By Lt. Cmdr. Anthony DiCola,
Director, Fixed Wing Contracts
By improving contracting processes and efficiencies, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) can get the parts, supplies, and repairables delivered faster to improve warfighter readiness, generating greater lethality for our naval forces.
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A NAVSUP WSS Philadelphia pod pilots an electronic purchase requisition (PR) checklist. The PR checklist serves to assist with developing a complete package before submission to N7. –photo by Madeline Klebe
In April, NAVSUP WSS launched pilots in Philadelphia and Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, as part of the NAVSUP reform initiative to improve contracting processes and responsiveness. A series of workshops consisting of walk-throughs of the contracting process, from requirement generation to end-item delivery, indicated that there was an opportunity to improve communication and alignment.
These observations led to the pod concept. Acting as a cross-functional team of five to 15 contract specialists, planners, and equipment specialists, the pod focuses on specific weapon systems to improve supply chain responsiveness and desired readiness outcomes. Each cross-functional team holds a quick 15-minute biweekly stand-up meeting to align priority actions to best support the fleet. In the meeting, each member of the pod leverages the wide range of expertise from the group to anticipate and mitigate future issues and continue to increase the speed to award.
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WSS Mechanicsburg pod used the Work in Process tool (WIPX) to focus the attention of the pod. –photo by Dorie Heyer
Before pods, a contract specialist might interact with 10 different planners, three different equipment specialists, and support five different weapon systems at any given time. Now the contracting team is focused and aligned to a specific weapon system.
In one instance, a contract for a more standard item was urgently needed. Because the item had a low priority status, the contract would have typically taken more than three months to award. With the pod stand-up, the planner and contract specialist were able to meet in person and work together to quickly align the priority of the item and get the contract awarded in one week.
“The pod structure has allowed our team to get to root causes faster, obtain shorter referral times, and align on actions to be taken across functions,” said Christine Pennington, contracting division chief. “Ever since we started holding pod meetings, we have been able to resolve a number of issues for the folders our contract specialists are working.”
By focusing on specific weapon systems, the pod can identify issues and challenges faster, take action on improving communication and reducing redundancies, and minimize contract reworks and frustrations across the acquisition workforce.
“It is striking that our contract specialists are now communicating a lot better with the planners and equipment specialists,” added Pennington. “The increase in communication has already made an impact by increasing how fast we can award a contract.”
Pennington also noted that there is more visibility of everyone’s issues and that leadership now has greater hands-on ability to drive reform. “Our group members feel heard and see the actions being taken to address our more frequent pain points,” she said.
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NAVSUP WSS pod members attend a standup meeting, promoting a cross-functional and cohesive tactical approach to prioritization and problem solving that will result in quicker contract delivery and better warfighter support. –photo by Madeline Klebe
The pod concept has now been rolled out across NAVSUP WSS in both Mechanicsburg and Philadelphia. Additional improvements are also underway.
To support the pods, multiple digital tools are in development and currently being tested. For example, the Work-in-Process (WIPX) tool has been provided as a folder tracking tool for pods to help manage and prioritize workload. Based on feedback from the pods, tools are continuously being improved and new features are being added.
Early feedback from the pods has been overwhelmingly positive. Based on a survey of teams in Mechanicsburg, 70 percent of respondents agreed that pods would help achieve the goal of enhancing fleet readiness, and 80 percent agreed that cross-functional pod teams were a step in the right direction for NAVSUP WSS. Initial results from the pilot groups demonstrated a 20 percent reduction in the time to generate a complete requirement, cutting four weeks from the 22-week average.
“The new pod structure has encouraged effective communication and teamwork with our customers, which has created early awareness on high priority requirements. Additionally, our weekly pod meetings have helped reduce low demand folders, and focus on casualty reports and unfilled customer orders,” said Lauren Rhodes, contract specialist, NAVSUP WSS.
“From my perspective as a pod leader, the number one benefit of the pod is the development of open and much more engaging communication among the teams that are part of the contracting process,” said Curtis Groshens, NAVSUP WSS Integrated Weapons Systems Support, program manager. “We share daily emails among the team members. But to have time face-to-face where we can discuss the different issues that each team member is facing allows us to get a better understanding of how each team member impacts or is impacted in the contracting process.”
“Communication has improved with members of the pod,” said Matthew Burge, supply planner, Weapons Support Department, NAVSUP WSS. “Acquisition Planning Teams (APTs) were happening once a month at best. Seeing the team twice a week has made a big difference.”
Through collaboration, open dialogue, and a focus on identifying and fixing potential challenges as a team, the pod concept has made great strides at NAVSUP WSS to improve contracting efficiencies and speed to support our warfighters.