Invigorating the Supply Chain…Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support Goes Digital

By Sarah Glinski, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support, Office of Corporate Communications

Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support (NAVSUP WSS) is prepared to make some big changes to the repairables process – specifically the way NAVSUP WSS adopts technological innovation.

The NAVSUP WSS innovation project began with a simple goal: get parts to the fleet faster by reducing repair turnaround time (RTAT). In the process, team members would be charged with challenging the problem-solving status quo to invent quick process and digital solutions that could be built on and improved over time.

NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support employee Lauren Mensch listens to a digital concept presentation during the event, after which she and her colleague, Lt. Cmdr. Curtis Ceaser, presented their own supply chain solution.

 

In keeping with the Chief of Naval Operation directive to increase the availability and use of technology throughout the Navy, the innovation team plans to fully optimize the naval supply chain through creative technological and process improvements to standard procedures. These improvements will be implemented quickly on a smaller scale and ultimately expanded across the Navy’s supplier base.

“We’re staying outside of the traditional IT [information technology] landscape with this project,” said Lynn Kohl, Vice Commander, NAVSUP WSS. “We’re not looking at one big IT effort here. We’ve got a bigger future vision for the entire supply chain, from end to end.”

While the innovation team intends to address the supply process as it occurs in the fleet, it has recently focused on alleviating issues experienced by many of the Navy’s repair vendors.

The Power of Observation

In order to accurately identify and alleviate common supply issues, the innovation team began by embedding NAVSUP WSS employees within 11 repair vendors to observe the supply process in its natural state.

Digital innovation team members observe test equipment at one of the Navy’s repair facilities during a visit to identify opportunities that would increase supplier visibility of the repair of repairables process.

Understanding that not all issues make themselves known during question-and-answer sessions, the employees monitored parts in the supply process from beginning to end on a day-to-day basis. Their observations uncovered issues that were common across many, if not all, of the suppliers being observed.

From Performance Based Logistics (PBL) to non-PBL vendors, from aviation to maritime suppliers, and even organic to commercial vendors, the innovation team measured approximately 46 weeks worth of wait time before parts could be repaired – a huge window of opportunity that the supply chain would benefit from closing.

After completing their observations, the team came back to NAVSUP WSS and asked themselves a question: “What visibility can we give our suppliers to reduce their wait times?”

The Digital Deep Dive

In January, at their first concept ideation session, the innovation team met to discuss all of their observed issues in the repair of repairables process. Generating over 100 out-of-the-box potential solutions, the team then grouped the more common ideas, filtering, scoring and ranking them to eventually settle on nine solid concepts.

These nine concepts were honed down and refined for presentation at the first NAVSUP WSS event structured like the television show “Shark Tank,” event held in February in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

During the event, senior leadership from across the Naval Supply Systems Command heard pitches from the innovation team on their nine strongest improvement ideas.

This first event intended to be high-level and focused on desirability. All nine ideas were presented with less technical depth so the solutions with the most impact on RTAT would be chosen from among the group.

“Participating in this event was a very unique experience,” said Lt. Cmdr. Curtis Ceaser, director of rotary contracts at NAVSUP WSS, who presented a supply solution during the event with his colleague, Lauren Mensch. “The whole team came up with some great ideas, and it’s exciting to be a part of their development and see them move forward.”

After hearing the pitches from NAVSUP WSS innovation team members, senior leadership voted to move forward with four concepts, which are currently being further developed with more in-depth
considerations in anticipation of the next event.

With benefits ranging from increased visibility and form standardization of requests for quotes to the elimination of manual entry and paperwork errors for the labelling and shipment of parts, all four concepts include the possibility of new and modified processes and technologies. Artificial intelligence and mobile device applications are just two means through which the execution and build-out of these ideas could occur.

The Ripple Effects

NAVSUP senior leadership will soon convene again for the second event, where they will discuss with innovation team members the feasibility and viability of the four concepts they chose in February. In the meantime, the team is analyzing the long term impact of their ideas along with what the current technical architecture, business processes and environment can support.

In the final upcoming iteration of the NAVSUP WSS innovation event, one or two concepts will be taken to an investment committee chaired by Rear Adm. Jonathan A. Yuen, Commander NAVSUP and Chief of Supply Corps, and Michael Madden, Vice Commander, NAVSUP. This committee will decide which concept to further develop and deliver.

Digital innovation team members brainstorm solutions and develop digital concepts to improve supply chain issues during a concept ideation session.

The chosen solution will be put in place three to six months after the last event in order to alleviate supply issues as quickly as possible.

Following the rapid improvements to the repair of repairables process, the technology will be improved over time and the team’s ultimate goal of reducing RTAT will be more fully realized.

But the effects of the NAVSUP WSS innovation project won’t be over after the initial supply chain solutions are implemented, or even after the team analyzes and improves supply issues in the fleet. The project’s effects are already having an impact on command culture by promoting creativity, excellence and innovation.

“As much as the ideas we’re looking at in this event are important, and as great as the results from this project will be from a supply chain perspective, equally important is the way this change is happening,” said Kohl. “We’re innovating. We’re changing our perspective on problem solving. We’re thinking differently. And that’s what makes for an effective, relevant and ready organization.”

Spring 2018