Land Supplier Operations achieves Nine Year Material Availability High

By James Harless

PRINT  |  E-MAIL

With more than 2.15 million servicemen and women serving in more than 160 countries and nearly 4,800 defense sites, the United States Armed Forces demand for material and supplies is as great as ever before.

Man performs vehicle maintenance
U.S. Army Spc. Javier Long, wheel mechanic, HHC, 13th ESC, inspects a Humvee before beginning maintenance service on it Aug. 5, 2019. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cox 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) VIRIN: 190805-A-HT688-987
Man performs vehicle maintenance
Routine Vehicle Inspection
U.S. Army Spc. Javier Long, wheel mechanic, HHC, 13th ESC, inspects a Humvee before beginning maintenance service on it Aug. 5, 2019. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cox 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) VIRIN: 190805-A-HT688-987
Photo By: James Harless
VIRIN: 190805-A-HT688-987
With members of the DoD serving throughout the world, often in some of the most isolated and dangerous locations the ability to deliver mission critical material and supplies becomes drastically important and far more difficult.

The responsibility of meeting that growing need falls upon the shoulders of the associates at Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime at the Defense Supply Center Columbus, in Ohio.

In order to meet the growing needs of the Warfighter, DLA has tasked the Land Supplier Operations directorate with the mission to execute strategic affordable acquisition and logistic solutions for America’s Warfighter through effective stewardship built upon a culture focused on our valued team members and Warfighter First! This mission is achieved by increasing material availability, reducing backorders, timely award, on time delivery and reducing suspended stock.

The associates at the Land Supplier Operations directorate have proven they’re ready to carry out their mission, and just recently achieved their highest material availability rating in more than nine years. When the month of June came to an end the directorate achieved a 91% material availability rating as they successfully fulfilled 135,637 of 147,430 of the orders they received during the month of June.

As Director of Land Supplier Operations, U.S. Army Colonel Robert C. Murray, with 25-years of active duty service who previously served as the Director of the U.S. Army International Technology Center–Canada, Combat Capabilities Development Command, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, has been responsible for leading that charge over the past twelve months. His directorate is comprised of four distinct divisions consisting of the Vehicle Sustainment Division, Batteries/Tires/Engines Division, Armament & Industrial Product Support Division and Contracting Support Division.

Vehicles lined up ready for patrol.
Soldiers assigned to G Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division maintain mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAP) at the maintenance distribution yard on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford 101st Airborne Division (AA) Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs VIRIN: 190214-A-MC988-783
Vehicles lined up ready for patrol.
Vehicle Depot
Soldiers assigned to G Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division maintain mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAP) at the maintenance distribution yard on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford 101st Airborne Division (AA) Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs VIRIN: 190214-A-MC988-783
Photo By: James Harless
VIRIN: 190214-A-MC988-783

When combined these four divisions consist of 374 associates who collectively manage more than 400 thousand National Stock Numbers, execute more than 450 thousand contracts that supply more than 2 million items totaling more than $1.6B in annual sales.

When asked about the directorate’s recent success, Murray without hesitation immediately gave praise to his team and colleagues at DLA Land and Maritime.

“It was a team effort, it wasn’t just one or two people within Land Supplier Operations,” Murray said.

“This achievement is a direct result of all the hard work and dedicated effort of all those across the Land and Maritime enterprise, we couldn’t have achieved this alone,” he added.

At the end of each month the Land Supplier Operations directorate reviews their metrics to make a final determination of their material availability rating; simply put, material availability is having on our shelves ready to issue to the Warfighter when they need it. 

“In order to officially calculate our material availability rating for the month, we use a formula that essentially takes the number of orders we successfully filled, and then divide that by the total number of orders we received in the month,” said Heath Berkshire, Vehicle Sustainment Division Chief. 

When asked to clarify the process Berkshire stated “a backorder is simply an order that we were unable to fulfil at the time the Warfighter placed the order, due to the part being unavailable for a multitude of reasons.”

“The easiest way to think of material availability is to imagine 100 customers going into an auto parts store with very specific and often unique needs.  Well, we were able to immediately meet 91 of those customers’ needs,” Berkshire added.

Two men working on a vehicle.
U.S. Army Spc. George Borja, a member of the security force team for the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team assigned to Forward Operating Base Farah, Afghanistan, helps Spc. Sean Riley, also a security force member for the PRT, change a flat tire on an M1151 up-armoured Humvee during a mission to conduct a quality assessment of the Shaikh Mahmood Canal Road construction project, Dec. 28, 2009. "The surface we drove on was the base and it looked fairly good," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. David Glass, the chief engineer for the PRT. "There were a few trouble spots that need to be improved before they put on the class 5 clay and gravel topcoat," Glass said. The Humvee tire deflated just before the convoy arrived at the Sheik Mahmood Canal Road, which provided an even surface to change the tire. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Tracy DeMarco VIRIN: 091228-F-#####-056
Two men working on a vehicle.
Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah
U.S. Army Spc. George Borja, a member of the security force team for the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team assigned to Forward Operating Base Farah, Afghanistan, helps Spc. Sean Riley, also a security force member for the PRT, change a flat tire on an M1151 up-armoured Humvee during a mission to conduct a quality assessment of the Shaikh Mahmood Canal Road construction project, Dec. 28, 2009. "The surface we drove on was the base and it looked fairly good," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. David Glass, the chief engineer for the PRT. "There were a few trouble spots that need to be improved before they put on the class 5 clay and gravel topcoat," Glass said. The Humvee tire deflated just before the convoy arrived at the Sheik Mahmood Canal Road, which provided an even surface to change the tire. U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Tracy DeMarco VIRIN: 091228-F-#####-056
Photo By: James Harless
VIRIN: 091228-F-WX123-156
These numbers directly impact the Warfighter being able to accomplish their mission. When orders go unfulfilled, vehicles are unable to move, weapons unable to fire and communication turns to silence, lives become endangered and the mission is placed in jeopardy.

Murray noted “It's critical that our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving our Nation have the material there when they need it to accomplish the mission”  

“We must keep a ‘Fight Tonight’ mindset when we conduct our day-to-day operations in support of the Warfighter,” Murray said.

“When you consider we fulfill orders that keep the Warfighter ready to execute mission, you quickly realize the urgency and importance of material availability,” he added.

When asked what they believe has directly contributed to the recent success of the Land Supplier Operations directorate, both Murray and Berkshire referenced the Champions Initiative. The Champions Initiative was instituted by Don Schulze when he took over as the Deputy Director for Land Supplier Operations last July.

“The program established ownership and allowed our directorate to focus on multiple areas, which provided guidance to our associates, made things more fluid in tough areas that we were struggling in and as a result improved our monthly material availability,” Murray said.

The Champion model assigns senior level associates to key metric areas or elements and are then tasked with monitoring and providing recommended solutions for those assigned key areas.

Schulze, who has served DLA for more than 29 years and previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Director of Maritime Customer Operations, stated the concept came from DLA Land and Maritime’s Council Champions, he simply borrowed from an already proven and effective practice, took and applied it to Land Supplier Operations.

As part of the Champions Initiative, Berkshire was designated as the SuperKIDs champion.  The term SuperKID refers to key items that are ordered frequently and often in very large quantities.

“As the SuperKID champion, I am directly responsible for the oversite of nearly 800 items that are categorized as superKID items,” Berkshire said. “These items account for roughly 44% of the customer orders we receive each year.”

Man performing weapons maintenance.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Vincent Ta, a high mobility artillery rocket system chief with Q Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, cleans a M249 light machine gun in Darwin, Australia, July 29, 2019. Cleaning weapons is critical in maintaining functionality and tests a Marine’s ability to disassemble and assemble the weapon system. Q Battery is in Darwin to participate in a series of exercises with the Australian Defence Force, following the battery's participation in Talisman Sabre 19. Training with our allies is critical in maintaining interoperability so we are able to best respond to crises around the world. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Salas VIRIN: 190729-M-PZ577-691
Man performing weapons maintenance.
Weapon Maintenance
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Vincent Ta, a high mobility artillery rocket system chief with Q Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, cleans a M249 light machine gun in Darwin, Australia, July 29, 2019. Cleaning weapons is critical in maintaining functionality and tests a Marine’s ability to disassemble and assemble the weapon system. Q Battery is in Darwin to participate in a series of exercises with the Australian Defence Force, following the battery's participation in Talisman Sabre 19. Training with our allies is critical in maintaining interoperability so we are able to best respond to crises around the world. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Salas VIRIN: 190729-M-PZ577-691
Photo By: James Harless
VIRIN: 190729-M-PZ577-691
When a directorate is tasked with such a complex, overarching mission as Land Supplier Operations, it might appear as if they’re set up for failure.  However, Berkshire feels the Champions Initiative has allowed the directorate to remove that element of surprise by breaking down their responsibilities into manageable areas thereby greatly reducing the risk of not being able to immediately fulfill orders as they arrive.  

When asked how the Champions Initiative has helped the directorate achieve a 91% material availability rating, Berkshire noted the structure and framework of the initiative has allowed his team to review historical data that would provide insight into determining the usage and need of particular items.

“For example, we know how often Humvees need brake pads replaced and at what rate, this allows us to plan for our customers’ needs while being great stewards of our financial resources,” Berkshire said.

 “We’re responsible for filling orders for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, Humvees, Abrams tanks, and multiple other weapons systems.  What we’re really talking about is keeping the Warfighter mission ready, and we do that by being ready to fulfill orders for hundreds of thousands of brake pads, batteries, filters, small-arms components like sites, triggers, barrels, slings, and as of August 5th, tires for every branch of service,” Berkshire said.

While the Champions initiative has proven to be a success for the Land Supplier Operations directorate, technical and obsolescence issues along with supply and demand issues with vendors remains a frequent challenge for their directorate to circumnavigate in order to achieve their mission.

These challenges require Land Supplier Operations associates to work closely with their vendors on a multitude of supply chain challenges, while simultaneously working with their partners to mitigate challenges that may lead to backorders.

Man working on vehicle
Airman 1st Class Joseph Caldwell, 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle mechanic apprentice, works on a Humvee’s brakes on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 3, 2015. The brakes needing replacement were discovered during a routine maintenance inspection. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeff Parkinson 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs VIRIN: 150803-F-HG908-038
Man working on vehicle
Vehicle Maintenance
Airman 1st Class Joseph Caldwell, 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle mechanic apprentice, works on a Humvee’s brakes on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 3, 2015. The brakes needing replacement were discovered during a routine maintenance inspection. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeff Parkinson 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs VIRIN: 150803-F-HG908-038
Photo By: James Harless
VIRIN: 150803-F-HG908-138

“We work with our suppliers and have an active vendor engagement which is a key strategy we put together to help our success, to identify what challenges they may be having so we can work together to mitigate any challenges,” Schulze said.

Schulze went on to provide additional praise and recognition to multiple directorates directly contributing to the success he has seen over the past 12 months. He specifically acknowledged his counterparts at Maritime Supplier Operations and their resolution specialists, Strategic Acquisitions Programs Directorate for their support through long term contracting, Legal, Business Process Support, Procurement Process Support Teams for their technical assistance and expertise.

It’s evident while under the direction and leadership of Murray and Schulze the associates within the Land Supplier Operations directorate are carrying out their mission while living up to their directorate’s vision statement: “To become the global leader in providing Warfighter based logistics through leadership, integrity, resiliency, and culture.”