PHILADELPHIA (NNS) -- Whether you worked at a restaurant or at any number of retail jobs – no matter what age or where you were – there was always the thought of that dreaded task: counting inventory. The long hours, the painstaking attention to detail, the tedium -- and for what? There wasn’t a bigger picture; there was only the bottom line.
But at Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support – where inventory includes flight control surfaces and aircraft wing panels, laser weapon systems and explosive ordnance – the bigger picture is easier to see. What’s more difficult is accounting for the over 30 million piece parts that make up the Navy supply chain.
NAVSUP manages more than $33 billion of inventory, a universe of over 500,000 unique items held at more than 1,300 worldwide locations. So unlike those old retail jobs, counting inventory doesn’t take just a day or two – and the stakes of ensuring accurate figures are much, much higher.
Inventory accuracy (IA) has far-reaching impact across the U.S. Navy and beyond. It is a warfighting capability; resourcing decisions are often based on what inventory we believe we have, so if those figures aren’t accurate, we aren’t making the right decisions to keep our warfighters mission ready.
Recently, NAVSUP WSS embarked on a mission to increase IA across the Navy supply chain. From the development of unique technological tools to the standup of its Special Projects Office, the command is focused on identifying opportunities for improvements in IA and auditability.
This new focus resulted from the now-underway Navy audit, which began in fiscal year 2017. Prior to the audit, NAVSUP WSS had already identified business process deficiencies and was working toward full audit compliance by reducing the pre-positioning of material at commercial vendors.
“Inventory accuracy is crucial to our command goal,” said Cmdr. J.C. Uribe, NAVSUP WSS IA officer. “What we’re looking to do is provide the warfighter with the material they need when they need it. The resourcing decisions to buy the parts that will keep our warfighters in the fight, a lot of times, are based on how accurate our inventory actually is.”
Pre-positioning material, from a readiness standpoint, may expedite repairs and increase mission readiness; however, government oversight and control of the material could be compromised due to potential custodial issues. This compromised control could eventually result in a slower repair process and ultimately degraded fleet readiness.
To ensure audit compliance and facilitate maximum mission readiness, NAVSUP WSS developed and programmed a unique tool called the Inventory-at-Risk Alert System (IRAS) Stock Transport Order Delivery Support (SDS). IRAS SDS works hand-in-hand with a table known as the Master Repairable Item List (MRIL), which tells NAVSUP WSS employees where certain parts need to go and when.
Before IRAS SDS, MRIL directed the pre-positioning of material at commercial vendors. Simply a static table, MRIL by design could not recommend alternative destinations or reasons not to ship material out. IRAS SDS has resolved this by analyzing MRIL’s data and bouncing it off of its internal catalog of material under valid contracts. Developed in early 2017, IRAS SDS has since eliminated the pre-positioning of material, providing greater asset visibility and government oversight and control of the Navy supply chain. It was rolled out for full usage by the command in July 2017.
In addition to IRAS SDS and as a result of the ongoing Navy inventory audit, NAVSUP WSS stood up the Special Projects Office (SPO) to tackle these issues with an even greater focus.
“To ensure inventory accuracy, we have an extensive plan in place, which includes site visits to our vendors, working on cleanup projects across the command, and even modifying some of our contracts to ensure we’re meeting our audit readiness goals,” said Brian Keeley, SPO director. “The NAVSUP WSS leadership team’s primary focus is to ensure inventory accuracy, and it will take the entire command working together to achieve this.”
In the summer of 2017, an independent public auditor performed visits to Navy inventory sites and provided recommendations for improvement. The SPO has since developed and began executing six corrective action plans (CAP) to address the findings identified during these visits.
All six CAPs relate to inventory procedures: how NAVSUP WSS counts, manages, values and stores inventory. They will also influence how NAVSUP WSS works with commercial and government inventory custodians around the world to ensure that they’re following procedures and policies that help keep the Navy’s inventory accurate. One of the six findings and its CAP directly correlated to the pre-positioning of material at commercial vendors, which has since been addressed by the rollout of the IRAS SDS tool.
The SPO is comprised of two teams, which will spearhead the command’s future IA and audit readiness goals. One team, the IA division, focuses on analyzing current business processes and making recommendations for improvements. The other, the External Inventory Execution division, performs actual inventory at various commercial and government sites around the world to gauge the effectiveness of NAVSUP WSS’s internal controls and correct deficiencies.
NAVSUP WSS has set a lofty but achievable goal of 97% IA within the next 18 months. With the advent of IRAS SDS and the SPO, NAVSUP WSS is poised to make the improvements that will enable it to confidently showcase to American taxpayers and warfighters alike that we have the inventory needed to protect our national interests around the globe.
For more news from Naval Supply Systems Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navsup/.