The Agriculture Department's Web-Based Supply Chain Management System is used to deliver food for the National School Lunch Program.

5 Federal Agencies, 1 Shared Service

Agencies are using the Agriculture Department’s supply chain management system to deliver billions of dollars’ worth of food around the world.

Managing an IT system that tracks nearly $3 billion in contract awards annually and enables the government to deliver 8.5 billion pounds of domestically produced food is hard enough.

Now imagine that system integrating business processes and meeting the needs of recipient agencies, food vendors and employees from five agencies with similar but unique missions. Coordinating this massive effort can be challenging for one agency, let alone multiple organizations. But the Agriculture Department’s Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) seems to be doing just that.

“Creating a system that successfully tracks data covering the entire process — from gathering orders and soliciting bids to making sure that vendors are paid — was not an easy task,” writes WBSCM Project Manager Sean Britto in a recent blog post. “It requires a reliable, flexible system and an efficient staff to make it all come together.”

Across the federal government, agencies have struggled to share common systems. A June 2013 Government Accountability Office report found that federal agencies spent $3.3 billion on 777 supply chain management systems. Agriculture’s web-based Supply Chain Management System is considered a shared service.

The system, known as WBSCM, plays a key role in the commodity distribution program, which serves more than 30 million Americans and is administered through 55 State Distributing Agencies and 92 Indian Tribal Organizations. The program provides more than 4.5 million tons of food to targeted groups in the U.S. and overseas, according to the federal IT dashboard, which tracks government IT investments.

Agriculture’s web-based system reached full operation in 2011 and aided the department in purchasing $170 million worth of excess meat products during the 2012 droughts, Britto writes in his post. Agriculture also used the system to buy rice for victims of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and to support those affected by Hurricane Sandy. In addition to tracking orders, deliveries and agreements in real time, other benefits from using the system include:
• An 11 percent reduction in domestic transportation costs

• A 10 to 15 percent reduction in ocean transportation costs

• Reduced delivery times for companies and a 15 to 20 percent reduction in spoilage and shrinkage

“Looking ahead to the future, the group hopes to update the system to help its vendors meet the ever-changing demands associated with a food distribution program,” writes Britto.

<p>Bob Nichols/Agriculture Department</p>
May 13 2014