SearchExec Case Study

“The EMALL is a success story within the DOD Acquisition Domain for providing on-line ordering functionality”

— Mark Krysko, Former Deputy Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy

Challenge

With more than 4 million military and civilian personnel dispersed across 820 installations around the world, the Department of Defense (DOD) dedicates significant resources to maintaining force readiness. In the decades following World War II, a great deal of time and energy was required to procure standard-supply items – time that could otherwise be spent forwarding the mission. In the early 1990s, the DOD began investigating technologies to automate its supply chain and improve processes across the services. Partnet, a leading provider of online marketplaces to government, helped the DOD create one of the first eCommerce systems in the world – a “one-stop-shop” for ordering supply chain items in the field. Ranging from office supplies to body-armor, each item was supplied by its own unique vendor, while product details and availability changed constantly. With millions of items on the system, Partnet was tasked with developing a powerful search-framework to pinpoint queries and quickly furnish relevant results.

Solution

Partnet’s development team conducted extensive research into the procurement process and considered the immediate needs of the warfighter. A text-based search of the full catalog of 50 million items would take too long and return too many irrelevant results. Rather than linking searches to product descriptions, the Partnet team built SearchExec, a unique search framework that puts users in the driver’s seat. Each time a user enters a search term, the program presents search-specific refinement options. For example, a user searching for “copy paper” is presented with options such as base color, brightness, length, and manufacturer. Only applicable options are offered, so user time and system resources are never wasted on empty search results. In this way, users can quickly hone in on the kinds of items they are searching for and make purchasing choices based on the specific needs of their mission. To further optimize results, SearchExec enables multiple attributes to be navigated simultaneously for maximum search capabilities.

Results

Today, DOD EMALL boasts over a 10-year proven track record of success and remains the largest and most comprehensive eCommerce system in use by the U.S. government. With a sales volume approaching $1 billion, DOD EMALL empowers soldiers and procurement officers on the ground to order mission-critical supplies at the click of button. It provides a single-entry point for over 130,000 registered users to search and purchase from a virtual catalog of 50 million items. The SearchExec application developed for EMALL is now employed throughout government and industry. With an eye towards delivering results to the end-user, SearchExec provides the power and the certainty to meet the growing demands of the DOD.

“We spent two years trying to build a system of our own and could not duplicate the functionality that already existed on DOD EMALL.”

Paul Peters, Former Director of eCommerce for the Navy Supply Systems Command