Lightning strikes at Wright State for Air Force, businesses

Tom Murray, Mike Magnusson and Chery Deckard found big savings opportunities in the Air Force supply chain of spare parts inventories.

Tom Murray, Mike Magnusson and Chery Deckard found big savings opportunities in the Air Force supply chain of spare parts inventories.

Project Lightning.

Is it a covert CIA operation? Maybe a combat plan for an elite military extraction team?

No, it’s the name of a final project led by three Wright State students. They may have found a way to save the Air Force hundreds of millions of dollars.

All are graduate students in the Masters of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management degree program in the Raj Soin College of Business, and the trio just delivered a capstone presentation that epitomizes the program’s goal.

“We’re trying to save the taxpayer money,” said Cheryl Deckard, a team chief for the Air Force Audit Agency and one of three students working on the project.

Deckard and her cohorts were laser-locked on a mission to identify efficiency opportunities in the Air Force budget using their new supply chain and logistics skills.

After a year of study, the group is recommending changes that could reduce Air Force inventory costs by $190 million and generate $29 million in annual savings a year.

Project Lightning determined that if just 4 percent of spare parts inventories for the F-15C Eagle were consolidated from decentralized warehouses to three global distribution centers, the Air Force could save millions.

Deckard, Tom Murray and Mike Magnusson, two supply chain project managers who often do consulting for the Air Force, targeted spare parts inventories from the get-go. The Air Force calls the parts “readiness spares.”

“Our project was for one series, of one design, of an air-to-air aircraft fighter,” said Deckard. “But the results on that one series, of one design, of one fighter are huge.”

The beauty is it could be done with many other aircraft in the Air Force, too.

“Right now the government business model is high-cost, high-capability. They want everything. They want it fast. They want high availability, and they’ll pay top dollar for it,” said Deckard.

But recently General Norton A. Schwartz, USAF chief of staff, made these public comments:

“We need to find ways to economize certain aspects of our portfolio.”

Project Lightning appears to be a good place to start.

Frank Washburn, a Wright State alumnus, is the director of the 401 Supply Chain Management Squadron, 591 Supply Chain Management Group; that is part of the Air Force Global Logistics Support Center (AFGLSC).  He was among the first supply chain graduates at Wright State six years ago.

Washburn sat in on the group’s capstone presentation this month and noted the value of the project.

“The AFGLSC and Air Force Logistics Management Agency (AFLMA) are working together on a readiness spares ‘evolution’ initiative right now,” Washburn said.

“I think this study links perfectly with what the AFGLSC and AFLMA are doing to seek improved economies in our supply chain while not degrading support to our global customers. I want to get this capstone study in the readiness spare parts evolution team’s hands,” said Washburn.

The benefits of the master’s program, however, don’t only extend to Air Force supply chain management efficiency.

One project mined a half million dollars in potential savings for a DuPont small business unit.

A group of information systems students believe they’ve found a way to increase worker productivity by 40 percent with an IT support team at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The largest capstone discovery for the private sector?

A potential annual savings of $40 million at Kroger through improved decisionmaking in the company’s vast supply chain.

Department Chair Dwight Smith-Daniels says results from these projects are the greatest selling point for the program.

“My pitch is simple. This master’s degree program will provide your organization with a half million dollars in financial benefits annually,” said Smith-Daniels about how he’s selling the programs to employers across the region.

In fact, Smith-Daniels says last year the information systems final projects averaged about $1 million in potential savings and the supply chain management projects about $5 million.

No sales pitch is necessary at Wright-Patterson.

Deckard, Murray and Magnusson say the earliest a pilot program based on their recommendations could be implemented would be for fiscal year 2014, but the results are promising.

It’s familiar territory for a Wright State master’s program that’s really taken off.

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