It is fair to say that most area residents are unaware of the scale of the operation at the Defense Logistics Agency Susquehanna distribution center in Fairview Township, York County, or the vital support services that take place there every day that affect military personnel around the world.
DLA Distribution DLA Distribution Susquehanna’s East Distribution Center is home to the largest distribution processing facility in the Department of Defense at 1.8 million square feet.
However, this large space faces a major problem: the distribution center operates with its original technology and equipment from the early 1990s.
But there is a work in progress.
In September 2020, the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Procurement Directorate awarded several contracts to modernize the DLA Distribution Susquehanna Eastern Distribution Center.
The total cost of this modernization project is approximately $200 million. Funding for this project was provided by the Department of Defense.
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Officials said that after a study of business practices and workload, they concluded that upgrading equipment and technology resulted in a 139% increase in systemic throughput, a 239% increase in picking rates, a 20% increase in labor production and would result in a 100% improvement. Increase in material location accuracy and a 70% increase in order confirmation.
“The modernization effort includes a ‘goods-to-person’ strategy that allows employees to remain at their workstations while material is transported to them, improving accuracy, safety and speed,” said Dawn Bonsell, Public Affairs Officer of DLA Distribution, in a statement. “All of this will integrate existing infrastructure with our organic workforce and is expected to be complete by 2025.”
At DLA Distribution Susquehanna’s Eastern Distribution Center, the receiving area is centralized and a multi-story buffer system replaces the floor of the package receiving ramp with a pallet height. Officials said that as the material enters the warehouse, the receipt of goods becomes smoother and more reliable.
Demolition and clearance of the mezzanine area has been completed and further construction is now beginning which includes general civil and electrical work as an additional conveyor belt and more equipment is installed. Additional features include the addition of a break room and toilet, and a printer and computer room with additional offices.
The process of installing updated equipment is ongoing, with equipment shipments occurring regularly and installation of the equipment shipped is ongoing.
“New conveyors and updated machinery will allow for a smoother flow of materials with standardized repair and maintenance processes to improve uptime,” Bonsell said.
The package unloading ramp for order acceptance and consolidation and containerization point, tote-to-fill workstations and a multi-shuttle will be installed. The acceptance belt and bridges are now laid out on the mezzanine.
“In addition to creating a more efficient receiving throughput process, these changes will also reduce the overall area of the process, allowing for better utilization of space and storage,” Bonsell said.
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Changes will also be made to the software system infrastructure and network management. DLA Distribution Susquehanna replaces its existing software system. Fictitious workplaces are set up for tests and employee training.
“This work will directly benefit all users as the level of automation involved will improve security and accuracy,” Bonsell said.
The first go-live phase for the entire reception area is currently planned for summer 2023. The next phase will be the sorting facility, which is expected to go live shortly after the first phase. Delivery of new high-rise cranes is scheduled for November 2023, with testing and implementation shortly thereafter. The high-rise will be built in several phases over the next three years. The synchronization of subsequent phases is currently under development.
The DLA is the nation’s combat logistics support agency. DLA Distribution is the joint stocking and distribution provider for the Department of Defense and has a presence in more than 50 locations in 20 states, seven countries and all COCOMs (military commands). DLA Distribution employs approximately 8,500 people who provide distribution services to customers around the world.
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Locally, DLA Distribution Susquehanna coordinates materials management and distribution of mission-critical items, including military and commercial spare parts, industrial, medical supplies, tires and airlift equipment. It serves as the eastern strategic distribution platform for the Department of Defense and as the primary distribution point for all branches of the US Armed Forces, foreign military services, and other federal agencies. DLA Distribution Susquehanna also serves as a consolidation and containerization point for the transit of shipments to Central and South America, Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia. This center handles 25% of all DLA Distribution material receipt, storage and issue of material worldwide.
DLA Distribution Susquehanna has been instrumental in supporting many operations throughout its history including: Operations Desert Shield/Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Most recently, DLA Distribution Susquehanna supported efforts to support the US pandemic. As of December 2020, DLA Distribution Susquehanna has shipped more than 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Department of Defense personnel and personnel outside of the continental United States and the deployed Navy fleet. DLA Distribution Susquehanna processes more than 15 million transactions each year.
Navy Rear Admiral Grafton D. Chase Jr. was recently appointed commander of DLA Distribution Susquehanna.