News | Oct. 24, 2017

Face-to-face interactions, encourage relationship building, improve warfighter support

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs

In these days of electronic communications, do you ever wonder if talking face-to-face would produce better results?  Two years ago when the Defense Contract Management Agency’s Dallas, Texas, office was struggling to meet its on-time-delivery goal, the then Dallas commander, Army Col. Anthony Wizner,  had just that thought and reached out to Navy Capt. Robert Keating, director, Supplier Operations Commodities, Defense Logistics Agency Aviation and the directorates’ s  Chief of Contract Administration Robert Baker.

About 40 percent of DCMA’s business at its Contract Management Office in Dallas is generated through DLA Aviation contracts. That one phone call has increased interactions between the two agencies, resulting in better communications that aligned business processes to ensure the right products are delivered to the warfighter at the right time.

“DCMA has an internal performance requirement to try to achieve 75 percent on-time-delivery from their top DCMA 500 highest volume suppliers,” said Wizner.  “For Dallas that is roughly 22-25 suppliers we try to manage each month to improve OTD.   To make sufficient OTD improvements, DCMA, DLA Aviation and our suppliers needed to be in sync on contract issues. We needed to get together to ensure we were communicating contract changes to each other and executing the intent of DLA Aviation, the contracting agency.”

Baker said that phone call also spawned DLA Aviation’s first visit to Texas in December 2015. He said he has since been back three times, twice to visit manufacturers/suppliers, and once to share the customer perspective at a DCMA Dallas Supervisors Fiscal Year Planning Off-Site Forum.

“The initial and subsequent visits solidified the partnership between DLA Aviation and DCMA Dallas showing all concerned that we are ‘one government team.’” Said Keating. “We needed to increase our engagements at the CMO level across all of DCMA to share our processes/procedures and specifically explain our focus on delinquent contracts with unfilled orders.  We believed that if we engaged at this level, we could make dramatic improvements in reducing our delinquent contracts and backorders - which has been the case.”

Wizner left his position as Dallas commander in Oct. 2016 to become DCMA’s Central Region commander.  His replacement, Army Col. Lamont Hall, continues to support the one government team and one voice with DCMA’s Dallas suppliers. 

The visits have continued and expanded with the latest occurring Oct. 12 in Syracuse, New York.   Baker met with personnel in DCMA’s CMO in Syracuse and with JGB Enterprises in Liverpool, New York, to recognize JGB for their improvement in on-time delivery from 70 percent to 95 percent over the past year.

The visits provide an opportunity for DCMA’s industrial specialists and quality assurance representatives to meet and discuss priorities with DLA Aviation’s contracting officers and other agency senior leaders. Before these meetings happened, DCMA had focused primarily on contract delivery dates without necessarily knowing of changes or issues affecting readiness that caused delays on other contracts while DLA Aviation’s contract administrators were focused on contracts with backorders as those items were urgently needed by our warfighters.  They were also meeting separately with suppliers and at times sending mixed messages.

“This is the human engineering piece of the collaboration,” said Wizner. “When all you know about someone is from sending emails to them, you don’t have a personal relationship with them. They are just some other person on the line making demands.   When you spend three days with people, you are able to start building rapport so when that person calls you to say here’s my issue, it isn’t just someone you don’t know.   The visits brought the personal aspect into being a government team member and we are seeing the benefits of that.”

The activities’ combined goal was to improve on-time delivery and reduce delinquent contracts.  

“We needed to figure out how we aligned our businesses to deliver the product to the warfighter. Were we chasing the right things, the same things?” asked Baker. “Over a year’s time, we improved OTD and saw a 64 percent reduction for delinquent contracts for the Top 5 DLA Aviation/DCMA Dallas suppliers.  We achieved these reductions by DLA actions to clean up items we owed DCMA or suppliers, and then by establishing coordinating telephone calls with DCMA before engaging in combined government/supplier weekly or bi-weekly phone calls.”

Wizner points to Malone’s CNC Machining, Inc., located in Grove, Oklahoma, as an example of the successful new approach. Malone’s is a machine shop that uses computer numerical controls to build components supporting the EC-3 Sentry, KC-135 Stratotanker and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and is one of DCMA’s Top 500 suppliers.

“Malone’s began winning about 75 percent of the contracts they were bidding on,” Wizner said. “DCMA was able to see all of Malone’s deliveries starting in Sept. – Nov.  2016, they were showing 400 percent more schedule deliveries than they had ever done before.  The company production capacity was maxed out.”

Wizner said DCMA was trying to send signals to DLA that the supplier wanted to do a good job and that they are a high performer.  

In 2016, Malone’s OTD was 60 percent of its capability. Jackie Bandy, Malone’s materials supervisor, said the company grew from 372 active contracts in 2014 to approximately 932 in 2016 and that growth really boomed when they took on what they called the B-52 project, which requires overhaul of the B-52 flaps.    

Malone’s President Don Malone said he likes being involved with new projects and newly released items, working through challenges with both the procurement and fabrication process.  “Having years of experience with DLA Aviation, I am proud to be one of the top DLA Aviation suppliers.  We are focusing on continuing and strengthening our relationship with DLA Aviation and DCMA, looking forward to many new rewarding projects in the future.”  

Darrin Sutterfield and Mary Lou Gomez, two DCMA industrial specialists who monitor Malone’s contracts and production schedules, agreed that the contract volume flowing through the company was very daunting. 

 “On average they were being awarded 50-70 contracts a month and probably shipping close to that number as well,” said Sutterfield.

Baker went out with DCMA representatives to meet with the president of Malone’s in 2016.  According to Bandy, the visit was a result of Malone’s being on DLA Top 10 delinquency watch list, while simultaneously becoming one of DLA Aviation’s top 20 suppliers. 

“We looked at everything on order and established a normal production schedule focused on the most critical items and partial deliveries,” said Baker. “These orders were tactical orders of high volume, so we are also looking at moving from tactical to strategic buys.” Bandy said they suggested that the number of orders could be decreased by grouping items into ‘market baskets’ of like items and that they have noticed a positive impact with the creation of the baskets over the last year.

Malone’s did add another production facility to meet the high volume of demand after the visit and over a four-to-five month period of time, their delinquent contracts were reduced by 22 percent and their OTD increased to 95.45 percent as of March 2017, according to Baker.

 “Travelling to meet each other and putting faces together [is a good thing for the] bottom line,” said Sutterfield.  “When suppliers see the command staff, directors and the chief of staff come out to visit them, it lets them see the importance the government is placing on them and makes them try that much harder to reduce delinquencies and increase OTD.”

Malone’s Contract Administrator Jeanette Bandy agrees.   “Having points of contacts that have the ability to problem solve and the willingness to efficiently help has made my everyday contact with both DLA and DCMA a much more streamlined process,” she said. “This has helped me create a process for our requests to be handled quickly with far less delays in getting the end product to the war fighter … [having] the same end goal in mind makes the entire operation move quickly and efficiently and greatly enables Malone’s to not only deliver a quality product, but deliver it on time.”

Baker said since those initial visits to Dallas two years ago, DLA Aviation has forged an even stronger partnership with all three DCMA regional commands.  “They are our ‘eyes and ears,’” he said. “We now have a better understanding of each other’s focus and needs and speak as one voice, one government team, when meeting with the suppliers.”

The combined DCMA/DLA Aviation team also developed a joint priority list which helped them to stop focusing so much on who was administrating which contracts and focused more on DLA Aviation’s changing, real-world commitments.  According to Wizner, DCMA’s focus is still on keeping the bureaucratic bookkeeping of the contracts, but it has expanded to putting resources toward what DLA Aviation cares most about - schedule management, parts specification questions and satisfying backorders.

“We also gave DCMA visibility of our backorders through a monthly open orders report listing the top 200 delinquent orders and passing them to the correct DCMA offices for follow up,” said Baker.  “DCMA can also gather intelligence a month ahead of time to let us know if we need to look for additional supplier sources based on knowledge DCMA has by being our ‘boots on the ground.’”

DCMA also now has access to the DLA Aviation First Article Testing Tracker which allows them to see when FATs are approved or information is needed for ones that have failed.  By giving access to the tracker, Gomez said DCMA’s personnel know results as soon as DLA Aviation does.  This allows them to be proactive with actions they would take based on the results.

“Communication is the key through it all and the relationships continue to mature,” said Baker.

Aero Components, another DCMA Dallas top supplier supporting the F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-130 Hercules aircraft, has also benefited from improved communications and the strengthening of professional ties.

Two years ago, the relationship between the agencies and Aero was strained, according to Baker. Wizner said each agency managed about 50 percent of Aero’s contracts and they weren’t communicating contract changes with each other that were affecting the supplier’s delivery and production. 

DLA Aviation Post-award Contracting Administrator Sherry Graves had just started working with Aero back then and said the company has about 600-800 contracts with DLA Aviation annually.

 “Aero is a big manufacturer of C-130 structural parts,” said Graves. “We get about 70 percent of our C-130 items from them.”  Graves said about two years ago Aero had quite a few delinquencies which was straining the relationship.  She attributes it to a combination of things, to include heavy and changing workloads within DCMA and DLA Aviation that limited the administrator’s ability to focus attention on helping the supplier.

With the increased face-to-face meetings, Graves was able to travel to Aero and DCMA Dallas.  “It was great to put a face to a name and see and talk to the people I work with,” she said.  “I think it makes our relationships stronger and deeper to know who that person actually is. It was great to see the bonding and welding processes to make an aircraft wing and see the parts moving through the plant.”

The travel and efforts to improve relationships with Aero went both ways when Vecki Blake, who works in program support for Aero Components, L.L.C., traveled to DLA Aviation in Richmond in 2015 for one of its annual Aviation Industry Days.   Blake, whose company had over a million dollars tied up in submitted first article testings’ awaiting response from the government, was able to discuss the government delinquency issue as it applied to small businesses and testing facility delays. 

As a result of the meetings, Blake said Graves partnered with DCMA-Dallas and started issuing modifications to extend due dates for the contracts with government response delays.

Graves describes herself as a very aggressive contract administrator, who works closely with the military services’ engineering support activities and test laboratories to get FATs processed so that the supplier can proceed with the manufacturing. “If there are delinquencies or outstanding FAT results, we are going to resolve them,” she said.

The following year, Blake said Keating, Baker, Graves, and DCMA senior leaders visited Aero Component and were able to see significant improvements in receipt of the FAT responses from the government which helped in reducing Aero Component’s contractual delinquencies.

Graves said she has a great relationship with Aero and now follows up with them on a daily basis.

“As a post-award contracting officer, it is my job to ensure the suppliers follow through with their contract responsibilities, help resolve any manufacturing or shipping issues, or make needed contract modifications,” she said.  She said she only considers her work done when material hits the depots, is inspected and stocked and the contract closes.     

 “Aero and DCMA are still focused on on-time delivery, but DLA Aviation is able to issue some extensions on delivery of other items for trade off for expediting backorders,” said Graves. “Backorders are current needs that have to get out to the customers.”

Graves said all DLA Aviation contract administrators now provide the monthly open orders report to their suppliers to help improve the flow of information between all parties.   

To date, Aero Components’ backorders against delinquent contracts is down by 50 percent for 2017, according to Baker. “Aero is also shipping partial deliveries monthly to fill backorders in support of our readiness focus and warfighter first initiatives,” he said.

Baker said the last two years have been a great success in improved relationships with DCMA and our suppliers. 

“DLA Aviation better understands DCMA focus and its top 500 suppliers, and DCMA better understands DLA’s focus and its top 200 delinquent suppliers,” he said.  “In the next year or so, I see increased collaborations occurring between the different DLA major subordinate commands and DCMA to present the one government team in all of our supplier interactions.”