Better than real-time. By Dawn Marie Yankeelov
ost Americans can barely keep up with centers to in-plant residencies with
what’s in the kitchen pantry. Imagine the defense contractors and property
Department of Defense’s cupboard. The reutilization offices.
Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) ,man- DLA oversees nine pri-
ages the complete, computerized track- mary commodities: clothing, in-
ing of more than 4 million items, processing more than 30 mil- cluding uniforms, helmets and
lion annual distribution actions and administering more than $900 shoes; construction material, such as
billion of DoD and other agency contracts. lumber and plumbing accessories;
Recent years have seen the coupling of the DLA’s tre- electronic supplies used in mainte-
mendous databases, tracking technology, military partnerships nance and repair of military equip-
and electronic commerce to leash the power of the Internet. ment; fuel, such as bulk petroleum;
Nearly every consumable part of the military from milk to medi- food, canned, frozen and dehy-
cal supplies to ammunition is managed through this agency. drated; general supplies, such as
Nowhere else in the U.S. does computer-driven logistics mean machine tools and wet-cell batter-
so much, nor affect so many daily lives. ies; and medical supplies, including
Based in Fort Belvoir, Va., more than 50,000 civilian prescription drugs and surgical ma-
and military personnel work for DLA in facilities from supply terials.
We b - e n a b l e d
technologies have greatly influenced the overhaul
in recent years of the purchasing, tracking and
delivery of supplies. “ Better than real-time” is
how the system has been described by Carla von
Bernewitz, executive director of Material Man-
agement, Information Systems Technology in
Commercialization has crept into its programs,
allowing for supply chain management on the
Net. “Delivery of information at the desktop is
critical. We are trying to leverage our existing
infrastructure. We have even enlisted Federal
Express in Memphis. We are pre-positioned and
can request high priority when necessary,” said
For more than 50 years, DLA has been the pro-
curement agency for DoD. Back in the 1940s, it
was determined that vast warehousing would be
the model of choice. However, today’s mobile
military is focused on 24-hour response and dealing with immedi- Above: Members of the DLA Contingency Support Team use radio
ate needs with a click of a desktop computer key. frequency technology to check out pallets in Taszar, Hungary. Left:
DLA Europe Contingency Support Team members work logistics
PRIME VENDOR AND VIRTUAL PRIME issues during Bright Star 95 in Egypt.
maceutical contract several years ago for the Washington, D.C.,
Commercial products from household names are now pro- area. Coverage in the program is now global. Emergency deliver-
viding items previously bought from hundreds of vendors through ies can be made within six hours. Losses from expirations and over-
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). With the Prime Vendor pro- stocking have been eliminated.
gram, reciprocal links to suppliers and military consumers takes Online catalogs for medical supplies, food and clothing
place. For example, the purchase of food has moved from buying allow for unique inventory control, linked to a Material Manage-
centers to individual customers. Troops now eat the same food ment Intranet. “In the past we would have contracted for 15 differ-
found in area hotels and restaurants. Competitive pricing is guar- ent vendors for just two different products. This required long-term
anteed, and brand names are now on all bases such as Parris Is- warehousing,” von Bernewitz said.
land, S.C., Marine Corps Base within 48 hours. With the recent Virtual Prime Vendor program, there is
Medical inventory is handled in much the same manner. no warehousing of product. Virtual Prime Vendor allows tai-
DLA supplies one of the largest hospital networks in the world. lored logistics support to particular military “customers” by elec-
Mail order pharmacies and medical air express made great strides tronically linking all consumable parts, whether for combat readi-
in aiding a monolithic delivery process, but Prime Vendor con- ness, emergency preparedness or day-to-day operations.
tracts went further. McKesson Drug Company won the first phar- Agreements allow the military regional purchases with an
established delivery process - less governmentese and
more commercial handling. With Virtual vendors, there are
specialized contract management services from pre-award to
post-award; worldwide disposal services as well as informa-
tion of excess military property; worldwide hazardous mate-
rial disposal and information in its management; specialized
product testing; and access to the Federal Catalog system.
Electronic commerce has moved the agency toward
a paperless society, and more progress is expected. By 2010,
all contracts will be handled in cyberspace, without benefit of
a pencil touching paper. Contracts have migrated to commer-
cial corporations willing to handle larger orders and, when
necessary, stockpile at their facilities. The savings show up
not only in less warehousing requirements but also in personnel.
IN THE MILITARY
The Quick Response Manufacturing approach is
played out with large and small vendors alike. A small fe-
male-owned business based in Phoenix, Ariz. called Atlas
Headwear supplies Nike, Inc., one of DLA’s Quick Response
vendors. Atlas now can provide the military with uniform caps
within 72 hours of receiving an order.
Yet another approach, Dual Use Technology, allows
shared production agreements with manufacturers and com-
mercial clients. This ensures that when a facility’s full pro-
duction capabilities are needed for national defense, it will
occur in an immediate fashion.
Other manufacturers involved in this military
partnering include such diverse players as Alabama-based
American Apparel, the NationalIndustries for the Blind,
and Terry Manufacturing, a small minority-owned firm that
The Automated Manifest System and radio frequency tagging
has a shared production agreement with McDonald’s.
at work at Taszar Airfield, Hungary.
Other large corporations that participate in supplying DLA
through an electronic commerce forum are 3M, Grimes Aerospace, out. An Automated Bid Interface was designed by Logicon in
Cummins Engine, Allied Signal and Boeing. McLean, Va., for this streamlining effort.
In 1995, the use of the World Wide Web heated up at
CALS (COMPUTER-AIDED ACQUISITION
DLA, according to Karpovich. “The maturation of the Web has
AND LOGISTICS SUPPORT)
fed the demand side. How else can we reach every potential sup-
One of the challenges in DLA is to coordinate the infor- plier internationally? This has, in turn, created a 60 percent sav-
mation required on a Request For Proposals. Not every document ings in time. When you post a proposal on the Web, you have an
can be boiled down into words. Even office furniture sometimes instantaneous international bid room.”
requires extensive technical drawings. DLA, through computer- With Java applications, and Microsoft and Netscape serv-
aided acquisition and logistics support (CALS), has been able to ers and software, the military has spent the last 10 months refin-
create the architecture necessary to have plug and play specifica- ing its virtual inventory control points. More than $50 million
tions available online for bids. The issue of physical possession of will be spent with Microsoft and Netscape in the next five years.
documentation in order to provide accurate bids used to be a big DLA’s five inventory control points buy the items used
one, said John Karpovich, Chief Information Officer for DLA. in all military areas. The agency supports more than 1,400 weap-
~We used to have to send out packages to potential vendors, up- ons systems and purchases 86 percent of the total number of items
wards to $10 or more of paper with maps, drawings etc. Now tech- used by the Defense Department. More than 20 million requisi-
nical data is hot-linked to engineering-related materials,” he pointed tions a year, representing sales to military customers of more
than $11 billion annually, work their way and other packaging information can be found.Battle
through DLA. Creek, Mich., uses the Net to buy and sell property via
The ICPs are the Defense Fuel Supply the Net. DLA can be found at http://www.dla.mil.
Center in Fort Belvoir, Va.; the Defense Indus-
trial Supply Center and Defense Personnel Sup-
THE AUTOMATED MANIFEST
port Center in Philadelphia; Defense Supply SYSTEM AND RF TAGS
Center Columbus in Columbus, Ohio; and Defense Once ordered, the tracking process of goods
Supply Center Richmond in Richmond, Va. and services through DLA leaves very little guesswork.
Success stories have occurred in every Information Spectrum, Inc., developed an automated
facet of military operation, including Defense manifest system for the military that creates instant
Finance & Accounting. Karpovich said there has receipts and logs necessary information about a
been a big savings in both accuracy and print- shipment’s contents. An optical memory or laser card
A Marine recruit scans input
ing costs. Coding issues, such as unmatched dis- into the computer for instant in a thin credit card format is used and can withstand
bursements, have virtually cleaned themselves transmission using electronic harsh weather or combat conditions. These plastic
data interchange technology.
up. cards required intensive testing; however, a 1994 pro-
DLA is also working on a proactive totype test at Ft. Polk, La., proved that processing re-
approach to anticipate contingency support problems and to im- ceipts could be done in 66 percent less time.
prove peacetime support in a plan dubbed the “Integrated Con- Personnel requirements were cut by more than a third.
sumable Item Support Model.” AMS has since been deployed in Somalia, Haiti, Korea and
SPECIAL NEEDS Yet another tagging approach keeps real-time monitor-
Even property that is being re-purposed can be found via ing available through wireless communication tools. RF tags are
a laptop. The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office in At satellite-monitored and can be read by hand-held scanners with
the Defense Logistics Services Center in Battle Creek, Mich., the precision. A tracking mechanism known as INTRANSIT, or In-
Federal Catalog system assists in the location of more than 6.5 ternational Transportation Information Tracking, records mes-
million active supply items. Related information is available in sages and positions from moving vehicles. This monitoring al-
the Federal Logistics Information System. This is where 150,000 lows for personnel on the receiving end to be prepared with ap-
transactions are logged as stock numbers are checked and re- propriate equipment or staff to move the cargo to its final desti-
checked, codes are verified, shipping and disposal logs are viewed nation. *.