Supply chain management gets an upgrade.

Position:News & analysis

The C-5 cargo plane currently flies with parts that nobody makes anymore.

One of the complex challenges of the Defense Logistics Agency, with depots in Philadelphia, Columbus, OH, and Richmond, VA, is to find suppliers that will keep the C-5 up in the air. The agency's larger purpose is to keep U.S. defense forces operating with zero interruption in supplies.

The supply chain of the U.S. defense industry is one of the most intricate in the world. With spending reaching record levels, in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually, it also is one of the most competitive. The constant demand by the Department of Defense (DoD) for original equipment or crucial, often unavailable legacy parts is a daunting challenge, not only for small and medium-sized manufacturers, but for the entire supply chain.

Complicating this challenge, as a matter of national policy the DoD also must constantly seek world-class, domestically-based manufacturing capabilities and new technologies to support war fighters and to accomplish its mission.

Currently, multinational corporations with global reach attempt to source what they need from suppliers that provide the best quality, price, technical contribution, and support, regardless of their location. As a result, domestic manufacturers are facing stiff competition from low-cost suppliers with offshore locations.

These advantages, however, are sometimes mitigated by higher logistics costs, like shipping, inventory, risk of product obsolescence, quality issues, risks of natural disasters, and political uncertainty. Certainly the United States would be less vulnerable if more leaders in global supply chains would design and market their products in America.

Enter the Doyle Center for Manufacturing Technology, which provides small domestic manufacturing enterprises with state-of-the-art technology tools, training, quality orientation, and responsiveness necessary to become vital contributors in the U.S. defense industry supply chain. The Doyle Center calls this emerging paradigm Network-centric Manufacturing, and it is defined at a high level as the continuous development of extended enterprises through cutting-edge applications of digital technology that enhance the speed, transparency, knowledge, and confidence through which supply chains can be organized and managed.

Through its proprietary technology, the Doyle Center bridges the gaps or enhances linkages that exist...

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