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848th SCMG supplier relations working group successful

More than 40 suppliers, customers and supply chain representatives listen to a briefing at the Hill Conference Center as part of a recent Supplier Relations Working Group, sponsored by the 848th Supply Chain Management Group. The conference focus was on communication, collaboration and candor. (Air Force photo by Lisa West/Released)

More than 40 suppliers, customers and supply chain representatives listen to a briefing at the Hill Conference Center as part of a recent Supplier Relations Working Group, sponsored by the 848th Supply Chain Management Group. The conference focus was on communication, collaboration and candor. (Air Force photo by Lisa West/Released)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The 848th Supply Chain Management Group held a supplier relations working group recently, to bring together government and private industry representatives to focus on increasing collaboration between the suppliers, the supply chain and the warfighter, thus providing the best supply support to the warfighter.

The working group was comprised of suppliers, supply chain and customers, who met over a two-day period at the Hill Conference Center.  This was the second time this type of conference was held.  The first took place in August of last year and was attended by 13 suppliers, and lessons learned from that first working group was the genesis for the latest working group.

"In the past our supplier's relationship management program was dollar-driven, focusing our attention primarily on suppliers that we spend a lot of money with," said Col. Rod Bloker, 848th SCMG commander. Placing a small spring about one-inch long by half-an-inch wide on the table, the colonel then said, "If you're supplying me that part and I don't have that part and can't fly an airplane, I don't care how much money I spend with you, I care that I don't have that part."

The 848th SCMG has some 191 suppliers that the organization needs to build a strong relationship with. The Supplier Relationship Management team works to make sure that suppliers know that they are all part of a large air power team that creates air power for the country, and that what they provide is going to generate a plane in the sky.

The SRM team was tasked to put together the working group focusing on the three Cs: communication, collaboration and candor. With just four team members to organize such a large scale event, a lot of effort went into making the working group a success. "We sent out invitations to 40 suppliers," said Lisa West, SRM team member. "We received 28 responses with 25 suppliers in attendance with many of those who attended the first working group coming back."

The working group was structured to give suppliers a better understanding of what it takes to award a government contract. "We see the frustration the suppliers have and where they're getting stuck in certain processes," said Diane Owen, Source Development Program Manager with the 429th Supply Chain Management Squadron.
"These working groups offer us an opportunity to understand what's most important to the supplier and what might be misconceptions about processes.  Learning these things can shine a light on areas where we might not have known there was a systemic problem, which gives us opportunity for improvement that can result in mutual success for suppliers and the Air Force."

Information flow was a two-way street with suppliers having an opportunity to discuss and highlight some of the pitfalls they experience in the selection process.  "What I got from the conference," said Thomas "Bullet" Arko, director, Military Marketing and Sales L-3 Aviation products, "was the ability to network and hear other members of industry and the government discuss issues that make the process difficult...as well as various ways to solve those impediments to rapid and cost effective acquisition."

Customers attending the working group also joined in the dialogue, resulting in positive experiences. "B-2 is a small fleet and our mission is so critical to the nation's defense, it's imperative that we team with our suppliers and look towards a united effort," said Pamela Sanchez, a B-2 Logistics Analyst with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. "By creating a dialogue with multiple weapon systems and having the freedom to discuss concerns and hurdles with suppliers, we've solidified a great foundation that we can continue to build on."

One important takeaway from the conference was that suppliers want more engagement, not just talk.  To facilitate that, a rolling action item list was created to identify specific actions for follow up action so that the next time the working group meets, they can continue the dialogue. It's a win-win situation.