John Barnicle, Supply Specialist, GSA Federal Supply Service.
Prior to the establishment of GSA in 1949, military and civilian agencies maintained their own supply and inventory systems. In the late 1940s, a reorganization study conducted under former President Herbert Hoover revealed a great deal of duplication among these systems, thus determining a need for one central bureau of supply responsible for managing government purchases. This study led to the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act in 1949 creating GSA and within it the Federal Supply Service (FSS). FSS’s mission was to provide an economic and efficient system for the procurement, supply and eventual disposal of property.
In 1952, Congress approved a law establishing a single catalog system and related supply standardization program. This law ultimately created a uniform National Supply System, which was responsible for coordinating the cataloging and standardization activities of GSA and the Department of Defense (DOD) so as to avoid duplication. In 1971, GSA and DOD entered into an agreement to eliminate avoidable overlap between their two supply systems. GSA was given the Federal Supply Classes (FSCs) or commodities commonly utilized by federal agencies, which are commercially available and not predominantly of a military nature. The DOD was assigned the FSCs used in military operations or weapons system support. This agreement remains the governing document for the relationship between GSA and the DOD.
GSA and DOD—An Evolving Partnership
In 2000, the Office of Supply was created and FSS renewed its commitment to supporting the strategic requirements of its military and civilian customers. In 2003, the Office of Supply received a new name – GSA Global Supply (Global Supply).
As a component of the National Supply System, the global logistics network that sustains the DOD, Global Supply maintains a strong commitment to the DOD. Whether it is supplying office supplies to the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or providing tools for the Anniston Army Depot, Global Supply gets it right and provides unmatched support to the DOD in times of peace and war.
“At Global Supply our commitment to the DOD is clear. As our largest customer, we will do everything it takes to help them achieve their mission—at home and abroad,” says Ken Latta, acting commissioner of GSA
Global Supply. “That’s why we have put in place several new, and highly successful, tools, vehicles and processes to ensure it remains in compliance with and satisfies its biggest customer.”
In its pursuit of alignment with the DOD, Global Supply sought out and used customer input in the implementation of its new initiatives. It conducted surveys that revealed the features that are most important to purchasing agents, logisticians, supply clerks and program managers. As can be expected in this digital age, most concerns and improvements revolved around Global Supply’s online presence, and included compliance assurance with Internet orders, ease-of-use of its online portals and an expansion of available products. Global Supply, as well as GSA’s other online acquisition tools (GSA Advantage! and e-Buy), examined the issues brought forth by its customers, integrated their feedback and produced several enhancements to increase customer satisfaction.
In 2003, Global Supply launched a new Web portal, www.govinfo.bz/ 4355-251, aimed at making buying easier and faster. On the site, customers can choose from a wide array of products and still receive only one bill. Customers also may continue to choose direct billing or use government purchase cards so there is no need for purchase orders. The Global Supply online portal provides federal customers with access to the complete catalog of GSA products, and has a quick and efficient reach across the globe.
Global Supply has committed to work with key personnel within the DOD to ensure it can effectively help them meet their future goals. Issues to address from a DOD standpoint included time-definite delivery standards, wholesale management of worldwide assets and strategic distribution issues. These will be accomplished through the modernization of Global Supply’s distribution centers, including the implementation of 21st century software and upgrading material handling equipment for more efficient delivery and fulfillment.
The DOD is also now requiring its suppliers to implement Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to improve the tracking of shipments in its supply line. This innovative process affixes a low frequency ID tag to a shipment at its point of manufacture or assembly, and its UHF signal is read by scanners as it moves through the supply chain toward final use.
Global Supply is already striving for compliance with this new DOD requirement, experimenting with RFID tags to test the technology, gain experience with active tracking systems and strengthen its relationship with the logisticians at DOD.
“In partnership with the Department of Defense, Global Supply is now using approximately 2,052 RFID tags per year to track shipments destined for Iraq and other DOD facilities in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom,” says Latta.
In addition to process improvements within Global Supply, product improvements have also been put into place to support the DOD.
Global Supply has also partnered with major tools and office supply vendors in order to further expand its product offering. In early 2004, Global Supply added 100,000 new items to its catalog, increasing its inventory by 700 percent.
Global Supply’s product offering includes more hand tools, power tools, machine tools and accessories. Some of the new products offered include tools and metalworking equipment from commercial brands such as Craftsman, DeWalt and Milwaukee. The office supply contract increased Global Supply’s offering by about 5,000 items, including items ranging from computer accessories to office and filing products. Expanding its product offering allows federal customers such as the DOD to purchase more items through a single source, saving both customers and taxpayers money.
All of these process improvements and product expansions were implemented to ensure that Global Supply gets the DOD the supplies it needs in a timely fashion, regardless of physical location or complexity of order.
Proof of Success
In 2003, Global Supply demonstrated its ongoing commitment to, and partnership with, the DOD by supporting the opening of a First Choice Supply and Services Center at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. At the center, Global Supply’s point-of-sale software compiles store transactions daily and triggers replenishment before an item is sold out completely. Buyers get immediate access to needed items, the flexibility to choose the best payment method and the assurance that everything they purchase complies with federal procurement regulations.
At Camp Lejeune, both Global Supply and the U.S. Marine Corps contribute to the overall success of the center. However, Global Supply supplements the normal inventory in several ways:
- Adding two new product lines (vehicle tires and base maintenance equipment);
- Managing select inventory from commercial vendors in the store;
- Offering special order acquisition support for out-of-the-ordinary requirements.
To accommodate the size and scope of the work at this base, there are four retail locations on the base. Initial feedback indicates that the partnership with the Marines to operate and supply the base stores is a successful one. Continued success at Camp Lejeune could lead to this model being adapted for other locations to better serve the DOD and other customers.
The Success Global Supply Has Seen
Through the years Global Supply has evolved to meet the growing needs of its customers, helping them focus on their mission.
“A lot has changed in the last 50 plus years since GSA was created, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to our customers. Every day, 24 by 7, we are working hard to getting the right supplies, at the right time, to the right place in the right box,” says Latta. “We call it ‘Supply. On Demand.'”
Through the addition of new products, enhanced online ordering and streamlined inventory operations, Global Supply has clearly shown its commitment to the DOD and all its customers.
Editor’s Note: John Barnicle, Supply Specialist, GSA Federal Supply Service –John Barnicle is an analyst for GSA Global Supply. He serves as a liaison between the operations staff and the GSA Customer Service Directors. Before assuming this role, John served as a Customer Service Director in Minnesota and worked in facility planning and project management for GSA’s Public Buildings Service. Visit GSA’s Global Supply Web portal at www.govinfo.bz/4355-251.