable those overseeing the supply chain to keep abreast of PPE supply levels in real time.

In addition, the TSA developed push notifications to deliver alerts when supplies run low, data models to help project when more supplies need to be ordered and delivered from its warehouse and a dashboard that shows supply levels for each airport nationwide.

The dashboard is able to look at each airport on an individual basis, and within that airport track the supply of masks, for example. It shows the historic rate of consumption, and based on that can calculate how many days' supply remains, when the supply is expected to run out, and when new orders need to be placed.

This has helped the TSA, and helped keep the public as safe as possible. This is a long process-management effort to make sure we're as prepared as possible.
Jim WattsProgram manager, Transportation Security Administration

Meanwhile, the AIM integrates with geospatial data to show where supplies are located and how supplies can be transferred from one location to another if needed.

"This has helped the TSA, and helped keep the public as safe as possible," Watts said. "This is a long process-management effort to make sure we're as prepared as possible."

After it initially adopted MicroStrategy in 2004 -- using MicroStrategy 8 at the time -- the TSA upgraded to MicroStrategy 9 in 2009 and developed more than 40 modules that enabled it to better measure performance. In 2016, the TSA upgraded to MicroStrategy 10, which included real-time reporting for the first time, push notifications to alert administrators to long wait times and other issues, and geospatial data.

Now, the TSA is using MicroStrategy 2021, which was recently released in general availability, and has expanded its real-time reporting and geospatial mapping capabilities.

"MicroStrategy has been very helpful," Watts said. "The AIM, that tool we have embedded in our system, has really helped to improve our data management for a variety of items, whether it be lost-and-found, customer throughput, wait times, or whether it be those critical COVID-19 supplies."

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