For new employees, “learning the ropes” can be a challenge. So leaders in the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Industrial Hardware supply chain found a way to help set up certain new employees for success.
Developed in 2018, the IH Material Planning training branch took a cue from IH’s Technical and Quality Division and helped standardize training and “build the bench” of more skilled, knowledgeable interns and employees in the Pathways to Career Excellence program, or PaCErs.
It started when Andrea Woodring, former IH Materiel Planning Division chief and training branch developer, noticed differences in the speed of knowledge absorption and depth of information interns and PaCErs were getting compared to the interns and PaCErs in Tech/Quality Division’s training branch.
“[Planners] were all being trained differently,” Woodring said. “I wanted everyone to learn things the same way - the DLA-way – first … and for the most part, it has been very successful.”
To make it happen, Woodring got the buy-in of her leadership and material planning team to internally reorganize her division and create the new training branch for all the interns and PaCErs in her division. To lead her new branch, she chose Supervisory Inventory Management Specialist Susan Hill.
“I felt it would be a really good fit for me being a new supervisor,” Hill said. “Having just come from material planning in Construction and Equipment, my knowledge and experience was something I hoped could easily transfer.”
Hill said the training branch provides a more comfortable learning environment where collaboration is encouraged and peer-assisted training reinforces skills and builds confidence in seasoned interns and PaCErs.
Material planners in the current PaCEr and intern group agree that the format has helped.
“We’re all at different knowledge levels, so we’re all able to help,” Alyssa Greco, a material planning PaCEr in Hill’s training branch, said. “That’s important. It really helps the training.”
The new branch still uses the PaCE training guide to ensure core tasks are covered, Hill said. But under focused leadership instead of individual trainers with differently prioritized workloads, they can shift the task order and learn together as mission priorities like fighter aircraft readiness nuclear systems support arise.
Material planner Stephanie Nguyen was a PaCEr in IH before the training branch stood up, and is now in it. She says the cadre of trainers, focus on uniform training and workload management has made a more positive training experience.
“It’s a good balance,” Nguyen said. “You’re definitely learning things that you didn’t learn before.”
Other PaCErs outside of IH have noticed the difference too.
“When we start answering questions in our PaCEr classes, a lot of people are like, ‘Are you on Susan’s team?’” Greco said. “They kind of see … we’re so much further ahead.”
While the Material Planning division is not the first division in IH to take this challenge on, Jose Pereira, IH Tech/Quality Division chief, hopes it becomes a trend.
“We re-organized Tech/Quality to try and provide more well-footed PaCErs – to build our bench and provide solid foundational training for DLA’s future leaders,” Pereira said. “I’m glad Material Planning is keeping it going, and I can only hope it rolls on to other supply chains. Maybe even other DLA locations.”
Hill and her team are happy with the results of the training branch, and are looking forward to applying lessons learned with the next group of employees.
“I feel like with the next group coming in it will even better,” Nguyen said. “We’ve come a long way.”