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Uncle Sam’s looking for a few good bids (Something I worked on)

The Defense Department is looking to outsource the management of its domestic freight-a contract that could run into the billions of dollars. The program is intended to cut costs and boost service; it could also shake up the industry.

DC Velocity has an article about the DTCI – Defense Transportation Coordinator Initiative that is finally getting some well needed publicity.
I’m pleased to see something that I was part off for more than a year finally seeing the light of day. And I choose the word “part off” very carefully because you can only be a “part off” something like this – the DTCI project was just huge. The dataset was huge. The dollar amounts were more than huge. The meetings lasted days. The computational times were spread over weeks. And so on…
So what is the DTCI all about?

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the people who brought us stealth technology have launched an all-out war on freight spending and nobody seems to have noticed. And the Department of Defense (DOD) surely is thinking big. In August of this year, DOD began reviewing proposals submitted under its Defense Transportation Coordination Initiative (DTCI)—a program through which it will outsource the management of all DOD freight moving commercially in the continental United States.
The goal of DTCI is to improve the speed, predictability and reliability of transportation while simultaneously reducing costs by as much as 20 percent. The rest of us call it third-party logistics (3PL), but hey, this is the government, which rarely misses an opportunity to make up its own acronym.

Nothing could be truer that governments make up acronyms on the fly. This is especially painful if you as an outsider have to sit through meetings where you get bombarded with acronymns every third or fourth sentence. I mean that they have a whole different language unto themselves.

Now, DTCI is no secret … the DOD has been working the circuit since early 2004, talking the vision and addressing concerns. It has even created a public Web site devoted to the initiative. But outside of the defense world, it hasn’t generated much buzz, and it should.
We’re talking billions of dollars in freight over the life of the contract. That’s not a typo. Billions of freight dollars. And when you start shifting that kind of money around in a market, changes happen. Not just for the players involved, but for everybody playing in the sandbox.

The last thing you want is for the government to make a move because when a governmental department the size and scope of the DOD shifts its way of doing things, its like an elephant in a china shop, more or less. With the DTCI, the government wanted to make a significant first step of bringing in private parties to manage the DOD’s domestic freight. The DOD in any case doesn’t use its own fleet for domestic freight shipments except in some special cases and contracts carriers to ship stuff already. However, in DTCI, its trying to bring in a 3PL for very much the same reasons that a firm would bring in a 3PL.

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Healthy paranoia drives investment in supply management – Part 1

Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies Magazine (online version) has an article in their recent edition on Investment in Supply Management. The article was authored by Jean V. Murphy.
The lead-in into the article reads,

With the growth in offshore sourcing and manufacturing, supply lines have become longer, more complex and more vulnerable to disruptions. Concerned companies are meeting this challenge with a disciplined approach to supply management.

While in the past (or even today), supply chains experienced bullwhip effects on a local or regional level. Several factors contributing to the bullwhip effect are summarized below:
* Forecast Errors
* Lead Time Variability
* Batch Ordering
* Price Fluctuations
* Product Promotions
* Inflated Orders
Now imagine that the scenario confronting supply chain managers in a global context. Will there be a global bullwhip effect? Maybe yes and maybe no. If you looked at the contrinbuting factors above, all of the above factors exist in the global supply chain but because of a larger lead time (not Lead time variability which is also a factor), the effects are either going to be highly exacerbated or well damped.
Perhaps, highly exacerbated effect is easy to imagine because multiple orders to cover non-existent demand would quickly spiral out of control given longer lead times. However, there is also the possibility that one might find a well-damped effect. The volumes of inventory that have to be maintained are going to be quite large at all points in the supply chain and this serves as a buffer in the system.
If you’ve had the opportunity to play the beer game and had a situation wherein a particular node in the game had a lot of inventory at some point early in the game, that node would buffer the upstream nodes from the imaginary demand occuring in the supply chain.

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About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

@ SCM Clustrmap

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