Academic journal article Journal of Transportation Management

Depot Repair Capacity as a Criterion for Transportation Mode Selection in the Retrograde Movement of Reparable Assets

Academic journal article Journal of Transportation Management

Depot Repair Capacity as a Criterion for Transportation Mode Selection in the Retrograde Movement of Reparable Assets

Article excerpt

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, the Department of Defense (DoD) or the U.S. Government.


Air Force guidance on management and direction of the reparable item pipeline is primarily found in AFPD 20-3, Air Force Weapon System Reparable Asset Management (Department of the Air Force, 1998) and the Air Force instruction which implements this policy directive, AFI 21-129, Two Level Maintenance and Regional Repair of Air Force Weapon Systems and Equipment (Department of the Air Force, 1998). This guidance provides the scope of the reverse" pipeline which,

begins when a weapons system reparable asset is removed from an end item, repaired or declared as NRTS (Not Repairable This Station) and concludes when the item has returned to the serviceable inventory (Department of the Air Force, 1998, p. 3).

This is a slightly expanded view of reverse logistics than is normally discussed, which ends when the item is returned to its point of origin. In AFPD 20-3, the Air Force expands the scope of retrograde logistics to include the repositioning of a newly-repaired asset. This guidance provides the basis for the reparable pipeline:

The objective of Air Force logistics is to maximize operational capability by using high velocity, time definite processes to manage mission and logistics uncertainty in lieu of large inventory levels--resulting in shorter cycle times, reduced inventories and cost, and a smaller mobility footprint (Department of the Air Force, 1998, p. 1).

The policy directive goes on to direct the "expedited evacuation of reparables by bases ... to the source of repair" (Department of the Air Force, 1998, p. 1).

The most significant aspect of this guidance is that the Air Force pipeline is transportation-based. Air Force logistics relies on a time definite and expedited means of transportation instead of inventory to counter variability. An Air Force Logistics Management Agency (AFLMA) study described the rationale for this policy:

Air Force supply policies are closely linked to the use of premium transportation. The logic for these policies is based on the classic tradeoff between inventory investment and transportation costs ... Air Force inventory policies are sensitive to transportation or pipeline times because inventory costs tend to be relatively high and transportation costs low (Masciulli, Boone, and Lyle, 2002, p. 2).

The Air Force's transportation guidance, AFI 24-201, Cargo Movement, also reinforces this notion:

Increased transportation costs are offset by reduced inventory levels resulting in overall logistics savings and mission sustainment (Department of the Air Force, 1999, p. 9).

Transportation Mode Selection

Reliance on transportation to support lower inventory levels and faster cycle times places a premium on transportation mode selection. Various authors have stated that the importance of transportation mode selection lays in its impact on a firm's total logistics system (Stock and Lambert, 2001; Coyle, Bardi, and Novak, 2000; Liberatore and Miller, 1995; Sheffi, Eskandari, and Koutsopoulos, 1988). But more than that, it is the interaction and synergy between logistics activities that drive costs. Stock and Lambert state,

   Effective management and real cost
   savings can be accomplished only by
   viewing logistics as an integrated system
   and minimizing its total cost given the
   firm's customer service level (2001, p. 28).

The customer service level provided by a mode of transportation is the preeminent factor involved in mode choice. This is not to say that the goal is the highest level of service available. It is the optimal level of service that is desired, once other trade-offs have been considered. Stock and Lalonde, in a pre-deregulation study, found that service related variables, such as reliability, loss/damage, and total transit time, were most important (Stock and Lalonde, 1977, p. …

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