Richmond, Va. –
Defense Logistics Agency Aviation senior leaders discussed aircraft sustainment challenges with Leigh Method during her visit Feb. 10 to the DLA Aviation Operations Building on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia.
Method is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for logistics within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, Washington, D.C.
DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig, Gen, David Sanford started the day off reviewing “what DLA Aviation brings to the fight.” Briefings included conversations on the activity’s mission of sustaining aircraft as well as unique missions supporting industrial plant equipment, industrial gases, petroleum and environmental products and providing mapping products for mission planning and navigation.
“If you can figure out class 9 [repair parts] you can figure out anything else,” said Method.
All parties agreed requirements determination can always be improved and Sanford spoke about challenges in forecasting peacetime and wartime requirements.
DLA Aviation Deputy Commander Charlie Lilli said, DLA Aviation is at the heart of readiness; while Sanford highlighted that approximately 45% of his workforce is staged outside of Richmond in forward locations near our customers.
Lilli shared that some weapon systems have items that cross DLA major subordinate commands and that DLA Aviation and DLA Land and Maritime are codependent on each other to meet customer requirements.
Method stressed the need for close customer collaboration and said, “don’t just let the machines [business systems] run the requirements.”
Brian Gray, with DLA Aviation – Finance, Kent Ennis, DLA Aviation’s director of Planning, and Spencer Shaffer, director of Business Process Support covered the impact of past inventory buildups to meet the services’ needs, impacts of buying during COVID-19, and how Defense Working Capital Fund constraints are impacting our mission and actions the activity has proactively taken to reduce impacts.
DLA Aviation actions include reducing order quantities and safety stock, constraining material replacement rate to 85-90% on the dollar, prepositioning material receipts from 18 to 30 months to reduce open or aged stock transfer orders and extending payment terms to 30 days for eligible vendors.
Shaffer said, “Some of our best innovations is to just ask why [are we doing it like this?]
Ennis said through actions like those above, DLA Aviation has shaved off $131 million on obligation authority and $90 million in inventory reductions.
Method said she is less concerned with the size of the inventory than “do agencies know what there is and what their plans are for it,” urging agencies to be able to “paint a clean line from the data to their decisions.”
Related to the need to get the correct intelligence on requirements is the need to ensure the activity’s priorities match the military services.
Sanford said we need more discussions between the services and DLA on which weapon systems are most important to the fight now and in the future to ensure we are prioritizing buys for the right parts. Method agreed, saying that commodities and the repair side of the business is key to the ability to “fight tonight.”
Echoing Lilli’s earlier comment, Shaffer said his Business Process Directorate is at the heart of the DLA Aviation’s processes and fosters environments challenging processes which Method said have been updated over time (through continuous process improvement) to fit needs.
One DLA Aviation process improvement yielding savings is last year’s self-initiated pilot program developing local analysts to create robotic process automation programs. Their efforts have yielded four automated processes, saving more than 5,000 labor hours to date.
Method thought this was a fantastic initiative and referred to opening discussions on the future of work and growing human capital.
“I can hire any data scientist and teach them logistics; but I can’t make every logistician a data scientist,” she said and added that the idea of developing homegrown functional designers and automation developers in logistics is an idea that the sustainment community should explore.
The morning briefings included discussions on diminishing manufacturing sources and how DLA Aviation addresses parts obsolescence. Method shared that her office will be issuing new Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages policy this year and she would like more discussions with the DLA Aviation team on its strategic innovations and last resort options.
Cathy Contreras, DLA Aviation’s acquisition executive, along with Chris Davis, director of Strategic Acquisition Programs, highlighted contracting vehicles that bring efficiencies and speed to the process, allowing integration with the military services adding their specific needs to the existing contracts, while DLA Aviation serves as the contracting vehicle to help meet those requirements.
Discussions wrapped up with updates on service collaborations, DLA Aviation efforts to follow commercial best practices and cost savings achieved by making the most of used serviceable material as a substitute for purchasing new spare parts.
After breaking for lunch, DLA Installation Management Richmond Chief of Installation Management Adrianne Moore gave Method a tour of the installation, sharing the installation’s history, highlighting DLA and non-DLA tenants, and future construction and facility improvements.