Web-Based Forum Portrays U.S. Industrial Capabilities

By Ruffa, Stephen | National Defense, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Web-Based Forum Portrays U.S. Industrial Capabilities


Ruffa, Stephen, National Defense


A new approach to evaluating the readiness of the nation's industrial base is poised to transform the way that the Defense Department views its suppliers. It will enhance the Pentagon's move toward more efficient business practices and serve as a catalyst to reducing costly inventories.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is developing an innovative approach to assess the contribution to military readiness offered by the defense industry. The program-known as the World Wide Web Industrial Capabilities Assessment Program (WICAP)will provide a more complete picture of those manufacturing and inventory resources that can be brought to bear in a time of crisis. With this enhanced capability, the agency can more efficiently plan its peacetime and wartime activities.

Inventory management is a key component of this effort. As the Defense Department continues to emphasize the use of more efficient business practices, new strategies must be developed to leverage industry-based solutions. The WICAP tool will form a solid foundation for these efforts. Its comprehensive view of the departments supplier base will highlight those sources that can provide key items within the time&ames needed.

Moreover, it will allow the department to hone in on the sectors where key industry capabilities have eroded-those that must be available to support the Pentagon's needs-setting the stage for preemptive action.

Information has long been viewed as the most cost-effective means to overcoming perceived problem areas. Only with a full understanding of a problem can effective solutions be crafted. Nowhere is this more the case than in dealing with the industrial base. Without information on industry's capability to produce in a contingency or wartime scenario, it must be assumed that these capabilities do not exist To offset perceived shortfalls against planning requirements, actions are taken to assure that critical items will be available when needed. This can lead to higher inventories than otherwise would have been necessary.

Traditional assessments have historically been hampered by their burdensome approach to data collection. Complex, lengthy questionnaires have placed an undue workload on suppliers, limiting their willingness to respond. Once received, the labor-intensive process of creating a database has limited the department's ability to process these large quantities of information.

Even the questions themselves have presented problems. They sometimes call for narrative answers that cannot be easily manipulated when placed into a database. These limitations have led many to question the credibility of the resulting assessments-thus limiting the actions that can be taken.

With the WICAP system in place, DLA will find itself in an improved position to identify cost-effective strategies to deal with demand spikes during a spectrum of contingencies. The ability of its peacetime supplier base to fulfill these wartime needs can be much more readily understood, with acquisition strategies altered to provide greater coverage. Thus, the need for direct investment in inventories and other measures can be greatly mitigated.

Reengineering a Solution

In order to overcome historic difficulties, the WICAP is founded on the core tenets of reengineering. …

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