When an internal audit revealed potential inefficiencies in the way Industrial Hardware processed customer inquiries about deficient materiel, one employee capitalized on the opportunity to improve.
Andrew Nemeth, a quality assurance specialist with the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s IH supply chain, realized that small and frequent “fix actions” to the Product Quality Deficiency Reporting process weren’t working, and it created frustration for employees. So, Nemeth approached the process with a focus on communication that his team and counterparts could understand.
“I didn’t want to show up to the table and just say ‘I think we should do it this way,’” Nemeth said. “I wanted to come up with reasons why this change would work.”
The PQDR process creates a communication channel between DLA Troop Support and the customer when there’s an issue with IH contracted items such as packaging discrepancies, damages in shipment or manufacturing errors.
“Basically, if customers [or military members] have issues with materiel, [PQDR] is a way for them to return it, alert us to what’s going on and get it fixed,” Nemeth said.
Nemeth admitted that implementing changes to the process wasn’t easy, but taking the time to coordinate the right change with his technical quality team and IH’s post award contracting officers, who deal with industry providers after a contract is awarded, was key. .
“Once we got to a point of ‘This is how we’re doing it,’ then I went to my team and brought it all up,” Nemeth said. “I showed them exactly what was changing so there was no rumor about how, when or what things were changing.”
One change, he said, was in guidance used from another DLA entity that operated differently and required the post award team to communicate technical specifications on IH’s post award team of contracting officers – a role better suited for Nemeth’s technical quality team.
“Even though post award is very knowledgeable, they aren’t [tech quality] based,” Nemeth said. “And when [manufacturers] dig into the weeds about [specifications], standards, dimensions and tolerances, [post award employees] are just not as well versed as quality people.”
Nemeth worked with his counterparts in the post award division and changed the internal guidance to allow his team to provide the technical information sent to contractors in a formal notification letter, and the post award team facilitated contractor conversations.
“It simplified communications and really helped to cut down unnecessary questions, speeding up the process for both us and [the post award team],” Nemeth said.
Timothy MacDonald, a product specialist on IH’s tech quality team, understood Nemeth’s direction and helped improve oversight of PQDR actions involving IH’s post award process, where contracting officers had the task of communicating with contract awardees to help resolve the reported deficiency.
“The whole intent of the task was to ensure that post award was involved and dealing with the contractor properly … to ensure the communication flow,” MacDonald said.
Once MacDonald noticed tasks that required post award action were being missed, he keyed in on Nemeth’s communication methodology and created a report through Troop Support’s electronic workflow system, a capability discovered by working through system limitations. He then began coordinating with the post award team every week.
This coordination resulted in more than 90 percent assurance that PQDR tasks were getting the required action – a much better rate than previous solutions offered.
Nemeth also streamlined inter- and intra-office coordination by streamlining letter formats that were used to communicate PQDR receipt, progress and resolution since each of IH’s four tech quality teams used varying versions.
“[The letters] were all basically saying the same thing, but differently,” Nemeth said. “So one of the things I wanted to push was a uniform response in everything we do.”
Additionally, Nemeth said, the PQDR improvement process resulted in better coordination on cases involving evaluation of potential financial restitution from manufacturers, if warranted.
But even if restitution isn’t pursued, the team still finds resolution for the warfighter and maintains accountability for the taxpayer, Nemeth said.
“We still investigate the materiel,” he said. “We still find the root cause. We’ll still make sure that the materiel after that doesn’t have any issues.”
For more information on PQDR, you can visit the Troop Support IH Quality Assurance website, or the Naval Sea Systems Command PQDR application page.