by Ben Worthen

HOT TOPIC SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT – The Few, the Proud, the Supply Chain

Jun 15, 20022 mins
Supply Chain Management Software

War is hell and so is supporting one. Every time the Marine Corps goes off to fight, it needs soldiers for combat but also support personnel to manage the supply chain each mission requires.

There are five components to battle support.

Supply?getting weapons, ammunition and other goods to soldiers in the field.

Maintenance?making sure that the equipment is working properly.

Health services?providing onsite medical attention and evacuations when needed.

Transportation?getting the troops and supplies to the right place.

General services?mail delivery, for example.

As recently as 1999, the Corps had 206 logistics systems to handle those operations. It is now in the process of a major combat supply chain overhaul that will reduce shipping time by approximately 50 percent, eliminate between $125 million and $180 million a year in inventory costs, and free up 1,800 marines from logistics duty for redeployment in the field.

The Corps’ logistics operations were in shambles during the Gulf War, says Sapient Senior Vice President Chris Davey, who oversees the supply chain overhaul. “They brought so much stuff, and they didn’t know where most of it was. They had containers full of gear and no ability to track it.” Other inefficiencies ate up time and money. The Corps was treating every item the same way regardless of what it was. There was no differentiation, for example, between the process for buying weapons and the process for buying pencils.

The revamped supply chain won’t eliminate all legacy systems right away?the Corps does have a limited budget that it needs for operations like the current conflict?but it will replace inefficient processes. Battalion-level databases, for example, which tracked inventory for spare parts like Humvee engines, have been eliminated and replaced with databases that cover a geographic area. Also, the Iridium satellite system owned by the Department of Defense is now being used to facilitate the movement of supply requests from the front. Some of the supply chain improvements are already being tested in Afghanistan. The rest will be rolled out over time, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.