By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)May 9, 2019
The design of Army Combat Uniforms already simplifies the process of getting ready in the morning for Soldiers, but now Fort Jackson is looking into ways to make obtaining and replacing ACUs -- along with other military equipment -- as easy as ordering anything else from the Internet.
Dozens of Fort Jackson's supply logistic specialists visited a "traditional sortable fulfillment center" of a worldwide ordering and distribution business in West Columbia May 2 to see how the civilian side makes e-commerce work.
"This will be the new norm for clothing issue and replenishments," said George Smith, Deputy G4 for the U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson.
The goal was to "learn from how civilian industries do supply logistics and (where) the future of the Army is going," said Maj. Jeffrey Witherspoon, G4 officer in charge.
Using their supply distribution method would make for "a faster service for Soldiers to get their equipment, because of the way they run their facilities and how they streamline the process as far as getting the equipment from one area to another," said Linda McCallum, a supply management specialist who formerly worked for the company as a seasonal employee.
With just a few clicks, customers can order virtually anything and receive their packages after just a couple of days.
A secretive, Internet-reliant system allows employees to quickly store, account for, sort, pack and send items ordered online, taking advantage of both technology, including some robots, and employees trained in tasks like picking, packing, sorting and more.
"That is what the future will look like for us" -- increased automation and the ability to order from home and track items from computer to door, Witherspoon said.
"We know (change) is coming," he added. Supply operations have remained the same for a while, but new technology means there is room for improvement, especially in reducing processing time.
The Army will pick up on some of the things civilian industries are already doing to become more efficient, more high-technology and less wasteful when it comes to supply storage, distribution and management.
The plan to be tested will allow Soldiers to order their Army attire, and eventually equipment, online from a specific vender website -- rather than having to go to Fort Jackson's Central Issue Facility -- and to return items that don't fit or that they have outgrown to be replaced, said Magnus Thorpe, G4 property book technician. That will make the process "faster than what it is now."
"The biggest thing is reducing waste, saving money, and also staying at the leading edge of what supply distribution looks like," Witherspoon said.
The goal is to close the gap between Army operations and civilian industries "as we grow to match (them)," Witherspoon said. "They have a faster ability to move … versus a large military, so we look at how they move quick and learn from their mistakes and best practices … Over time, we adopt their best practices."