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Fujitsu 2016 Future of Logistics Challenge How should we professionalise logisticians within the Whole Force to meet future challenges, recognising the increasing pace of technological change, greater integration with Industry partners and the drive for greater collaboration with Allies? By Major Andrew Gascoigne

Major Andrew  Gascoigne is a Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) officer currently employed within Command Wing at Deepcut, the school responsible for RLC officer specialist training.  His essay therefore focuses primarily on the officer-level in the Land environment, however, many of the general principles are equally pertinent to the other Services and the MOD Civil Service. He has chosen not to concentrate on the lower-ranking non-commissioned logistic professionals and specialists, or the last elements of the Whole Force – industry, and the logisticians embedded therein. The essay won the 8th Fujitsu Future of Logistics Challenge annual Essay Competition in 2016.

INTRODUCTION

FujitsuIn answering the question I will draw together a number of strands to try and articulate what I see as the major issues we face when trying to identify what “professionalisation of logisticians” actually means.  I will then propose a number of general areas which deserve further consideration and development to enable us to reshape logistics to meet the paradigm shift that working within the Whole Force[1] represents.  Finally, I will suggest a more interactive approach to training and developing logisticians, focusing on key skills, and leveraging formal education courses, workplace experience, personal development and a coaching and mentoring programmes.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

 In order to professionalise logistics we must first understand the scope and requirements that fall to logisticians under the Whole Force Approach.  In order to achieve this we need to take a far more holistic approach and understand what the future operating environment will look like.

There are many logisticians who would immediately rile at the implication in the question that we do not already have proven professional logisticians in the RLC.  We quite clearly have many experienced and highly professional operational logisticians, which by our current measure is our core business.  But the WFA changes the environment within which we operate; operational logistics will need to share top billing with more technical logistic competencies, and will become increasingly dependent on these fundamental skills to achieve operational success.

Professionalisation is one of 5 enabling objectives within the RLC Corps Strategy which sets out the Corps vision for the next 5 years. Whilst significant progress has been made within the various trades of the Corps to align with industry, accredit skills with professional bodies and achieve academic qualifications, the officer cohort lags behind.  However, it is the professional ability of middle and senior management which is critical to the successful implementation of the WFA.  If our logistic officers are not up to the job, Defence will fail to reap the operational and financial benefits that are expected.

If we are to offer a meaningful answer we must first bound the question.  This raises two fundamental questions: what is the scope of logistics, and what is required of logisticians in the WF environment?

Whilst the role of the soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers in the logistic trades are quite clear and easily understood, the role of the logistic officer is so varied as to defy categorization.  The definition of logistics is set out in the Defence logistics policy document JDP 4-00[2], but this goes far beyond the remit of the RLC and I believe this lack of clarity has presented the Officer Corps with something of an identity crisis since the formation of the Corps in 1993.  The adoption of the WFA, coinciding with a return to a more volatile and uncertain operating environment following a decade of long-term engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and future Army strategy out to 2020 provides a perfect opportunity to examine what it means to be an RLC officer, identify the key skills we require and devise a framework to develop our people accordingly.  I believe the strict militarisation of much of the Army’s logistics during recent combat operations has greatly narrowed our focus and leaves us ill prepared for the broader challenges we now face.

As with the term ‘logistics’,  which has many meanings within and beyond Defence, the Whole Force Approach remains ill-defined: there does not appear to be a clear understanding of what it is and how it will develop as a business model.

Emerging from the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR 10), the WFA to date has focused heavily on manpower issues related to developing a blended force, seeking to exploit a mix of Regular, Reserve, Civil Service and Industry personnel to optimize effects on the front line. Whilst it is incredibly difficult to find detailed information on the logistic implications of the WF, a comprehensive analysis is offered in a RUSI[3] paper from November 2015[4].  The paper concludes that the MOD still has some work to do, and ‘if it aspires to become more business-like, it should endeavour to define and manage its extended enterprise.’[5]  The paper also goes on to say that, in the main, ‘the Ministry appears reluctant to address supply-chain management.’[6]

So where do we start?  With no clear understanding of the scope of logistics or the implications of the WFA how can we set about professionalising our logisticians?

WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO?

A consideration of the future challenges articulated in the title provides some direction here.  The rapid advancement of technology and increasing integration with industry partners mean we have to master a number of areas:

  • We must identify our core business and protect it – there might be a temptation for mass outsourcing of logistics, but we have a role of protecting the Army from itself and understanding the cumulative and operational impacts of outsourcing.
  • We must be the smart customer, fully versed in every detail of the capability we have contracted for and capable of dealing with industry on equal terms.
  • We must properly resource the logistic enterprise, adequately resourcing our contract management role and, crucially, the central functions carried out by ACDS (Log Ops)[7].
  • We must drive coherence across the entire Defence logistic community, embracing change and improvements wherever we find opportunities.
  • Finally, we must broaden our horizons and look beyond logistics to develop professional supply chain managers in order to leverage all potential benefits of the WFA.

The drive for greater collaboration with allies presents a rather different challenge and I will not attempt to address this issue here.

HOW SHOULD WE DO IT?

Any solution which seeks to address professional development of logisticians, across Defence needs to provide a comprehensive framework, driven at the strategic level, which can be implemented at the individual level to have an effect across the organisation.  Following the logic of the brief analysis outlined above, there are a number of themes which need to be addressed:

Logistic Identity.

In the traditional military view of logistics we have tended to consider our function through the lens of the ‘supporting’ (or reactive/subordinate – Ed?) Arm.  There is nothing wrong with this view, it has served us very well for many years, but as the business and operating models change we must understand and adapt to a role which changes across different sectors of the Defence Supply Network (DSN).  In most global industries logistics and supply chain management is recognized as a major factor in driving competitive advantage: they are central to the success or failure of the business.

By clearly articulating the scope of logistics we identify the required skill sets, bring coherence to the logistic community, and provide a robust argument for adequate resourcing of logistic posts across the organisation.

The problem of defining logistics is by no means unique and there has been much written in academic literature about the definition and scope of logistics, principally in relationship to the discipline of supply chain management (SCM).  On balance the consensus is that logistics is a subset of supply chain management.  To paraphrase Martin Christopher[8], the goal of logistic management is to serve customers in the most cost effective way whereas SCM focuses on the management of relationships in order to achieve a more profitable outcome for all parties in the chain.

On the face of it, this then presents us with a problem: logistics is not necessarily what we think it is. In reality the argument over definitions of logistics versus SCM are, literally, academic.  The truth is that we shouldn’t worry too much.  What is important is that military logisticians need to broaden their portfolio of skills to professionally manage the future Defence Support Network, which will exist within the Whole Force Concept.  As part of this development logisticians must understand and master the skill required to appropriately manage the varied and complex business.  They must also become translators or interpreters, providing an interface between the military, support contractor and industry communities. They must ensure that nothing is lost in communication as requirements are interpreted, oversee contracts and, ultimately, manage the key relationships to deliver operational effect.

A Joint Approach

As the scope of logistics grows we must adopt an increasingly Joint approach.  Clearly, all 3 Services will maintain their unique capabilities and identities, but we cannot afford to continue with the systemic inefficiencies that currently exist.  The future operational environment will be increasingly Joint, and logisticians should take bold steps to adopt a Joint approach in all areas of business.

Single Service and wider industry logistic processes and language have developed in isolation, creating artificial barriers to the free movement of information and resources between environments.  As a proportion of Defence, logisticians might still remain one of the larger component parts, but with an all up strength of less than 20,000, any future plan that does not included greater coherence and integration of logistic capability would simply be bad business.  The co-location of military logistic training under the Defence Logistic School in Worthy Down will create the perfect conditions for driving the coherence from the very beginning of a uniformed logistician’s career.

Failure to drive coherence would also pose a direct threat to the delivery of ACDS (Log Ops)’s Defence Logistic Vision (DLV).  A key assumption in the DLV is that future coherence will be delivered through the delegated authority to Front Line Commands[9] – without an increasingly Joint outlook this must be considered a significant risk to delivering the vision.

Professional logisticians will of course be key to delivering a DLV, but they must also be in the right place and in the right numbers.  ACDS (Log Ops) has a vast remit to deliver, covering both Operations and Policy, but only has around 100 people (specialists and support staffs) to deliver it.  If one compares this figure with the Surgeon General’s department, fulfilling a similar role for the medical community, they have around four times as many people.  Given the direct impact of Defence logistics on both operational effectiveness and financial efficiency there must be a compelling argument for a significant uplift in manpower.  With the best will in the world, even the greatest vision will fail if it is not adequately resourced.

Training & Development

 As highlighted earlier, the inability to clearly define the full scope of logistics has wide ranging implications for the logistic community.  Without a far reaching review of how and what we train for, based on a clear understanding of the future role of logisticians, we will never be able to develop the professional officers we require.  This should also be linked to some form of accreditation and chartered status; this not only provides validation and assurance of the training we deliver, but also puts us on a par with most of the other technical and professional Corps and Branches.

Within Defence, training design must comply with the Defence Systems Approach to Training (DSAT), a process through which the analysis, design, delivery and assurance of training is delivered across the MOD.  Whilst this provides a rigorous and comprehensive process it is not suitable in a situation where we are seeking a step change in capability because it requires policy and doctrine to be in place first, and that takes time.

The challenge of professionalising logisticians requires a fundamental reappraisal of the Logistic roles across Defence.  Only once we have clarified the vision and scope of Defence logistics can we then identify the skill set we require as practitioners, and subsequently redesign our training to be progressive from the outset.

What is also clear is that we can no longer afford to train logisticians within a military bubble; we must have far greater interaction with the Civil Service, industry and academia.  To be truly professional, all logisticians should have a firm grasp of the underpinning theory of logistics and supply chain management.

Within the RLC we still invest a great deal in professional technical courses[10], but we have failed to invest in our core business of supply, distribution and inventory management.  Whilst a small, but increasing, number of young officers are taking up the opportunity to study logistics at BSc level with providers such as Lincoln University, most officers have no theoretical or academic logistic knowledge to underpin their military experience.  One prime example of where we do get it right is the Defence Logistic Staff Course (DLSC), which provides Masters level education within the Joint environment.  Such a course not only provides advanced academic training, but invariably has an immediate effect on the individuals’ day jobs, which are consistently used to provide the case studies for many of the academic assignments.  In terms of return on investment, I believe that the DLSC represents far greater values than most of the PTCs we currently offer in the Corps and there is certainly scope for reviewing this area in the longer term.

Growing Talent

 The final element which needs to be addressed if we are to successfully professionalise our logisticians is how we nurture and grow talent.  We must ensure that our specialist logistic officer training represents a progressive programme of education at the Troop Commander, Captain and Major level, thus growing the base level of professional competence whilst also preparing suitable individuals for more specialist training in the future.

Such an approach would drastically increase the professional competence of the officer corps.  We should move away from the traditional bottom up[11] method of education and take a top down approach, teaching the theory, principles and management drivers, freeing officers to truly add value to the process.  Training them to be managers and understand organisational benefits could drastically improve productivity.

The future logistic enterprise of Defence will demand greater skill and expertise; developing our people through education, training and experience will deliver greater value per head for Defence.  Given recent reductions in force numbers the prospect of further drives to deliver more with less may be a step too far, but with the right training and investment it is perfectly possible to deliver more with the same.

The final element is reward.  Individuals will not attend courses or volunteer for professional posts if there is no clear benefit to their careers.  If we really value professional logisticians we need to create an internal market that pulls people into the role and retains talent.

 A KEY SKILLS FRAMEWORK FOR LOGISTIC OFFICERS

The areas highlighted above require further consideration and development from a strategic level in order to set conditions for the professionalisation of the logistic community.  Given the speed of change within Defence logistics, any top-down approach to policy change will need to be matched with a bottom-up action plan to firmly establish the new programme of professionalisation.  Command Wing is uniquely placed to deliver this effect for the Army.  Not only is it the de facto centre of excellence for logistic training within the Royal Logistic Corps, but it is fully resourced and funded with instructors and training time, assures consistency, and all Corps officers between the rank of Second Lieutenant and Major[12] (junior officer and middle manager) should rotate through our courses every 3-4 years.

The key skills required will take some time and effort to identify, but this is essential if my proposed professionalisation plan is to work.  Much has been written in academic literature over the past 2-3 decades to try and identify key skills for logistics and supply chain managers.  These provide a useful starting point, but wider engagement is required if we are to identify the skills which can form the core syllabus of logistic training for the Army for the next 10-15 years.  Figure 1 provides a suggested core skills framework split into 3 main areas: logistic knowledge; planning; and management.

Knowledge Area Key Skill
Logistic Knowledge

 

Policy & Doctrine, SCM, Deployed Logistic Support, Contract Management, Logistic Information Systems
Planning

 

Logistic Estimate, Mental Agility, Analytical Skills, Critical Thinking, Collaboration
Management

 

G1 Knowledge, Communication Skills, Force Generation & Training, Inspections & Assurance, Project Management

Figure 1: Potential framework for Logistic Officers’ Key Skills

The detail contained within the framework is indicative at this stage, but it draws on existing course training objectives and academic studies designed to identify key skills required by logistic and supply chain managers[13].  The suggestion is that this could provide a framework applicable across the mandated training courses delivered from Second Lieutenant to Major.

The key skills would provide a common thread throughout Command Wing courses, providing an incremental approach to training. Course time allotted to each key skill should vary dependent on the relevance to officers at each stage of their career. This allows for certain key skills to be explored in depth whilst maintaining an appropriate level of competence across the framework.

This approach is similar to the Logistic Professional Education Strategy developed by the Army Logistics University of the US Army[14].  Their model provides a framework of 4 key areas – Distribution/Supply Chain Management, Life Cycle Systems Management, Logistic Planning, and Defence Industrial Base Management – delivered from pre-commissioning to General Officer level, with the relative emphasis in content, time and effort adjusted across levels of education.

In this basic form a key skills framework does little more than the current training objectives for our existing courses.  The next step is to use this framework to build a more interactive approach to personal development, based on the principles of coaching and mentoring.  By translating the key skills into an assessment template (Figure 2) one can develop a dynamic and interactive assessment tool that could provide a measure of individual ability throughout the first stage of an officer’s career.

The framework provides a mechanism for scoring an individual against the required level of competence for each skill at every rank, with experience, courses and summative tests all contributing to the assessment of an individual’s competence. A common mechanism needs to be used as the basis for instructor and self-assessment.  This could provide an interactive method of assessing performance and highlighting specific areas for development through simple gap analysis. The tool can also be used in conjunction with mentors (Reporting Officers in the chain of command or others) to provide a continuous and consistent focus for development.

The framework provides a mechanism for scoring an individual against the required level of competence for each skill at every rank, with experience, courses and summative tests all contributing to the assessment of an individual’s competence. A common mechanism needs to be used as the basis for instructor and self-assessment.  This could provide an interactive method of assessing performance and highlighting specific areas for development through simple gap analysis. The tool can also be used in conjunction with mentors (Reporting Officers in the chain of command or others) to provide a continuous and consistent focus for development.

 

The mix of ‘art’ and ‘science’ required when developing logistic commanders is difficult to define, and poses a significant challenge to assessment. The proposed framework would be equally applicable to both subjective and objective evaluation to cater for both ends of this spectrum.

CONCLUSION

Whilst there remains a lack of clarity regarding exactly what will be required of logisticians in the Whole Force era, it is quite clear that the logistic community needs to invest in a far broader professional skill set than was previously required.

Some of the thornier questions about how to do this will take some time to answer, but we do know enough to take the first steps towards our goal.  With the Whole Force Approach a reality, we do not have the luxury of time to follow the rigorous processes enshrined in policy formulation, and should adopt a more pragmatic and agile approach to the problem.

By addressing the issues from the strategic level whilst simultaneously refocusing the training delivered to officers we can accelerate the up-skilling of the logistic community.

Adopting a framework of logistic Key Skills and a flexible model for assessing individual ability will allow Continuous Personal Development to be conducted throughout all stages of their career: on formal training courses, whilst employed on Regimental Duties (in operational delivery roles) or on the Staff (in a Headquarters or training role), and through personal study.  Responsibility will be shared between Command Wing, the Chain of Command and the individual.  As a result, minimal additional resources will be required to deliver better trained and professionally competent logisticians to meet the challenges of the Whole Force era.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

JDP 4-00, Logistics for Joint Operations. 4th Edition.

J Louth & T Taylor. Beyond the Whole Force: The Concept of the Defence Extended Enterprise and its Implications for the Ministry of Defence. RUSI Publications, 09 Nov 2015.

Christopher, M., Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Pearson Education Ltd, Harlow, 2016.

Murphy, P. and Poist, R.F. Skill Requirements of Senior-Level Logisticians: A Longitudinal Assessment. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal. 12/6 (2007)

Thai, V.V. et al. Skill Requirements for Logistic Professionals: Findings and Implications. Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics. Vol. 23, No. 4. (2011)

Wyche, L.D. Sybchronizing Leader Development for Sustainment 2020. Army Sustainment, Jul 2013.

[1] The Whole Force Concept (WFC) is a specific recommendation of the Lord Levene Defence Reform Review and seeks to develop a process that allows Defence budget holders to make decisions on the most cost effective balance of regular and reserve military personnel, MOD civilians and contractors.

.[2] ‘Logistics is the science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces. In its most comprehensive sense, the aspects of military operations which deal with:

  • design and development, acquisition, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, recovery and disposal of materiel.
  • transport of personnel
  • acquisition or construction, maintenance, operation and disposition of facilities
  • acquisition of furnishing of services; and
  • medical and health service support’. JDP 4-00, Ch 1, 1.4.

[3] The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) is an independent think tank engaged in cutting edge defence and security research.

[4] ‘Beyond the Whole Force. The Concept of the Defence Extended Enterprise and its Implications for the Ministry of Defence’ J Louth & T Taylor, RUSI Publications, 09 Nov 2015.

[5] Ibid. p.14.

[6] Ibid. p.14.

[7] Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Logistic Operations) – ACDS (Log Ops), provides strategic logistics advice to the MOD Head Office and, as the Logistics Process Architect, is charged with designing and implementing a Logistics Process that best enables military tasking and delivers through-life effectiveness and efficiency. He supports the MOD strategic staffs through the provision of logistics advice to military strategic planning and strategic command of operations (including the strategic logistics direction to current operations).

[8] Christopher, M., Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Pearson Education Ltd, Harlow, 2016.

[9] The operational capability providers of the RN, Army and RAF, who will be monitored and regulated by the Defence Authority for Logistics, ACDS (Log Ops).

[10] RLC Ammunition Technical Officers’ Course, Officers’ Petroleum Course, Food Services Officers’ Course, Port & Maritime Operations Officers’ Course.

[11] Officer education has routinely taken the form of an accelerated program of Class 3/2/1 courses to learn the function of a particular trades group.

[12] Career Stage 1

[13] Principally Murphy and Poist’s work with the Business, Logistics & Management framework and Thai et al’s survey of CILT members in Australia.

[14] Maj Gen LD Wyche. ‘Sybchronizing Leader Development for Sustainment 2020’. Army Sustainment, Jul 2013.

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