Is Uncle Sam on Your Customer List?
The Defense Logistics Agency is the Department of Defense’s largest logistics combat support agency. It supplies 84% of the military’s spare parts and provided $44 billion in sales and revenue in fiscal 2012. Want to learn how to become a part of this program and gain sales by supplying forgings for defense and weapon systems? Just keep reading.
Has your sales and marketing team considered becoming a prime contractor for government procurements? It is often said that whoever touches the part last makes the most money, so why let the machine shops reap the benefits of your hard work? While navigating the world of government contracting may seem difficult, there are resources available to assist you down this path, one of which is the Forging Defense Manufacturing Consortium’s FORGE-IT team.
The FORGE-IT team is part of the Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) Forging Advanced Systems and Technologies (FAST) research and development program. The FAST program is supported by a strategic relationship between the Forging Industry Association (FIA) and SCRA Applied R&D, and it is cost-shared by industry. It is designed to leverage the strengths of both organizations and promote the design and acquisition of forgings. It also conducts technical and enterprise research related to forging supply chains, which include many North American forges.
FORGE-IT is a dispersed but integrated team with subject-matter experts located in Phoenix, Ariz.; Richmond, Va.; North Bennington, Vt.; and Charleston, S.C. Having relationships and providing direct support to customers located at DLA Aviation in Richmond and DLA Land and Maritime in Columbus, Ohio, uniquely positions the FORGE-IT team to assist forging companies and machine shops in obtaining or maintaining government business.
Government Business – Finding Opportunities
Did you know there are more than 250 solicitations containing forgings issued every month?
The DLA is the Department of Defense’s (DoD) largest logistics combat support agency. It supplies more than 84% of the military’s spare parts, supports more than 2,250 weapon systems, manages more than five million items and provided $44 billion in sales and revenue in fiscal 2012. While there are several different agencies that post government solicitations on unique sites, the DLA Internet Bid Board System (DIBBS) is the logical first place to start searching for government opportunities given these staggering statistics.
The DLA buys parts by National Stock Number (NSN), which is a 13-digit number composed of Federal Supply Class (FSC) and National Item Identification Number (NIIN). Some NSN’s may correspond to a single forged part with little or no machining required. In contrast, other NSN’s may be composed of hundreds of parts, only one or two of which are forgings. Even if you do not plan to bid on government contracts directly, there is a wealth of information available that may assist you in business development and business planning activities.
When visiting the DIBBS website (www.dibbs.bsm.dla.mil) for the first time, there are three main areas upon which you should focus your attention: solicitations, awards and the Supplier Requirements Visibility Application (SRVA).
The solicitations section allows you to search for current open solicitations by NSN. We advise searching by NSN under both the Request for Quote (RFQ) and the Request for Proposal (RFP) sections. Although the RFQ section is typically reserved for bids under $100,000, solicitations of higher values have been known to show up there as well. As you review the solicitation, pay careful attention to both the NSN and the solicitation number, because there is some logic built into these numbers that may contain information that will assist you in evaluating opportunities for potential bid (Fig. 1).
If you are an aerospace supplier, for example, FSC 1560 corresponds to Airframe Structural Components. This may be a good area to target your searches. Alternatively, if your company manufactures lifting components, then FSC 4030, Fittings for Rope, Cable and Chain might be more appropriate. These are typically bought by DLA Troop Support in Philadelphia, Pa. Regardless of what alloys or parts your company works with, focusing on certain FSC’s can be a good way to start searching for government opportunities. For a listing of FSCs, visit www.dispositionservices.dla.mil/turn-in/usable/h2book.pdf.
When evaluating an opportunity, if the solicitation itself does not contain past award history, the awards section of the DIBBS site may provide some valuable information. Here you can search by NSN, past solicitation numbers or even potential competitor Commercial and Government Entities (CAGE) codes. These consist of a five-character ID number used extensively within the federal government assigned by the DLA. The CAGE code is used to support a variety of mechanized systems throughout the government and provides a standardized method of identifying a given facility at a specific location. The codes are used to see who has bid on parts in the past and what unit prices were quoted.
If you do not plan on bidding directly on the solicitation as a prime, knowing which machine shops, Tier 1s and OEMs have supplied parts in the past can help you target companies for marketing and business-development efforts. In addition to DIBBS, there are commercial tools available that search past award notices and solicitations and aggregate the data. While these tools are generally a bit more user-friendly and data-rich, they typically come with a monthly access fee. IHS Haystack Gold and Lamlinks Corp. are two companies that provide such services.
The third section of the DIBBS website on which to focus your attention is the SRVA. The SRVA tool allows you to search by FSC or NIIN and provides the planned buy quantities for the current fiscal year plus two forecast years. While this device provides insight into the DLA’s anticipated requirements and is updated monthly, it is important to remember that parts not forecasted are also frequently purchased. The SRVA can be a powerful resource for planning current government business or evaluating the cost-benefit of trying to capture new business.
There are a host of opportunities to bid on at the DIBBS site. Even if you do not plan to bid on government contracts directly, information available on DIBBS may assist you in business development and planning activities. Though there are a number of hoops you must first jump through in order to bid on government solicitations, the FORGE-IT team is available to assist you in this process.
FORGE-IT: Delivering Solutions
Incorrectly assuming a part can be machined from bar stock instead of being forged, machine shops frequently bid on government solicitations without having a tooling source in place. Besides putting the machine shop at financial risk, this often results in cancelled contracts and unacceptable lead times for service people who are waiting on critical parts to maintain their weapon systems. This is one area in which FORGE-IT has helped in the past. The FORGE-IT team frequently fields questions from companies under contract to deliver forged parts and either helps them locate forge shops with existing tooling or assists them in finding potential forges to supply raw forgings. For some NSNs, FORGE-IT has also worked with customers at DLA and recommended that the contracting officer verify that potential awardees have a forging source lined up prior to issuing an award.
Another matter FORGE-IT helped resolve recently was a supply issue for an aluminum fuselage support for the T-38 aircraft. The T-38 is a twin-engine supersonic-jet training aircraft essential to the Air Force mission. Due to supply issues, there were multiple “AOGs” – government code for Aircraft On Ground – which is really bad for readiness! While a one-time buy of substitute machined material was allowed in the past, the Air Force Engineering Support Activity required that future contracts be manufactured from a forging due to improved fatigue resistance. FORGE-IT rose to the occasion and worked with the DLA to ensure any solicitations for the machined version were cancelled, and it helped locate forging sources for this part. The culmination of these and similar efforts by the FORGE-IT team have resulted in substantial cost and lead-time savings for DLA Aviation and DLA Land and Maritime.
FORGE-IT Training and Seminars
Another way FORGE-IT has assisted the DLA and their DoD customers is through training. A one- to two-day “Forging Design” seminar was developed under the FAST program in partnership with Scientific Forming Technologies Corp. (SFTC) of Columbus, Ohio. To date, the seminar has been deployed nine times to DLA customer locations and trained more than 300 personnel at various DoD locations. Past locations have included Robins AFB, Hill AFB, Tinker AFB, Fleet Readiness Center Southeast and Redstone Arsenal.
Additionally, the FORGE-IT team has provided the abbreviated course “Forging Fundamentals” to more than 300 DLA Aviation and DLA Land and Maritime personnel. When possible, these seminars are coupled with a tour of a local forge. Forges such as SIFCO, US Drop Forge, Cerro Fabricated Products, Lenape Forged Products and Hirschvogel Automotive Group have supported these seminars in the past. The FIA is capable of providing a commercial variant of the “Forging Design” seminar to companies.
Should you determine that bidding directly on government opportunities makes sense for your business, remember there are numerous resources available to assist you. There are local small-business offices, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, Training Knowledge Opportunities sessions at the DLA and, of course, the FORGE-IT Team. Whether you have a supply-chain issue, technical question or are just trying to figure out how to do government business for the first time, the FORGE-IT team has a long history of delivering solutions … and is only a phone call or e-mail away.
The FORGE-IT Team is sponsored by the Defense Logistics Agency under the Forging Advanced Systems and Technologies (FAST) Program. Support is provided by DLA’s R&D Contracting Office in Philadelphia and DLA’s program managers located at Fort Belvoir and Richmond, Va. The FDMC FAST Program is cost-shared by the forging industry.
Author Chris Bergner is senior project manager and FORGE-IT Team Leader at SCRA Applied R&D in Charleston, S.C. He can be reached at 843-760-3325 or at Chris.Bergner@scra.org.
The T-38 Talon
This twin-engine, high-altitude supersonic-jet trainer is used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record. The Air Education and Training Command is the primary user of the T-38 for joint specialized undergraduate pilot training. Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also use the T-38A.