Without proper channels to facilitate strong communication within its supply chain, the Army Material Command (AMC) cannot meet the demand of requirements as the primary provider of materials to the U.S. Army, according to an AMC official.

During a June 27 FCW webinar, Wayne (Tom) Ray, civilian deputy for the Director of the Supply Chain Management Directorate at AMC, explained that inefficient communication is the primary roadblock to an efficient supply chain – and that this became explicitly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, AMC reached out to its “commercial vendors to delay deliveries” because they didn’t “see those requirements and were not prepared financially to meet those obligations, and then [AMC] also stopped workload in some of our organic industrial base.”

According to Ray, this was a strategic pause to see what the world was going to look like as the coronavirus pandemic played out.

“When coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, some areas of the Army continued to train at similar tempos. So, suddenly that pumped the brakes into our supply base – which absolutely started a ripple effect into the supply chain,” Ray said, “because we didn’t do a great job of communicating our needs.”

“Now we have a lot of the suppliers that are asking questions like what is happening, when will we see this accelerate back, will it accelerate back, and what is the Army’s plan,” he said.

“We must deal with trying to communicate with our [original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)] in the commercial industry and explain to them what we’re doing and what we need from them,” he added.

The lack of communication from the Army limits the planning horizons that AMC can share with its supply base, resulting in communication gaps in the supply chain, Ray said. Inefficient communication with the customer – in this case, the U.S. Army – results in inefficient communication with OEMs, he said.

Ray explained that AMC is using data to get a clearer picture of what its customers need to make decisions, then communicate that information to its supply chain to meet their requirements.

“Being able to use data and see the fluctuations in demand … we can then translate that need to our suppliers,” Ray said, adding that facilitating better communication also requires positive intent.

“One thing we have to do is ask … [our suppliers] what would be a better way to communicate information back to them, and then encourage them to talk to their suppliers,” he said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.