Logistics - DEFENCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, Issue 28
Creating real organisational coherence
DMJ examines the logistics C4I and supply chain transformation
Last December, in conjunction with the DMA, the MOD's Directorate of Equipment Capability (DEC), Expeditionary Logistics Support (ELS), sponsored a major logistics conference. A large audience from industry and commerce was treated to a series of considered presentations that set out a well orchestrated vision for defence logistics, and the C4I needed to support it.
One armed paper hanging
Nothing is certain in life except change and, over the last six or seven years, life in the world of military logistics has certainly seen a lot of that. Indeed, many military and civilian staff who actually deliver logistics support were just about overwhelmed by post-SDR moves towards 'jointery' – the formation of the DPA, DLO and PJHQ. A plethora of studies, initiatives, organisational and business process changes, coupled with one or two real world operations, and constant kicks in the backside from parliamentary committees, did not help much either.
To the outside observer, things appeared to have got so bad that 'one armed paper hanging' was the order of the day! Strategies abounded, organisational frameworks were created and recreated; what little practical progress was achieved seemed to be only at the 'project' level. Against this background, it was great to be treated to some joined-up thinking about how to actually deliver better logistics support.
The key players who are sorting out the 'logistics cats' cradle', and the
lead speakers at the DMA event, are Brigadier Charlie Hobson (DEC (ELS)) and Air Commodore Mat Wiles, Director Support Chain Integration. In general terms, the former is responsible for programme and equipment matters and the latter for process issues; put another way, one gets the kit and the other creates the framework within which that kit must work effectively. Pedants will disagree with this definition but it serves to make the point that, perhaps for the first time at the delivery level, there is real organisational coherence across the whole MOD logistics piece.
The top level agenda for all of this was set, some time ago, by the Defence Manage-ment Board (DMB). The DMB required 'a speedy, deployable, agile, joint and integrated, technically ambitious defence capability… that can conduct Allied operations but be able to retain 'some' independence and freedom of action'. To achieve this, UK Armed Forces would be optimised for most likely future operations, use latest technology, move towards 'effects-based' warfare, and develop a C4ISR networked capability. These then were the 'marching orders' and, from a logistics perspective, they set a challenging agenda.
Capability requirements and programme issues
Reveille was in January last year when DEC (ELS) was formed, as Brigadier Hobson pointed out: 'To drive the delivery of Joint Logistic Capability necessary to deploy, sustain, and support all UK operators abroad, and to provide deployed medical facilities.'
Operating as the core logistics enabler, and with support from Customer 2 stakeholders, DEC (ELS) aims, by 2006, to have produced an Equipment Plan that meets the capability requirement, and is well understood by the DPA. Amongst other things, achieving this will require a considerable effort to establish the future joint capability requirement, identify existing capabilities and highlight shortfalls against the future need. Realistic requirements will be essential.
The primary mechanism for doing this is a series of Capability Working Groups (Afloat Support, Strategic Reach, Medical, C4I and Land Logistics). The secondary delivery mechanism is a commitment to exploit innovation and Best Practice; to this end, the Brigadier has a well balanced team of experts under his control and, interestingly, his team includes a research
element 'to make sure that research effort is focused for maximum impact'.
The Equipment Plan that will emerge from his team's work will be massive, covering shipping, transport aircraft, specialist vehicles, deployed construction capability, fuels handling equipment and medical facilities, as well as the C4I needed to join it all up. Inter alia, on the IS front, he will also have to address the need to link the Joint Operational to the Joint Logistics picture, and to provide ways of fully understanding what is going on within the overall supply chain. This, in turn, will require well developed asset management and decision support systems.
Support chain challenges
The other key player is Air Commodore Mat Wiles, Director Support Chain Integration. Mat treated the meeting to a comprehensive explanation of how the MOD is transforming its supply chain performance. He started by touching on problems that stem from the status quo, such as fragmented service delivery, having multiple owners of the same processes, lack of performance measurement, long item lead times, low asset visibility beyond the warehouse, and owning the wrong inventory (too much and too little at the same time). He then mentioned the additional challenges presented by having to integrate support on coalition operations, the need to sort out 'Contracting for Capability' and other partnering questions, and issues surrounding item distribution at the tactical level.
No such talk would have been complete without 'Lessons Learned from OP Telic'. Since DMJ has already carried an article on this subject, we will not dwell on it here save to say that the Air Commodore was open and listed a host of topics that served to eloquently show just how much work needs to be done. Apart from equipment related matters, softer issues arising from Telic included the need for interoperability training, in-theatre familiarisation with equipment, the impact on morale of equipment shortfalls, containerisation, the single fuel policy, recycling-critical repairable items, and environmental storage. By now, the audience was beginning to grasp the fact that sorting all of this out might take a while!
The Defence Logistics Vision
So what is the solution? It's called the Defence Logistics Vision (DLV) and it's based on six Capability Goals:
ē Goal 1: A truly joint logistic posture and culture, developed to support effects-based operations;
ē Goal 2: Provision of lean, agile, but robust support networks facilitated by the application of directed logistics and underpinned by the Joint Logistic Picture;
ē Goal 3: Design of logistic capability, derived from concepts, in which supportability requirements are minimised;
ē Goal 4: Embedding industrial capability within logistic planning;
ē Goal 5: Exploitation of flexible, global reach and optimised access to achieve full expeditionary potential;
ē Goal 6: Convergence of end-to-end processes and procedures supported by common doctrine and training.
These goals underpin all the MOD's thinking but, although the issues will be tackled within the context of a Supply Chain Blueprint, they will be addressed in different work streams against different timescales. The work streams, together with some major issues, are:
ē Deployed Operating Space (JF Log C arrangements/Log C3/ asset handling and IS support);
ē The Coupling Bridge (policy, ownership, the Purple Gate and IS support);
ē The Static Space (improved process and IS support, CLS, item handling and speed).
A few quick wins are immediately available and 'quite small changes make a massive difference, like sending unit loads so they don't have to be 're-brigaded' the other side of the water'. Then there are the old chestnuts like partnering and IS, and new ideas including the Future Defence Supply Chain Initiative (FDSCi). A word or two on some of these: On the IS front, the aim is to retain current consignment tracking capability pro tem, whilst 'institutionalising' it across defence. The MOD will then invest in further projects to solve 'in-transit and deployed inventory' management, sort out fundamental problems with base inventory systems and address capability shortfalls in logistic communications. The MOD will also introduce a 'regulatory' point of entry to the Defence Supply Chain (the so-called 'Purple Gate') so that 'asset visibility' can be established and items dispatched in accordance with the correct priority; material will then be brought to account where required. The whole chain will be made more responsive to meet a target of seven calendar days for routine demand fulfilment, and the concept of Priming Equipment Packs will be adopted to reduce initial demand pressure, and focus resources on deploying the force, rather than immediately sustaining it. Lastly, the FDSCi programme, which seeks better value for money in storage and distribution, will look at large parts of DSDA and DTMA activity; improvement options include:
ē In-house: do storage and distribution better, and smarter, or do it differently, perhaps within a Trading Fund; or
ē Partnering with industry: at present, two bids are being evaluated prior to possible IAB submission at the end of the 1st Quarter 2005.
Air Commodore Wiles says that his "focus is on effectiveness, not efficiency benefits"; well, whilst strongly supporting this, DMJ will be interested to see just how long he is able to
sustain the position. Meanwhile, it appears that the context for the future supply chain is firmly established, the development blueprint has been defined, some capability gaps have already been filled, and there are partnering models that are pointing the way to the future. One thing is clear and that is the overriding need to support operational commanders so they can win wars.
Now the only problem is how to find the money to pay for all of this. No, that's not the problem; the problem is finding the will to afford it – nothing new there then!