Private enterprise and industry associations have stepped up their call for a common language to connect the U.S. military transportation system to civilian movers who contract with the services to transport household goods.
No standards exist to allow for electronic communication between shippers and the military. The placement of orders, pickup instructions, cargo weight, addresses, inventory, delivery dates — all must be keyed in by hand as orders are taken.
“Obviously, that forces us to increase costs because of the extra manpower and labor,” said Chuck White, director of government and military relations for the International Association of Movers. “Human error comes into play, and then extra layers of work and oversight have to be done on the government side.”
At the TechNet Mid-America conference, an annual event sponsored in July by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, a senior logistics executive from Salient Federal Solutions in Fairfax, Va., urged the shipping industry to promote the development of a standard.
Such efforts likely would be conducted in conjunction with the DoD Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, but no formal program is under way, said Paul Regazzi, vice president of transportation, logistics and supply chain for Salient Federal Solutions.
Some standards have evolved in recent years, especially in the realm of ocean transport, which accounts for some $1.2 billion a year in services. Regazzi looks to the success of maritime shipping as a possible example for how industry and government could standardize their communications in the realm of household goods.
“The government is in a constant cycle of reinventing and reinvigorating their transportation systems,” he said. “Some of those were modernized and advanced in previous years, whereas for household goods, they are just now in the process of making major steps forward. But these are systems that were built 15 years ago, before all these advances in these technologies.”
Another model may come from the financial sector, in particular the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization, created by the American Bankers Association. An industry-led standards initiative, it automated systems interactions and reduced the average Federal Housing Administration mortgage approval time from 60 days to less than two weeks, Regazzi said.
“It’s not something so unique that no one has ever done it before,” he said.
Though eager to gain new efficiencies, Regazzi said, the industry as a whole would rather see an incremental evolution of standards, even if it takes longer to forge complete communications parity.
“I’d like to see some practical standards in use in these exchanges before we all decide on what the final standards will be. Having some actual experience in the real world can be invaluable,” he said. “I’d rather go slowly and have fewer missteps.”