FORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 15, 2015) – The Defense Commissary Agency is working to overcome challenges that have impacted the timely delivery of products to stores in Europe and the Pacific, the agency director and CEO said.
In some instances commissary patrons experienced critical shortages in perishable products such as chilled juices, produce and dairy products.
“Several factors have caused our overseas stores to fall short of what’s required to serve our patrons there,” DeCA Director and CEO Joseph H. Jeu said. “We are doing everything possible — increasing our product reorders, looking for additional approved local sources and examining alternative shipping methods — to find solutions to these problems and ensure that products are available for our customers wherever they shop.”
DeCA’s supply chain has many moving parts. U.S. products bound for commissaries in Europe and the Pacific are first transported from the United States by ocean vessels to overseas docks and then trucked to central distribution centers. From the CDCs, the products are further transported by truck to individual stores. This process is also supplemented by local purchase contracts for certain items such as bread and dairy products.
In the Pacific, shipments destined for commissaries in Hawaii, Guam, Korea, mainland Japan and Okinawa have been delayed up to 10 days due to ongoing West Coast port delays related to negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and labor unions representing West Coast dock workers. Mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service recently joined these negotiations.
The West Coast port delays have impacted the ability of commissaries in the Pacific to keep shelves fully stocked with sensitive chill products, such as yogurts, luncheon meats, butter, fresh bone-in meat and fresh pork. Frozen and dry grocery products were not affected by the West Coast port delays because a 30-day supply of those products is maintained in DeCA’s central distribution centers. DeCA cannot maintain a warehouse supply of sensitive chill items because of their shorter shelf life.
DeCA officials will continue to focus on finding solutions to work around ongoing West Coast port delays that continue to affect the transportation of products to the Pacific. Commissary personnel there are standing ready to receive incoming shipments immediately upon arrival and stock them to the shelves.
With shipments scheduled to arrive weekly, management is keeping customers informed with signs in the stores.
“If a customer doesn’t see the product they want to purchase on the shelf, he or she can check with their local store management to find out when it will be received,” said David Carey, DeCA’s Pacific Area director. “We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our shoppers during the holiday season.”
At European ports, sea containers were unable to clear customs when a computer process failed, which stalled deliveries of perishable items from Dec. 18 through 24. During that same period, system failures between DeCA’s Integrated Business System and its warehouse management system affected the delivery of about 40 percent of the frozen food items from DeCA’s Cold Storage plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Non-perishable and produce items were not affected by the business system issues. DeCA anticipates improved stock availability in Europe by Jan. 14, depending on delivery location.