Logistics: The Chinese Miracle

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August 1, 2007: China is implementing major logistics reforms in one of its seven military regions (Jinan). There, since 2003, a new Theater Joint Logistics Department (TJLD) has been organized. The new organization combines most logistical operations for all services. This means that warehouses holding uniforms, or parts, contain items for all the services. Moreover, all the warehouses and military bases are being linked by a web based inventory system. The objective is to be able to locate any item in the military region within minutes. Currently, that can take hours, or days, and lots of telephone calls and paperwork. The new system also consolidates services, like medical care and equipment maintenance.

In addition to consolidation, the TJLDs also use a lot of outsourcing, and deliberately sets up competitive situations. If the commander of a military maintenance depot cannot repair vehicles as cheaply as a commercial operation, the military depot will have its commander relieved. This has been so successful that the military is expanding the use of commercial services, including training (for technical subjects). The new program will even have civilian firms take care of managing troop housing in urban areas, and run warehouses.

The new system has also cut down on corruption, because auditing is a lot easier with the consolidated, web based, system. There is still some reluctance to roll out the program in the other military regions. One obstacle are complaints that the new system makes the military more vulnerable to Cyber War type attacks via the Internet. The military system has already suffered hacker attacks from criminals and, it is suspected, the United States. But the other military regions are already relying a lot on the Internet. One unspoken fear is that the new system makes it easier to catch corrupt, or incompetent, officers. But the feeling is that the savings, in money and lost time, have been so great in the Jinan experiment, that the rest of the military cannot afford to avoid being converted as well. That could take up to ten years, but ultimately would save billions of dollars a year in material and labor costs, and make the Chinese military a much more capable organization.


 


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