DALLAS -- Around the globe, Army & Air Force Exchange Service distribution centers buzz with the hum of forklifts, turret trucks and conveyor belts as carton after carton of merchandise moves to military installations around the world.For service members to get the goods they need and want, an efficient supply chain is more than a necessity--it is the linchpin of Exchange's mission to improve the quality of life for Soldiers, Airmen, retirees and their families. With this in mind, the Exchange's Logistics Directorate is increasing efficiencies in the supply chain through collaboration with technology groups, buying staffs and vendors.The organization's West Coast Distribution Center at Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop, Calif., is playing a major role in efficiency efforts. The 850,000-square-foot facility has rolled out new warehouse management software to speed up the merchandise flow of 35,000 cases per day to Exchanges and reduce carton-handling expenses by 37 percent.Plans call for the supply chain management software to be implemented at other facilities, with the Germersheim Distribution Center in Germany targeted for 2015, Dan Daniel Distribution Center in Newport News, Va., in 2017 and Waco Distribution Center in Texas in 2018. Based on current results, the Exchange is considering expanding the implementation to other centers in the U.S. and overseas."The warehouse management software is a launching pad to even more customer service improvements," said Vice President of Logistics Operations Alan French, who has led the charge in improving efficiencies at the distribution centers. "We expect even greater savings as cartons at our facilities continue to be handled more efficiently, allowing us to better meet the needs of our stores, which ultimately allows the Exchange to better serve Soldiers, Airmen, retirees and their families."Partnerships between Logistics headquarters personnel and those who work in the distribution centers are essential to ensuring merchandise flows efficiently, French said. In fact, Logistics isn't working alone in the mission to reduce expenses and improve the Exchange's supply chain."The Exchange's accomplishments aren't possible simply by adjusting logistics," he said. "It's a collaborative effort throughout the organization to align objectives and goals to produce successful outcomes."Distribution center improvements benefit not only the Exchange but also the vendors it does business with. Better visibility and communication between the JDA software and the Exchange's order management system improves economic order quantities, allowing vendors to optimize shipments to ensure products reach shoppers faster and reduce out-of-stock occurrences."It's a win-win and shared goal for all parties in the supply chain," French said.Besides software enhancements, Logistics has other initiatives to improve customer service and reduce costs, French said."For Logistics, 2014 has been a year of transformation with much more to come," he said. "Efficient merchandise movement increases customer service while decreasing expenses."Since 2013, the Exchange's Logistics Directorate has taken $34 million out of the supply chain by partnering with stakeholders.And, French said, a more efficient supply chain that improves the amount of time it takes to get merchandise from the warehouse to the stores ultimately leads to happier shoppers and better merchandise availability."Serving Soldiers, Airmen, retirees and their families is a privilege and an honor," French said. "We're looking always to improve customer service, and an efficient supply chain is where the rubber meets the road."