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News | Feb. 23, 2021

FRCE makes huge gains in high-priority backorders

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East

When it comes to meeting the needs of the warfighter, Fleet Readiness Center East has made great strides in focusing efforts on critical needs and reducing the wait for high-priority items. By incorporating process changes and data visualization tools, the facility has reduced accountable backorders by 76 percent and high-priority backorders by 77 percent since the start of fiscal year 2019.

“We’re improving our delivery of high-priority items to the fleet, which is increasing readiness on the user end,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “By revamping our existing processes and introducing some new ones, we’ve been able to reduce the number of high-priority backorders by more than three-quarters since the start fiscal year 2019, and that’s a huge improvement. I couldn’t be more proud of the work being done in support of naval aviation by our people and our partners.”

Melissa Churchill, Performance Operations Division director with FRCE’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Production Department, said putting an emphasis on fulfilling both accountable backorders and high-priority backorders has yielded great results in terms of meeting the requirements of our nation’s Navy and Marine Corps aviators.

“The bottom line is that we’ve been able to focus on the items the fleet really needs, and do a much better job returning those items,” she said. “It makes a huge impact on readiness.”

In order for an item to be considered an accountable backorder, it must fall within certain parameters, Churchill said: The item must be funded through Naval Supply Weapon Systems Support and there must be a part available for induction and repair. An item becomes a high-priority backorder – an Issue Priority Group 1, or IPG-1 – based on a force activity designator, which is a classification assigned in relation to several factors, including the requesting unit’s deployability.

The positive downward trend began with the introduction of Naval Sustainment System initiatives at FRCE during the fall of 2018, Churchill said. At the beginning of October of that year, accountable backorders sat at 2,235, and IPG-1s sat at 447. One of the changes brought about by NSS – daily “tier” meetings that start at the shop level and extend all the way through the department level – helped bring together the right stakeholders to tackle the inhibitors causing delays. Weekly production briefings to the command team bring into focus the issues most detrimental to warfighter readiness.

“The focus on what we need to produce these parts, on a daily and weekly basis, is what has really driven these numbers down,” Churchill noted.

At the Tier 1 level, shop supervisors meet with representatives from Defense Logistics Agency Aviation at Cherry Point, facilities and maintenance, engineering and other areas that support production and problem-solving.

“Everyone you need to discuss production issues affecting the shop right now, they’re there,” Churchill said. “And then any issues that they can’t solve at the shop level, after exhausting all their possibilities, they elevate to the second tier, to the branch. And then it’s the same process all the way up.”

The weekly production meetings with the command suite places special attention on any component that has more than two high-priority backorders on the books. During these meetings, the stakeholders provide real-time information related to the issues at hand, using data visualization tools rather than traditional briefing formats. This visual dashboard makes it easy to see where FRCE faces production challenges on any given week.

“You can see where we’re on track or off track, and you can really start drilling down into the data,” Churchill said. “You can look in the notes and see where we stand on each component and what actions are being taken to increase production: what’s the status of material inhibitors; what are the facilities issues that might be slowing us down, and so on. And any stakeholder can go in and update the information, so we have notes from the DLA point of contact that address any material issues. We also have DLA representation at the briefings, as well.”

Integrating DLA Aviation at Cherry Point into the process has made a world of difference in FRCE’s ability to deliver on the high-priority backorders, Churchill explained.

“DLA has been instrumental in this entire effort,” she said. “We’ve worked really closely with DLA to focus on these high-priority back orders and identify the specific parts that are the material inhibitors for producing those components.”

The new process initiatives instituted by FRCE have had a positive effect on DLA Aviation at Cherry Point’s ability to support FRCE production, said Cdr. Isaac May, the activity’s commander.

“The changes have encouraged more collaboration between FRCE and DLA than we’ve had since the DLA retail mission began at Cherry Point in 2014. Daily engagements at every level of the organization have allowed us to get in front of problems, swarm them and prevent future occurrences,” May said. “The collaborative team continues to find new and better ways to utilize the engagements for further improvements. We couldn’t be more excited about the resulting benefits coming our way.”

May said his organization has also developed and improved numerous tools and engagements aimed at preventing backorders. A new material supportability analysis tool compares forecasted piece part production requirements against the DLA procurement pipeline to identify supportability gaps, which allows DLA planners to focus time and effort on the biggest challenges on the horizon. May’s organization also created an operations cell focused on the largest planning and material management issues by portfolio that leverages unique elevation avenues within DLA supply chain procurement teams and industry.

Churchill said she expects the focus on high-priority backorders to continue through 2021.

“I think our next goal is to keep reducing the number of IPG-1s,” she said. “Ideally we’ll get to the point where any component that has even one IPG-1, we’re looking at the exact status of what we’ve got in work right now, and what we need to finish it. I think that’s always the goal.”

May said DLA Aviation at Cherry Point stands ready to support that goal.

“The past year has been extremely challenging, but we couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments of the FRCE and DLA Aviation at Cherry Point team,” he said. “We have overcome and learned from those challenges and they have made us stronger and more prepared for whatever 2021 has in store for us. We’re excited for all we’ll accomplish over the next year and the combat air power the collective team will continue to generate for our incredible Marine and Navy forces.”

Above all, Churchill said, FRCE’s most important priority remains delivering quality products when the warfighter needs them most.

“We’re here to ensure the squadrons and the wings are getting what they need to maintain readiness,” she explained. “The goal is that, at the end of the day, we have given them what they need.”

FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the U.S. Navy website.