DURHAM, N.C. -- In logistics, one of the few constants is change.
That was one of several takeaways for three U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command team members who attended an industry-based logistics course at Duke University in late April.
The AMLC contingent -- including Maj. Janessa Moyer, director of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency’s Force Projection Directorate, and Army Civilians Rajal Ganatra and Bill Sovitsky -- was among 20 military leaders to attend the two-week course, offered by the Institute for Defense & Business, a nonprofit educational organization.
“Overall, the course was one of the better educational platforms I have attended,” Moyer said. “It exposed us to industry and academia, and it allowed us to explore opportunities for improved practices at our agencies.”
The Industry Based Broadening–Logistics curriculum centered on enhancing Department of Defense leadership skills in problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, data fluency and communications through a mix of academic instruction, group exercises, benchmarking visits and final presentations.
University professors, industry leaders and retired DOD senior officials provided instruction on various topics, including principles of innovation, change management, simplification of processes and identifying bottlenecks.
The class was split into four groups of five to develop a problem statement based on their organizational experiences. From there, each group worked through the problem during the class and presented a capstone project at the end.
The 11 days of instruction included facility tours at 15 leading companies in the Durham area, providing a first-hand look into various stages of logistics operations -- from production and sorting to distribution and customer service.
“During visits to the different companies, the groups focused on how these companies dealt with similar issues and the people, practices and tools they used to be successful in these areas,” said Sovitsky, supervisory logistics management specialist within AMLC’s Integrated Logistics Support Center.
Problem statements developed by the groups focused on supplier distribution networks, data flows and business information systems, maintenance problems, data literacy and total asset visibility.
Moyer noted that the company visits showed how private industry struggles with similar challenges the Army faces, including with recruitment, retention and evolving with new generations.
Sovitsky said the course illuminated the correlations between private and public sectors, specifically in that both are mission focused but also need to address change management practices, communication, information systems and data.
“The private sector has a better understanding of the importance of data to support decision-making,” he said. “They are also keenly aware that change is a necessity for survival. Those who don’t innovate don’t survive.”
Ganatra, a logistics management specialist for AMLC’s Strategic Initiatives Group working on its “MEDLOG in Campaigning” effort, said the course helped her better understand the logistical hurdles companies face in terms of data flow, supply chain planning, training and distribution.
All are elements considered as part of “MEDLOG in Campaigning,” an effort aimed at streamlining medical materiel ordering and medical device maintenance while posturing the Army to be medically ready to transition quickly from peacetime at home station to an active operational environment.
“I felt this course will help me look at it from a different perspective and think creatively and critically toward the solutions we are working on,” Ganatra said. “Solutions that better prepare us to support the warfighter.”
Moyer said that the course drove home the importance of data visualization and implementing a “VALTIS” approach, which stands for Visible, Accessible, Understandable, Linked, Trustworthy, Interoperable and Secure.
In addition to continuous learning opportunities for AMLC leaders, it also shined a light on DOD partners and industries that use different strategies to attack similar problem sets that could serve as best practices when applied to AMLC’s mission as the Army’s premier medical logistics organization, Moyer added.
Reflecting on the group’s graduation May 2, Ganatra said a quote used by the ceremony’s keynote speaker summed up the experience. It was Socrates who said: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
“It was an absolutely rewarding course in terms of understanding the complexities of the problem and that there is no one solution for all problems,” she said. “There is only one way to eat an elephant -- one bite at a time.”