Interview: Maj Gen Tony Raper - DLTP Team Leader


The Defence Logistics Transformation Programme (DLTP) has been challenged to deliver savings of £2Bn by 2010/11 through the transformation of logistics support.  The DLTP Team Leader Maj Gen Tony Raper explains why this has to be done and progress made so far in delivering these vital improvements.

Why are we introducing yet another major change programme?

The logistic support we provide to the front-line needs to change to support expeditionary operations which are now the principal mode of operations of the UK Armed Forces.  Similarly, the 2004 Defence Review, ‘Future Capabilities’ has presented a different challenge to the Armed Forces; ‘Effects-Based Warfare’.  Put simply, placing focus on the impact our armed forces can deliver, rather than the number of systems we need.  Fewer systems also means fewer people and bases to support them.  So, for all of us involved in logistics support, from Chief Defence Logistics (CDL) down, there is a difficult but necessary balance to be found in enabling operational effectiveness, whilst at the same time delivering the substantial savings (efficiency), for re-investment in both our current and future capabilities.

So what is different this time, logistics seems to have been in constant change since DLO was created in 1999?

Up to now we have tended to concentrate on becoming more efficient, now we are also concentrating on becoming more effective.  In the past the argument was how to continue providing logistics support using the same approaches, but looking at doing so faster or cheaper.  While this is still undoubtedly important, we are now looking at the approach we take, moving the goalposts and doing things differently.

The Defence Logistics Transformation Programme (DLTP) is bringing together the successful DLO Change Programme and the principles and recommendations of the End-to-End Study.  The main difference is that the DLTP broadens the E2E work in Air and Land into other areas of the DLO, including the Maritime environment and the front-line commands; truly end-to-end.  This will ensure that we achieve coherence in all logistics change-related activities and avoid the duplication and expense of individual programmes in stove-piped environments and organisations. 

How much is it going to cost?

It is hard to put a figure on the actual cost of delivering transformation as it is still early days in terms of implementation and the scale of activity involved is so large, including some 100,000 MoD personnel.  However, I can say, that the level of investment required is far outweighed by the achievable savings.  As an example, our Lean Support Continuous Improvement Team have exceeded their business case delivery target of 12:1 and are delivering a benefit to investment ratio of 20:1.  Another element of cost is the need to bring on board a strategic partner to help us deliver the programme.  Defence has a strong working relationship and understanding with McKinsey & Co and their role as strategic partner is key to the Programme’s ability to deliver improvements in effectiveness and the savings targets.

Transforming Logistics appears to cover a wide range of activities, what are your plans for delivery?

Achieving buy-in from the front-line commands and across the DLO has been a major achievement since the Programme began in May 04 and detailed plans for delivery of improvements are either in place - or in the process of being put in place.  Of the three different environments, we probably have made most progress in Air, but across Defence, we have Logistic Transformation teams active on the ground, whose role is to assist the front-line, DLO and DPA, in implementing a wide range of improvements.  These changes will impact our front-line operations, through improvements to the logistics support chain, to reforming how we procure goods and services from industry.  Right now, there are over 750 individual projects under consideration, ranging from small improvements in equipment workshops, to redesign of production lines and partnered support solutions with industry, all designed to deliver more effective, efficient and flexible logistics support to the front-line.

Delivery is critical and in the past we can be rightly criticised for spending too much time talking about the need to change and not enough on telling people what we are doing.  For logistic transformation, we are rapidly moving away from intentions, demonstration activities and plans to implementation.  In Air, the creation of air depth support hubs is a major part of transformation and Min AF’s decision on 25 November sets the way ahead for future air depth support for both fixed and rotary-wing aircraft.  Our challenge will be to take this work forward and create effective and efficient air depth support bases, the first of these being the creation of the Harrier facility at Cottesmore (and Wittering).

Within the Maritime area we are involved in a series of studies into how to make improvements.  Where we can identify practical benefits we will then move quickly to implement those improvements.  The Warship Modernisation delivered practical benefits in terms of greater efficiency and better value for money in terms of support, but now we need to take the next step and examine how that support is to be provided in the future.

In Land, our emphasis is on improving support to the Brigade, enabling improved readiness and deployability and, re-balancing our force structures to ensure that the front-line is optimised to delivering combat power.  This is a big task, complicated further by the Joint need to deliver an effective supply chain, particularly in the deployed theatres.  Op TELIC shows us that while the supply chain worked, it could undoubtedly operate better.  Our job is to identify how to make it do so.

You mention the Supply Chain, it sometimes seems that the lessons identified at the end of every major operation highlight problems in the Supply Chain, when are we going to learn those lessons and do something about it?

You are right, and we are. The Supply Chain work underpins everything we are doing.  There are historic Supply Chain logistic shortcomings - stock shortages, difficulties with asset tracking, deficiencies in logistic communications, failure to meet deadlines for the delivery of priority items and lack of control over the ‘coupling bridge’ (the link between the UK and the theatre of operations). 

But logistics transformation is already delivering tangible improvements, particularly in Iraq, where same day delivery of materiel is now being achieved and in-theatre logisticians are justifiably proud of the service being delivered to the front-line.  It is our intention to broaden these lessons across the Supply Chain end-to-end and address the problems experienced in Op TELIC and other recent operations.

We continually hear bad news logistics stories.  Is the system so badly broken as some in the media have suggested?

Not at all, we must recognise and address known shortcomings, but all is not doom and gloom.  For the UK, Op TELIC was the largest military operation since the 1990-91 Gulf War, featuring the deployment of significant military capabilities - 46,000 troops, 19 Warships, 14 Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, 15,000 vehicles, 115 fixed-wing aircraft and nearly 100 helicopters.  Logistic effort was a key to this success, involving 78 ships and 360 aircraft sorties to transport personnel, equipment and supplies, moving over 9,100 ISO containers.  Critically, the forces were deployed in 10 weeks, less than half the time it took to deploy a similar quantity of personnel and materiel for the 1990-91 Gulf War.

Is Transforming Logistics just about saving money?

We cannot get away from the fact that the Government is keen to continue driving efficiency in the public sector and that in the Spending Review, MOD agreed to find £2.8Bn of efficiencies to be reinvested in Defence to make our Forces more capable.   So yes, Logistics has to save money, but for me, transformation is really about effectiveness.   By that, I mean that everything we do needs to be focussed on the user with the emphasis on providing better logistics support to enable ‘effects based operations’.  To do this we need to ensure that logistics supports our readiness and preparedness to deploy and when we get there, ensures that our forces are provided with a reliable and dependable supply chain and with equipment which is reliable and fit for purpose.  We also need to sustain our deployed forces and ensure that the whole support chain from the soldier in the foxhole, all the way back to industry, is geared to the needs of the operational commander and represents the best value for money to Defence.

What would be your message to all those people directly and indirectly affected by the Programme?

The transformation of logistics support is big, difficult and challenging and is trying to change the way we do business, rather than just improve what we do now.  For some areas of Defence that is an uncomfortable position to be in, but for those areas we are influencing, I am always amazed at the positive reaction and commitment of our people.  I have witnessed the empowerment of our line personnel, both military and civilian, and the innovation which springs from the adoption of ‘Lean’ principles.  For those who have not witnessed transformation at first hand, improving logistics support to the front-line is the business of us all, so my message is more of a challenge to anyone in the logistics support and supply chain business.  Challenge what you know as individuals, challenge what you do as an organization and challenge the support arrangements around you.  A lot of what we do is common sense and innovation from the users themselves, the rest is the application of intellectual and academic principles.  Logistic transformation is demanding, but do-able.  Expectations are high, but we have to deliver if we are to preserve the capabilities we have now, and to afford the capabilities we would like enjoy in the future.

DLTP further information

Last Updated: 9 May 05