Process Improvement helps get food to troops overseas faster

By John Dwyer III DLA Troop Support Corporate Communications

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Napoleon Bonaparte has been credited with saying that “an Army marches on its stomach.”

As key players in making sure the military has the food they need to literally sustain America’s armed forces, employees from the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Subsistence supply chain understand the importance of that concept. And when they saw potential to improve their process to feed the warfighter faster, they called in the Continuous Process Improvement Office to assist.

The goal was to improve the timely delivery of Unitized Group Rations-A Option - food items for troops to be prepared in field conditions meant to sustain personnel during worldwide operations.

It began with a process map - a detailed diagram of end-to-end actions and coordination from service request to food delivery – made by the CPI office.

The map showed all stakeholders and their interactions from item request through delivery to a deployed location. It also showed the stakeholders how each of their partners’ actions affected each step, and in turn, their effects on delivery times.

“It opened up the whole process,” Nancy Thomas, a Subsistence tailored vendor logistics specialist on the UGR-A project, said. “Having it outlined in detail was an eye-opener.”

Prior to this effort, employees would receive a food order from overseas, process the request and order the items, according to Subsistence branch chief Thomas Hall.

However, other steps in ordering and delivery weren’t well defined, and as process owners with the responsibility to get the right items to the right place at the right time, Hall said they needed to dig deeper to find efficiencies.

The process map was a key to that.

“The process map and value stream shows not just the interactions, but also where opportunities for added value lie,” John Herzer, a CPI project support supervisor and branch chief, said. “It’s a holistic approach to identifying issues and finding efficiencies that we wanted to share so that stakeholders could see that they weren’t just a part of a process, but internal customers to each other in the logistics chain.”

From there, the Subsistence team met with all of the stakeholders identified by the process map to share the “30,000 foot” picture and start focusing on how they could partner to improve the process.

Herzer said that he and the Subsistence team traveled overseas to meet with key customers, and to five different states to visit industry partners. On the trips, the team shared their findings and learned from the other key players.

Members from the UGR-A project said that communication was the biggest thing to have come out of the project to produce better results. Hall agreed.

“It was critical to have communication,” Hall said. “It was critical to have a team approach. It was no longer ‘your problem’ or ‘my problem.’ Everyone really took the problems on as their own.”

After the initial meeting, the Subsistence team began meeting regularly with stakeholders to discuss UGR-A items requested, purchased and delivered to keep that communication flowing.

They also coordinated with customers and vendors to modify timeline requirements by providing set timeframes to request and schedule transport. This allowed other stakeholders to plan in advance based on a fixed point in time, Thomas said.

Thanks to the CPI process map and Subsistence’s team approach, UGR-A deliveries are now meeting nearly 100 percent of their delivery dates, Hall said.

Subsistence Readiness Division Chief Navy Cmdr. Andy Henwood expects the process used and positive results to have even more positive impacts across the supply chain.

“The knowledge we have gained about our manufacturing and transportation processes over the course of this project will undoubtedly lead to improved delivery times across the board,” Henwood said.

And in improving the delivery times, Troop Support’s Subsistence team continues to meet their mission and ensure the warfighters march with full stomachs.