Original Date: 04/07/1997
Revision Date: 04/14/2003
Best Practice : Self-Service Supply Center, Uncle Samís Emporium
Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) denotes its Self-Service Supply Center (SSSC) as "Uncle Sam's Emporium" (USE). This supply store was first initiated in 1981, with functional refinements being applied to enhance its usefulness over this period of time, to more effectively serve its 294 customer accounts. Downsizing, creation of the Government Credit Card Program, and recent benchmarking activities with respect to commercial or private sector counterparts such as Office Max and Office Depot created an opportunity for RIA to fill an important need while helping to ensure the continued self-sustaining operation of its SSSC. Two benchmarks solvency and customer service were set as determinants; goals to use available technology, have a clear understanding of logistics, and superior customer service were identified. Fundamental to success is the development of technology to provide on-site and regional customers the ability to purchase supplies using an interactive on-line catalog via the World Wide Web and VISA and MasterCard. The target market includes current customers, people currently purchasing using the Government credit card, and people currently making micro-purchases using other methods of payment. The on-line store is being created in five stages, with each stage reliant on customer feedback as a design tool to ensure that the project truly fits customer requirements. The array of offered products is available currently on 3.5" disk with plans for CD-ROM.
Once fully operational, RIA will have the Army’s foremost one-stop office supply store providing top quality service, speed, convenience, and quality products at competitive prices. By using RIA’s SSSC, or USE, customers avoid lost man-hours created by item identification, cost-comparisons, off-post shopping, preparation of paperwork for VISA, milstrip purchases, reconciliation, and status of supply requests. Customers will have the ability to purchase a variety of items to support their operations with their Government credit card, and they never have to leave their desk. Several innovations and refinements to USE include:
Individual Item Surcharges
Customers were assessed a usage fee based on the size of the organization which was added to their apportionment for the year. Customers never knew what to budget for this surcharge. Initially, RIA submitted and received approval for a waiver, 710-2-2, Chapter 13, to deviate from using the Army Master Data File and acquisition cost in pricing. Internally, RIA concluded that the fees associated with SSSC operations could be better budgeted by assessing a surcharge to each item purchased. In May of each fiscal year, RIA’s resource management organization accumulates pertinent sales data and calculates a surcharge (percentage) based on overhead rates, sales projections, and labor costs. This surcharge is used for SSSC markup for the coming fiscal year. Now the sale or selling price reflects the only cost incurred by the customer, and customers have a simplified budget process for supplies. Customers also know that when they budget for a certain level of purchase power, no hidden costs will appear later. With the surcharge tied directly to RIA’s overhead rate, surcharge fluctuations reflect services based on actual usage of the SSSC, and ensure that RIA remains competitively cost focused.
RIA made significant changes to its SSSC delivery process based on customer feedback, a desire to be more competitive with industry, and the desire to enhance its customer service. Previously, the SSSC would provide direct-office delivery only for purchases of three or more boxes of reproduction paper. In late1996, SSSC began accepting delivery requests for orders of at least ten items or $50 at no cost to the customer. Customers can submit a request using a customized order form via intra-office mail, FAX, electronic mail, or phone. Staff response (item selection, preparation for delivery, delivery) is accomplished within two days of order receipt, and the current average for delivery is three per day. Customer feedback indicates this to be a powerful and significant time and money saver. This service is free, and has proven so valuable that customers are now using RIA’s SSSC USE as a first choice versus commercial business.
Point of Issue for Common Hardware and Software
A blanket Mission Need Statement (MNS) has been established for stocking common Automated Data Processing Equipment (ADPE) items. Previously, customers prepared and processed a MNS for ADPE purchases through several approval channels. This process was time consuming and expensive for both purchaser and approving offices, as well as lacking uniformity from MNS to MNS. The equipment used throughout the installation was not compatible with other systems and equipment. To streamline the internal process, a blanket MNS was established in late 1993 to begin stocking common ADPE items in the SSSC. RIA’s Information Management Directorate prepares the MNS which authorizes ordering and distribution through the SSSC. The MNS can be updated throughout the year as equipment features or customer requirements change. Preparation and processing time for individual MNS are eliminated, compatible ADPE equipment becomes standard throughout the installation, and order-to-delivery time is reduced from eight months to a matter of hours. Since the inception of this process, approximately 1,000 pieces of ADPE have been issued through the SSSC.
RIA’s current customer base is presently limited to 294 individual accounts. Improvements such as use of Government VISA cards allow 80% of micro-purchases to be made quickly. The additional use of the Internet (World Wide Web) provides a means to service customers throughout the world. The target market now not only includes current customers, but those accounts which previously used other self-service stores that closed due to operational inefficiencies. Current plans are to establish a Web-sited on-line self-service store in five basic phases, each with provision for customer feedback. A contract to begin this effort was awarded April 1, 1997.
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