Richmond, Va. –
The Defense Logistics Agency under one name or another has supported warfighter readiness since just after World War II. Today, DLA’s 27,000 employees do their part for readiness on all fronts, including nuclear readiness.
Earlier this year, the Department of Defense issued its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, describing U.S. efforts to maintain security while deterring future threats.
Between 2015 and 2017, DLA invested more than $125 million in additional repair parts inventory to improve its support to the DoD Nuclear Enterprise. This includes maintaining the readiness of the U.S. nuclear triad of submarines, bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
One year later, two DLA personnel at DLA Aviation at Ogden, Utah, reflected on the results of DLA’s investment. Chris Guzman, DLA customer support manager and Travis Nelson, chief of the Storage and Distribution Division, discussed how DLA is improving its support.
Last year, Guzman said the 309th Missile Maintenance Group at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex asked DLA to provide services as if its ICBM launch facilities and control centers were to be inducted into programmed depot maintenance. DLA Aviation at Ogden became the agency’s lead, supporting the industrial customer in the 309th and fielding the first retail support for ICBM PDM.
The PDM initiative launched last year includes depot maintenance planning, financial management and materiel support.
Nelson operates DLA’s point-of-use shop supporting the ICBM launch facility and launch control center PDM efforts at Ogden. He said the idea to develop retail PDM maintenance came from a conversation with the customers who receive parts piecemeal through commercial distribution or transactions, instead of one set with all needed parts. DLA explored ways to provide the customer’s desired level of support.
Determining what DLA could do “was a monumental task,” Nelson said.
“It took a lot of knowledge and research to … ensure [DLA] not only supports customer requirements but does so in the most cost advantageous way,” he said. “Our question was, how do we package and deliver all the needed parts in one fell swoop?”
Nelson said he posed the question to his employees, who came up with the idea of creating a self-contained build set somewhat like a shop service center, with all the parts the mechanics need in one place.
The idea resulted in a developmental package of almost 300 parts approved by the Air Force engineering community, supporting 23 maintenance tasks.
The concept met the 309th’s goal to have parts delivered to the site, by task, enabling depot field teams to do maintenance more efficiently and eliminating supply wait times, Guzman said.
DLA-owned build sets are customized and configured at DLA Aviation at Ogden on Hill Air Force Base. Parts are kept in the DLA wholesale supply chain on the base, ready to replenish retail stock.
“Delivery is based on a program depot maintenance schedule,” Nelson said. “But behind the scenes, we need to work with materiel management and DLA Distribution to ensure materiel is available in the SSC for the build sets before they have to deploy to get to the site on schedule.”
The build set consists of both repairable and consumable parts, transported by DLA Distribution on 48-foot flatbed trucks to launch facilities at Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; and Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
Nelson said the team first had to solve problems caused by a lack of historical use and existing DLA and Air Force stockpiles. They also had to figure out how to maintain inventory integrity in order to bill customers accurately.
He said DLA owns materiel in the build set when it’s sent out, which is different from normal agency inventory management processes where the customer requisitions a part and pays for it before delivery. Here, the Air Force doesn’t own build set parts until it uses them and the service isn’t billed until the build set is inventoried when it returns to Hill Air Force Base. With the new build sets, DLA can now monitor and purchase based on fill and use rates.
When the built sets return from the sites, a full inventory is conducted and the customer is billed for parts used. Then the build set is resupplied and returned to inventory for reissue.
Since last year’s initial collaborations with the Air Force engineering community and first steps to lay out stock for the LF container build sets, both agencies have continually made refinements.
After about three build sets had been sent to the Air Force bases tasked with performing ICBM PDM, the Air Force decided to change from the develop-mental packages to a maintenance bill of materials in late May 2017.
To this day, DLA and Air Force personnel continue modifying the list of needed parts referred to as a bill of materials. DLA Aviation is working with the Air Force revalidating the BOM against its own drawings and technical data part numbers, even while it continues to send the existing containers to the maintainers, who in turn help finesse the required parts and quantities needed as they perform their maintenance tasks.
“Our employees really earn their way; we set challenges, and they help generate solutions,” Nelson said. “The most important skill set my inventory team has is their ability to think innovatively and their willingness to assume accountability.”
Nelson said his employees are constantly on the lookout to verify the correct parts are entering the supply chain. In recent months, they’ve worked with Government Industry Date Exchange Program and DLA Stock Readiness, using multiple databases to identify suspect parts as soon as possible and to ensure those parts don’t get into the supply system.
Guzman said revalidation allows DLA to procure specific nuclear requirements to meet configuration management mandates. It also may soon result in decreased supportability while DLA procures new stock and a temporary situation of old excess stock, but this was a risk the agency was willing to assume to meet the Air Force’s initial needs this past year.
Changes in the BOM may result in additional investment strategies under new or modified contracts.
“Stock levels will be re-baselined after BOM validation,” Guzman said. “Some BOM items are also being considered for inclusion in Captains of Industry/Supplier Capability Contracts and for reverse engineering and organic manufacture processing to shorten procurement lead times.”
Both DLA and the Air Force experienced challenges as the switch to a BOM was made based on inaccurate or insufficient technical data packages, but they worked through the problems. In the first third of 2018, the fill rate for build sets was just over 84 percent.
“In fact, the last three shipments average fill rates of 86.2 percent,” Guzman said.
The initiative has minimized equipment handling, reduced costs for unused items, saved labor hours, raised visibility of parts shortages, guaranteed constant visibility of inventory and reduced storage requirements. DLA Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams awarded this cross-functional team his Director’s Strategic Goals: Process Excellence Award for its efforts.
The internal team consists of personnel working at DLA Distribution Hill; DLA Aviation at Ogden’s Storage and Distribution Branch, Material Management Branch and Planning and Support Branch; and the DLA Aviation Nuclear Enterprise Support Office.
The implementation of LF PDM was a collaboration among DLA’s suppliers, customers and three of its major subordinate commands that provide parts support for the build sets. DLA Aviation supplies 63 of the needed items, each identified by a national stock number. DLA Troop Supportsupplies 129 items, and DLA Land and Maritime supplies 26.
Despite their success, the team is always looking for improvements. One is to buy single items to meet build-set needs, Guzman said.
“During proof of principle, DLA had to put a box of 100 pieces in the containers for a task requiring one bolt,” he explained. “Now the activity can put in one bolt, billed as part of indirect costs of the integrated prime vendor contract for that part instead of the customer having to submit a requisition for 100 parts that may sit around.”
Performance improvements continue to increase ahead of this April BOM revalidation, with the introduction this past August of an Air Force-managed depot-level reparable into the build set: the Launch Equipment Room Shock Isolator.
Adding LER SIs increased the number of bolts, screws and nuts used in the build set to attach the LER SI. Removing an old LER SI from the LF and replacing it with a LER SI DLR allows DLA Distribution to pick up the LER SI carcass as it’s pulled from the silo and return it to Hill Air Force Base without waiting for all maintenance to be completed and the build set container to be returned to DLA Aviation at Ogden. This enables faster reinduction of the LER SI into the supply system.
Another problem with using build sets to perform PDM is the actual time the build set is at the Air Force wing location. Guzman said the maintenance totals 51 flow days. Flow days are measured from when the site is opened and maintenance begins until repairs are completed. DLA sends out the build sets a week before maintenance starts.
“There are sometimes delays that are weather related, due to Air Force schedule adjustments, or competition for resources, guards and technicians,” Guzman said.
Because delays happen for a variety of reasons, DLA Aviation has 12 LF build sets available and will send three to four sets to a site depending on the site’s maintenance schedule needs. Each build set is designed to support one PDM for an LF — the missile silos and the attached buildings — or for an LCC, where the crew stands watch and, if ordered, launches the missile.
The ICBMs are now on an eight-year cycle of PDM for 450 launch facilities and 45 launch-control centers.
While DLA Aviation has been delivering LF build sets the past year, build and delivery of sets supporting maintenance of LCC are still pending an Air Force start date.
Editor’s Note – Learn more about ICBM PDM in the May-June 2017 Loglines story “Sustain and Deter.”