Troop Support contracting officer makes impact through process improvement

By Mikia Muhammad DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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An unexpected opportunity to take a Lean Six Sigma training class jumpstarted a Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support contracting officer’s process improvement acumen and organizational impact. 

Robert Fagan, a contracting officer with Clothing and Textiles’ heraldic team, led a continuous process improvement project with the potential to be replicated throughout the entire enterprise.

After completing the LSS Green Belt training course in October 2017, Fagan worked with course instructors to address his team’s challenges with effectively filling a high volume of U.S. Army rank insignia and Army service tape orders for utility uniforms in the operational camouflage pattern. Completing this project was a requirement of Fagan becoming LSS Green Belt certified.

“Everybody that wears an Army uniform gets a rank insignia and a service tape, whether it be a private, captain or general,” Fagan said. “This material can’t be on backorder because every soldier needs to have one.”

To keep up with the Army’s ordering demands, C&T needed a solution outside of the supply chain’s typical individual indefinite quantity, and indefinite delivery long-term award contract, with only one vendor fulfilling orders, Fagan explained.

“Our main issue was that we needed to get the material in faster than it would have taken us to award a multiple award, long-term contract,” Fagan said.

Fagan determined that using blanket purchase agreements, a simplified acquisitions tool from the Federal Acquisition Regulation, would be the fastest way to procure the insignia items.

The simplified acquisitions process allows C&T to hold agreements with the four certified vendors for the insignia that could all produce items without being beholden to minimum or maximum order quantities. It also sets ceiling and bulk ordering prices that allows a contracting officer to quickly award a delivery order in a time of urgent need without needing to get quotes.

“The government takes on limited risk using this vehicle because we’re not required to order from it at all since there is no guaranteed minimum,” Fagan said. “However we still get the same volume discount from having a long term contract in place because the delivery orders are competed among all holders.

Using the LSS Green Belt model, Fagan was also able to identify and eliminate stagnancies during contracting review and reduce the entire award process from 279 days to 98 days. By eliminating multiple levels of redundant review, Fagan can manage the entire ordering process as the only contracting officer.

“It’s amazing what a small system can do to improve your workflow,” Fagan said.

Since the agreements have been in place, customers experience on-time delivery, reduced lead times, same item quality, and fair and reasonable pricing, Fagan said. C&T has ordered $2 million worth of rank insignia through the simplified acquisitions process, and actualized $70,000 in cost avoidance due to increased efficiencies, Fagan said.

Fagan currently manages 26 Army rank insignia and the U.S. Army service tape, and said he will ultimately take on orders for 54 Air Force rank insignia. He also has a full workload of both small buys and long term contracts to award on top of these item as one of his team’s two contracting officers.

However, Maximo Ayala, chief of the LSS Training and Project Management Support Branch, believes the new process can be used by even more military services.

“The cost avoidance for this project is $70,000, but the impact to the armed forces is much more,” Ayala said. “It’s a more reliable, more flexible system. The replication possibilities are endless.”

Fagan agreed, as he used the same simplified acquisitions process to order extreme cold weather gear for the Army.

“Now that I have the template, it’s ready to go and really easy to recreate,” he said.

Fagan has a niche for improving systems, as he also helped work with industry partners to develop a modified nylon material to replace rayon fabric for indoor flags, reducing costs per yard from $60 with rayon to $6 with the modified version. This accomplishment earned him a gold medal for the 2019 Federal Executive Board Excellence in Government Awards, Economy in Government Operations category.

Fagan has worked in C&T for nearly four years, starting as an intern in the DLA Pathways to Career Excellence Program.

He credits the LSS Green Belt training for giving him the tools to complete his initial insignia project.

“The green belt class helped give me the confidence to do this kind of project,” Fagan said. “From the skills I learned there, I knew that I would have support some place if I ever ran into a road block, I could always go to the CPI office [LSS training team] and get it ironed out.”

Green belt classes are offered twice a year in April and October. Employees interested in attending a class can talk to their supervisors and sign up through the Learning Management System.