BY BENJAMIN BENSON, Office of Corporate Communications, Naval Supply Systems Command
Navy readiness depends on robust and reliable supply chains. To be ready to fight tonight, the availability of vital spare and repair parts is critical–especially “top degrader” parts for aviation and maritime readiness. Aircraft can’t fly and ships can’t steam when these parts are not available. NAVSUP recognizes a key component of a responsive and reliable supply chain is strong relationships with suppliers. To that end, NAVSUP is developing more collaborative ways to work with its supplier base. No longer viewing suppliers as simply vendors, but as true partners, NAVSUP is replacing current reactive approaches with strategic engagements to identify and mitigate long-standing supply chain challenges with a renewed sense of urgency in which both sides have a vested interest in optimal outcomes. With Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer’s call to restore readiness and increase the fleet’s capacity and capability to meet the nation’s security needs, NAVSUP responded by reforming its business practices to help improve Navy readiness. One element of NAVSUP’s reform effort is establishing a Strategic Supplier Relationship Management (SSRM) program led by NAVSUP Executive for Strategic Initiatives Karen Fenstermacher.
“NAVSUP recognizes that suppliers play a vital role in supply chain performance,” said Fenstermacher. “We want to be a better partner, but also want suppliers to know that we are going to be a more demanding customer.” With her SSRM team, they are assessing supplier contributions, building scorecards around business goals, evaluating performance, and sharing information with a more open and consistent cadence of communication. “While it is the suppliers’ business to support the Navy, they may not have the necessary real time visibility of impacts of delays on readiness,” Fenstermacher noted. “Through more proactive and collaborative sharing of information, bottlenecks and vulnerabilities can be avoided.”
“While all suppliers are critical to the business and are approached with the same core values, in terms of depth-ofactivities, we’ve drawn a line between our strategic partners and other suppliers,” said SSRM team member and NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support Special Projects Director Brian Keeley. To do that, the team segmented the supplier portfolio using both quantitative and qualitative indicators to determine the top strategic partners that NAVSUP relies on; these include Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, Collins Aerospace, Lockheed (and Sikorsky), General Electric, BAE Systems, Honeywell, and L3 Technologies. In practice, the SSRM team engages with strategic partners using various tools. Hard tools include key performance indicators (used for all suppliers), while other soft and more exclusive tools include reoccurring senior-level meetings, executive top-to-top reviews, forums to share latest supply chain challenges, and co-development of strategic initiatives to partner with a near-term, focus-to-finish goal.
“NAVSUP’s critical role in our nation’s defense requires nothing less than being a firm, challenging, but fair customer,” said Fenstermacher. “We believe a longterm non-opportunistic approach creates mutual trust and ultimately a win/win for both government and industry. Our strategic supplier partnerships will occupy an elite position at the top of the NAVSUP’s supplier base hierarchy.” NAVSUP will continue to mature and evolve its supplier relationship management efforts over time, with a conscientious effort on both sides of the relationship. NAVSUP’s challenge will be to create a multi-faceted commitment with its strategic suppliers to nurture and sustain a requisite foundation of trust, commitment, and leadership that support a mutually productive and valuable business partnership.