DLA, aviation industry focus on customer outcomes, innovation at Captains of Industry event

By Beth Reece DLA Public Affairs

The aviation industry’s expertise in continuous process improvement can help the Defense Logistics Agency move its focus from just parts to entire weapons systems, DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch said during a Captains of Industry event with companies such as General Electric and Boeing Aug. 4.

“The significant successes I’ve been part of as a senior leader have all been rooted in process excellence. Many of you, as our corporate partners, have helped create process excellence measures that have already been taken to deliver goodness to the warfighters,” Busch said. “So I think what we need to do together as we talk about our business relationship is look for opportunities for continued process excellence and innovation.”
The agency currently has four enterprisewide continuous process improvement projects: workload management/prioritization, disposition to distribution, reject resolution lead time and on-time delivery.
“As we start to reach out to the appropriate industry to help us, these are the kinds of things you could potentially be asked to be involved in,” the director said.
When Busch was first assigned to DLA in 1995, the agency was focused on providing parts rather than comprehensive solutions, he continued. Now that acquisition tools such as long-term contracts and performance-based logistics have been incorporated into DLA’s business practices, the agency should explore newer, more flexible contracting methods.
“We’ve moved to the environment now where I think we’ve wrestled a lot of efficiencies out the supply chain and out of our shared business through long-term contracts,” he said. “So we have to ask, ‘What’s next?’ Can we keep getting bigger and bigger in terms of long-term contracts? If we go longer, will we achieve even more efficiencies?”
And while long-term contracts ensure the military services have stable bases of supply for maintenance operations, they don’t necessarily present a way to tie industry incentives to customer outcomes, Busch added.
While process improvement and innovation will become key factors in how DLA meets warfighters’ needs in the future, the risks and rewards must be shared by all, he continued.
“We have to find willing service partners who want to do this. I think we have to move past our relationship with the services’ supply-chain leadership and talk to the services’ program managers to see whether or not we can get some traction.”
Busch pointed to 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, as another “next big thing” on which DLA, industry and the services must collaborate. The services have already started working with manufacturers who can produce 3D parts, and DLA is evaluating how it, too, can make use of the emerging technology. But the challenge isn’t just determining whether repair parts can be made with additive manufacturing, the director said, but whether engineering authorities, program managers, supply-chain managers, DLA and industry can create a process for incorporating 3D parts into the system.
The successes DLA has shared with the aviation industry provide a solid foundation for the continued collaboration and partnership needed to take logistics support to the next level, Busch added. “The things that DLA has done with you over the last 10, 15 years have been recognized by the services as providing them great value.”