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U.S. Navy Distribution Processes Under Scrutiny

Aug. 7, 2012 - 03:39PM   |  
By Adam Stone   |   Comments
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An initiative is under way to review a broad swath of U.S. Navy distribution and transportation processes to improve efficiency.

Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) launched its review in July, and expects to run through every stage of the distribution process from order placement to fulfillment, delivery and returns. The review should take about a year, officials say.

“Given today’s fiscal environment, we as Navy logisticians are challenged to find efficiencies across all of our processes,” said Joe Kenney, vice commander, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support.

Officials would not name any particular system that is coming up short or due for special scrutiny. Rather, the process will run “holistically, from an end-to-end perspective,” said Bill Bickert, vice commander, NAVSUP Global Logistics Support. At each stage in the distribution process, “we want to make sure we are using the most cost-effective means to move that material.”

Within these processes, the evaluation will look closely at the seams, the places where different systems interact. In the interconnections among the Defense Departmen, the Navy, the Defense Logistics Agency and the U.S. Transportation Command, for example, it is possible that gears are not meshing with full efficiency.

“When you have all these large logistics players involved, there are areas where there may be seams and gaps,” said Capt. David Meyers, assistant commander, Strategy and Innovation, NAVSUP.

The team will work as much as possible from hard data using a system called continuous process improvement, in which each element of the chain is broken into its component parts.

“We have to map the distribution process, every type of request, every type of mode,” Kenney said. “From there we have to look for certain industry tools and from there find places for improvements.”

Much work already is being done at DoD and across the services to ensure distribution runs smoothly, and officials described these efforts as being largely effective, considering the vast scope and complexity of the systems involved. But there is room for improvement.

“Right now, everybody is looking at those pieces of the supply chain — how much we buy, where we position it and how we transport it back and forth,” Bickert said. “But they buy it in stovepipes, whereas this will look at things in a more holistic fashion.”

Ultimately, bringing together multiple stakeholders will prove the greatest challenge to this effort.

“This is a very joint process and it may require policy changes,” Meyers said. “Any time you are looking at a policy change, it tends to take time.”

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