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USAF Boot Camp Tracks Boots
Defense Supply Center Philadelphia is installing an RFID system to ensure U.S. Air Force recruits acquire the proper clothing and footwear for their training and active duty, as well as to track goods though the supply chain from vendors, third-party-logistics providers and military warehouses.
Jun 17, 2010—After proving the benefits of RFID technology in tracking inventory of training uniforms and related items as they are issued to recruits at the Lackland Air Force Base's recruit training center, the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP)—a branch of the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency—plans to expand the system to include the vendors that manufacture higher-value personal supplies, such as helmets, and the warehouses at which the products are received and shipped to the recruit center. DSCP's RFID initiative is intended to increase the visibility of products as they pass through the supply chain and are received by new recruits, thereby reducing errors and increasing inventory accuracy. DSCP supplies food, clothing, and medical items or equipment, as well as construction and equipment supplies, to U.S. military personnel and dependents worldwide.
Each month, DSCP purchases and ships hundreds of thousands of uniforms and related items to armed services members at nine U.S. recruit training areas. The supply chain is complex; as many as 400 vendors and subcontractors in the United States provide the products, which are sent either to commercial third-party-logistics companies or to DLA warehouses, and then on to a recruiting center when they are ordered. The center tries to provide a 45-day advance of inventory to each recruit training center, at which new recruits receive their basic training prior to military service.
Because DSCP pays a vendor only after it verifies the correct order has been shipped by that vendor and received by a third-party-logistics provider or DLA warehouse, an RFID system could also speed the payment process. In addition, it hoped the technology would eliminate inaccuracies that can lead to double orders or missing items. Finally, DSCP gets reimbursed by the recruiting center for the items it supplies as soon as those items are individually issued to recruits, so if items remain monitored by RFID, it would be paid and the inventory replenished once the transactions are recorded.
Another inefficiency in the system that DSCP intended to address occurs at the point at which equipment is acquired by recruits at the training centers. There, a recruit is assigned a series of clothing and other wearable items, which he or recruit center personnel must pick off the shelf and place in a duffel bag, which is then examined by personnel. Typically, the staff must count the items, look at labels, and ensure no mistakes were made—for example, taking too many pairs of socks, forgetting a piece of clothing, or taking inconsistent sizes (one large and one small pair of pants, for instance). As an individual examines the items, other recruits or orders line up, waiting their turn, resulting in delays of up to three hours per person.
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