Subsistence STORES update improves customer service, cataloging process

By Alexandria Brimage-Gray Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support

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After several years of working to improve the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence’s customer item request and cataloging process, a solution has been identified with potential for future capability development.

Subsistence rolled out their improved Subsistence Total Order and Receipt Electronic System to all of its continental United States prime vendors and customers in June, and plans are underway for a fall rollout to prime vendors outside the continental United States, Evan Newpher-Lockard, a Subsistence commodity specialist, said.

“This is definitely something the customers may not have known they wanted, but they are getting it and they are excited about it,” Kevin Burza, Subsistence Standardization and Cataloging branch chief said.

STORES is a web-based portal that enables customers, vendors and Subsistence employees to place and receipt orders, develop catalogs and exchange information.

Burza said that when the project started, the goal was to eliminate the problem Subsistence had with required documentation not being present.

The Subsistence Standardization and Cataloging branch partnered with the Defense Logistics Agency’s Information Operations team to improve the item request process in in STORES and resolve the issue.

Scott Koch, a project integrator with DLA Information Operations said that the file type and manual process they were using had certain constraints, so it made more sense to build [the documentation process] interactively into STORES.

“This process removes Subsistence’s concerns that vendors were requesting stock numbers … without a bona fide customer need for it,” Koch said. 

Now, Koch said, the customer request justification, documentation and process steps are all centralized and streamlined in STORES.

According to Burza, the new update has much greater potential than just solving that problem.

Koch describes the new STORES platform as having a well-integrated and diverse set of functionality for the creation and maintenance of all customer requests.

“The new functionality includes a set of screens that are integrated into many processes that the user - whether they are a vendor, customer or Subsistence employee - is required to complete to ensure customer requirements and needs are being met,” he said.

Now that all of the manual functions conducted by the Subsistence team are built into the new platform, Koch is looking into ways to expand documentation storage such as labels.

Previously, labels identifying new item specifications were submitted and approved outside of STORES. Now, Koch said, they can be uploaded.

“[Labels] are stored in the STORES database along with the customer’s item request to be reviewed by anybody in the process instantaneously without having to review folders on share drives, which is pretty cumbersome for the amount of requests being received,” Koch said.  

And he sees potential for more positive changes down the road.

“In the future we want to be able to provide customers a capability where they can click on the stock number and see the nutritional label of the product. [Also], internal auditors can see that the vendors are providing the product that they are contractually required to,” Koch said.

Newpher-Lockard believes the traceability provided by the new capabilities in STORES has already been a win.

“People can put comments in there, so if gets rejected or if there’s a question, it can all be tracked,” Newpher-Lockard said. “DLA, the customer and the vendor can see where a certain request is, and in what stage of the process.”  

Newpher-Lockard added that the new capabilities will hold everyone in the chain accountable.

“It will allow us to see the bottlenecks that are happening, identify the areas that we can fix as an organization and what the vendors can do the speed up the process,” Newpher-Lockard said.

Newpher-Lockard said that the next phased rollout of the improved STORES system is scheduled in hopes that all prime vendors will use the system to make requests.