.. void problems like those above however, in most cases it just drives up the cost. Our military contractors are Downsizing just as we are and must be allowed some leeway with some of these burdensome standards in order to compete. This would enable them to develop and market more items that have dual uses without sacrificing the reliability we need (NPR, 1993). At a more local level the BCTF has been working with many commercial companies to insure that the off-the-shelf equipment we buy is reliable.
In the past year we have been testing the Windows 95 software on various systems and configurations. Any bugs or problems we found were forwarded to Microsoft for corrective action. Information from this testing has allowed us to provide our customers with a reliable software package and provided our technicians with the knowledge needed for skillful installation and support. Worker Skill and Consistency: Just as important to the customer as the hardware and software is the service we provide, such as equipment setup, troubleshooting, maintenance and other follow-up actions. The customer expects a consistent level of service from the BCTF every time regardless of the problem. They also expect well skilled technicians that know the systems and project a confident attitude in their abilities.
A well-trained technician will be able to meet these expectations. As a DISA facility we follow strict guidelines for training and certification. Technicians must complete a Technical School, Career development courses, and On-the-job facility qualification training before they can be tested for certification. The facility qualifications training generally last for about six months during which time the technician is trained on every aspect of the facility using clearly defined standards and procedures. After completion the commander signs off the training folders and the workers are then qualified to work unassisted in the facility. All technicians are re-certified periodically to assure worker quality.
Along with in-house training we also obtain training from outside commercial sources, especially in the areas of commercial-of-the-shelf computers and software. All of these training programs help us qualify our workers in all areas of the workcenter. A multiskilled workforce is a great assist in meeting customer demand. WORKCENTER COST-EFFICIENCY Operating Costs: As DoD and Air Force policies change we have been given more discretion on how to spend money budgeted for workcenter operating costs on such things as office products, tools, equipment and the like. Since our budget is only so big we are always looking for ways to reduce costs in these areas (NPR, 1993). To do this we are again taking advantage of programs like the Air Force Impact card and local form 9 purchases. These programs “empower properly delegated employees to buy common supplies and nonprofessional services directly in an effort to purchase the best value supplies and services” (NPR, 1993, Attch 1).
When we needed dial-up modems to upgrade our e-mail system we found that we could save nearly $25 dollars per unit by purchasing them through a mail order company versus normal supply channels. Not only was the cost lower, but delivery time was also reduced. The money saved by this and similar other projects are retained by us to buy things we need, but may not have been budgeted for. Actions like these permit us to make more cost-effective use of the resources we have. In other words, more bang for the buck.
Unfortunately these polices only apply to purchases under $2,500, as a result we are unable to take full advantage of all the possible savings to be had if the programs applied to higher dollar amounts (NPR, 1993). Inventories: As a service workcenter, inventories in the BCTF are limited to small amounts of office material for day-to-day use and some replacement parts for communications equipment. We do not maintain permanent inventories of equipment for installation. When a requirement comes up we order what is needed, assemble it and install it as soon as possible. A very small amount may be held as work-in-progress awaiting the arrival of other parts to complete an assembly.
The largest single thing that we consider to be inventory is the communication circuits themselves. Since they are leased they usually make up the most expensive part of a communications system. A standard long-haul communications circuit can cost between $500 and $10,000 per month depending on the data rate. Non-standard circuits can cost 50 to 100 percent more. With policies like fee-for-service, charges are or soon will be passed on to the customer.
The BCTF however, will continue to be responsible for maintaining inventory control over all data circuits. Our best tool for accomplishing this is the Bi-annual review of leased circuits. During this review we check circuit billing to verify that the charges are correct according to the original contract. We then contact the customer to have them re-validate the need for the circuit. You would be surprised at how many circuits are no longer in use, but are still being paid for. At this time we can either deactivate the circuit or make other modifications to it that the customer may need.
Along with the bi-annual review we re-negotiate the leased circuit contract after 5 years. This helps us take advantage of increased competition and possible price cuts in the marketplace. WORKCENTER DEPENDABILITY Customer Convenience: “Customers want to do business with companies that make it convenient and hassle-free to do business with them” (Dilworth, 1993, p. 15). This is true of our customers as well. There is not much we can do about the convenience of our physical location, but we can make our services as convenient as possible by the use of various strategies to influence demand on our time.
For activities like Preventive Maintenance Inspections (PMI’s), KG updates and work of that nature we use a Fixed Schedule method of setting up times and dates. For routine installation and maintenance we use an Appointment System. You call us and we setup a date and time convenient for you. For priority installations and maintenance we use a Delayed Delivery type of system where the customer calls our help desk and is placed in queue for the next available technician, depending on the priority of their system. In this area having multiskilled workers really helps, since we can keep everyone gainfully employed at all times.
For non-uniform demand periods, such as exercises or after duty-hours we use Staggered Work-shifts schedules or On-call personnel. Even with these strategies we often have customers in queue. Since most of our contact with our customers is by phone, those waiting for service are doing so in their offices and workcenters. Just the same there are people waiting, so it’s important for us to track the number of customers and the time they have been in queue. If there are many customers waiting, or the time is getting long, we notify the next higher level in our chain and request additional personnel or re-examination of priorities.
While our customers may not be able to go somewhere else they can elevate it to a higher level causing us all a lot of problems (Dilworth, 1993). Trustworthy Service: Trust is an important part of doing business no matter who you customers may be. This is especially true within military units, who must trust one another with their lives at times. Our customers need to trust us to meet their expectations for dependable service and equipment. If we fail to provide dependable service before during or after we install their communication system then we will loss their trust in our ability to do anything we say in the first place.
Meeting customer desires, finding and testing new products, providing reliable equipment and consistent service at good prices and most of all having a skilled workforce all work together to foster trust in our abilities. To back this up we also assist our customers in getting help from commercial vendors. To do this we have setup databases of all of the companies we deal with so that we can help the customer with any warrantee work that may be required on commercially purchased equipment. We will also assist with depot provided items if possible. For equipment out of warrantee we can perform repair work (depending on what the item is) or we can assist the customer in getting the repair work done by an outside contractor.
SUMMARY Regardless of the fact that the BCTF is a military workcenter it’s still important to provide a desirable service to our customers. There are many combat units around the base that rely on our ability to meet the four critical success factors. Our failure to do so could cause them to fail in their mission leading to a cost far greater than lost profits. To make sure we do not fail we must work to lower our Costs, while at the same time raising our Flexibility, Quality and Dependability. In the points above we discussed some of the ways that the BCTF was working to meet those goals.
Meeting those goals is a continuos process with much work left to be done. CONCLUSION As we saw in that New York Life commercial the man eventually was turned back upright, with the admonishment that with careful planning disruptions like those caused by Downsizing could be minimized. This applies to entire workcenters like the BCTF as well as individuals. We may never get the personnel back once they are gone, but with a little common sense and the application of ideas and practices like those from this class we can find new ways to meet the Four Critical Success Factors. REFERENCES Alliance for Redesigning Government.
(1996). Downsizing — An Overview. National Academy of Public Administration. Halley, Alexis A: Author Alliance for Redesigning Government. (1996). The Guide to Responsible Restructuring.
National Academy of Public Administration. Cascio, Wayne Ph.D.: Author Defense Information Systems Agency. (1992). DCS Technical Control: Operational Policies and Procedures for FCO/NCO’s and TCF/PTF’s. (DISA Circular 310-70-1). DOCP: OPR. Dilworth, James B.
(1993). Production and Operations Management: Manufacturing and Services fifth edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc. Laugesen, Wayne. (1996, February). The Internet meets its match: US WEST slows the information superhighway.
Boulder Weekly, pp. 4-9. National Performance Review (NPR), (1993, September). Department of Defense: Accompanying Report of the National Performance Review, Office of the Vice President. (DoD Parts 1 and 2). NPR Staff: Author. US General Accounting Office.
(1995). Workforce Reductions: Downsizing Strategies Used in Selected Organizations. (Washington, DC GAO/GGD-95-54). Business Reports.