FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
After several years of working in virtual environments with endless emails and meetings on computer screens, many are looking for ways to work together again in the same room.
The Defense Logistics Agency gave its suppliers a chance to meet in-person during the Supply Chain Alliance Conference and Exhibition held earlier this month in Richmond. A help desk also allowed suppliers to ask questions and address issues face-to-face with DLA representatives, said Navy Cmdr. Mike DiProspero, deputy director of pre-award supplier operations commodities for DLA Aviation.
Suppliers could make an appointment or walk up to the desk for assistance in four areas: pre-awards, post awards, technical quality and long-term contracts.
Forty-three appointments were scheduled before the conference, and another 110 suppliers signed up during the two-day event. Thirteen employees from DLA Aviation and DLA Land and Maritime helped provide answers.
“Once suppliers saw that they could interact with a government representative, they started signing up and saw that this would be good opportunity for them and to have a face-to-face opportunity with the government side,” DiProspero said.
The idea to set up an in-person help desk came after a DLA Land and Maritime conference in Columbus, Ohio, last year where agency representatives took questions from suppliers on the spot. Suppliers appreciated the chance to interact with DLA representatives so much that DiProspero said the decision was made to set up a help desk at the conference in Richmond.
DLA is working to increase interaction with its suppliers, said Nicholas Meads, the contracting officer in post award supplier operations at DLA Aviation.
“Meeting face-to-face in this forum helps build a better bond between DLA and the supplier. They like meeting in person, even though you might talk to them every day on the phone,” Meads said.
Some suppliers simply wanted to meet the DLA person they worked with over the phone or through email in the last three years.
DiProspero said he overheard two suppliers marveling after a 15-minute conversation with the help desk at how fast they were able to resolve an issue that had plagued them for months.
“That’s what made me feel like it was worthwhile, knowing that we were able to help a struggling supplier with a DLA issue,” he said.
Some suppliers said the help desk was one of the best parts of the conference, DiProspero said, adding that it is advantageous to have an informed and educated supplier who knows how to submit an offer or post-award request or inquiries.
“I think it’s a win-win for both government and the defense industry because we're all benefiting from this free sharing of information. Having the help desk at future conferences will be a vital part of that cohesion that the defense industry and DLA needs to continue on as we move forward,” he continued.