News | Feb. 9, 2021

Collaboration and understanding improves national supply chain

By Dawn Bonsell, DLA Distribution Public Affairs Officer

The Defense Logistics Agency continually strives to improve processes and performance in support of the warfighter and whole of government partners. When an opportunity arose to improve the national supply chain, DLA Distribution Deputy Commander (former Chief of Staff) Perry Knight, Senior Executive Service, tasked Improvement Specialist, Sherry Amrhein, to put a team in place to start researching a solution to a U.S. General Services Administration export transshipment issue.

“DLA Distribution and GSA have a long-standing relationship and it was important that we collaborated closely with our GSA partners to solve this challenge,” Knight said. “I was very pleased with the results — the DLA and GSA joint collaboration resulted in improvements to not only processes, but more importantly improved support to the warfighter.”

The GSA export transshipment and frustrated freight process team members, including over 20 representatives from DLA Whole of Government, DLA Distribution operations, future operations, finance, GSA supply chain management representatives, DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania and DLA Distribution San Joaquin, California, workers, quickly got to work re-aligning processes and redefining how GSA ships material to DLA Distribution.

The first step was identifying the problem — DLA Distribution sites weren’t able to identify GSA Global Supply transshipments destined for defense department locations outside the continental United States. The shipments included typical office supplies and other consumables used by overseas Defense Department customers.

Chart describing various areas of process improvement flow.
A Defense Logistics Agency Distribution continuous process improvement project brings greater collaboration and understanding between DLA and U.S. Government Services Administration to improve the national supply chain.
Chart describing various areas of process improvement flow.
Collaboration and understanding improves national supply chain
A Defense Logistics Agency Distribution continuous process improvement project brings greater collaboration and understanding between DLA and U.S. Government Services Administration to improve the national supply chain.
Photo By: DLA Distribution Public Affairs
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The team then established a project plan and assignments, beginning to measure by mapping processes and gathering current process performance data. Next, they analyzed the data, evaluating and processing it to determine the root cause of the problem. And finally, after weekly meetings for over a year, they developed and implemented a solution to the problem by establishing a process that aligned financial responsibilities, allowing for the billing of GSA export transshipments and frustrated freight to GSA. As a result, DLA Distribution closed out fiscal year 2020 with $5 million in GSA transshipment charges and 84,000 frustrated freight items identified, more than double the amount billed and identified from the previous year.

To improve processes for GSA exports, DLA aligned staffing to prevent double labor billing and established reports to validate GSA billing. DLA and GSA aligned processes in the U.S. European Command and U.S African Command in support of shipments to Djibouti and the Balkans. This also led to updates and additional clarity for the DLA/GSA agreement. DLA educated GSA on ineligible consolidation and containerization point Department of Defense activity address codes and GSA implemented system changes to improve customer routing.

Frustrated freight issues were addressed by identifying standards for billing frustrated freight research. The team also implemented monthly frustrated freight reports to GSA and DLA finance. Real world examples and monthly reports are used to assist vendors in the reduction of frustrated freight.

Within five months, DLA Distribution achieved increased identification and billing of GSA export transshipments and frustrated freight, improved internal/external collaboration and gained a greater understanding of processes and billing. The increased collaboration and understanding between the agencies has improved the national supply chain.

“Overall, the project led to improvements that reach far beyond DLA and GSA, to include educating vendors on requirements to reduce frustrated freight and opening additional dialogues with the military services regarding GSA’s role as a partner in the Defense Department’s national supply chain,” Amrhein said.