Contractor-Client Communications Key to Efficient Supply Chain Management
Pandemic-related supply chain issues require creative solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the strains it put on the global supply chain is making businesses rethink how they supply their government customers, said Zach Conover, general manager for Akima LLC’s subsidiaries Truestone, Lynxnet and Aperture Federal. Akima is an Alaska native-owned government contractor providing services such as facilities maintenance and repair, information technology support, logistics and supply chain operations, and systems engineering.
Speaking during a SIGNAL Executive Video Series discussion with Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine’s editor in chief, Conover noted that while the Department of Defense is no stranger to complex supply chains, the ongoing pandemic has been an opportunity to highlight the weaknesses in the global supply chain.
“I don’t thing it’s a surprise to anybody that there are supply chain challenges. The world has gone to just-in-time manufacturing—we are a global economy. There’s nothing that you buy or use these days that doesn’t have components that are sourced from all over the world,” Conover said.
While supply chain issues are now affecting commercial industry, the government sector’s use of specialized and legacy equipment present its own challenge for companies providing services and sourcing equipment. In one such case where Akima was working with the Army on a time-sensitive project to build and print a circuit board, an initial analysis of the project found that a nine-month lead time was needed to source the needed parts.
“That’s not acceptable in our line of work because this is a warfighter need. So we need to get this out to folks as quickly as possible,” Conover said.
Further analysis by Akima’s engineers and supply chain experts found that the projected delay was caused by the unavailability of a certain brand and type of capacitor. It wasn’t that the capacitor was unique and couldn’t be acquired elsewhere, but that the contracting language had specified a particular company and component.
Akima worked with the Army to replace that particular component “and suddenly production times changed from nine months to four weeks,” Conover explained.
Because something as simple as a single type of capacitor on a circuit board can impact production cycles, the ongoing effects of the pandemic put pressure on both commercial and government agencies, requiring creative fixes.
Conover added that a key aspect of supply chain management with the DOD in these times is communications.
“It’s about the back and forth between the customer and the contractor,” he explained.