Module 6—case study
This chapter introduces empirical research to demonstrate that supply chain disruption is not confined to the external taxonomy of crises, disasters and breakdowns, but is sourced from internal strategic forces, the mitigation of which must be alignment of organization and supply chain goals. Two cases are explored. In the first section, Ireland’s role in the Nordic Battle Group is contextualized through historical reference, prior to an examination of how the logistics branch operationalized a service level agreement, both a governmental and senior management directive, to overcome significant challenges leading up to and during deployment. The second section concerns the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. Commandant (Major) Robert Moriarty, Collins Barracks (Cork), articulated the supply chain disruption that he encountered and resolved, as officer in charge of logistics of both missions.
Nordic Battle Group: historical context
The Nordic location of Finlandia Hall in Helsinki during the summer of 1975 appropriately sets the scene for Ireland’s contribution to the pursuit of global security. Attended by then Prime Minister Liam Cosgrave, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe resulted in the signing of the non-binding Helsinki Accords aimed at reducing tensions between the Communist bloc and the West. European Union members subsequently signed the Helsinki Headline Goal 1999 in accordance with the Common Security and Defence Policy, which created a Helsinki Force Catalogue to enable the completion of so-called Petersberg Tasks (Petersberg Declaration 1992). These included humanitarian and rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management tasks. Primarily, it was considered that it took too long to raise a United Nations reactionary force to deal with global disruptions and crises, and from this, an EU Battlegroup was established, now comprising 18 sub-groups of small, independent, self-sufficient, rapid-response units capable of deployment in a theatre of operation.
One such unit is the Nordic Battle Group (NBG), which has been active since 2008 and has a force of 2,500 troops. NBG members include Sweden, Finland, Norway (despite non-EU membership), Republic of Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This is not a permanent unit, rather it is mobilized on a rotational basis and was headquartered in Enköping, Sweden, for NBG 2015-1, the focus of this study. A modular organization with a mechanized infantry battalion is at the core of the unit, but since 2011 a framework has existed for the integration of additional resources ranging from artillery, air defence, and intelligence, to additional logistical support. The Republic of Ireland, with the second largest troop count behind Sweden, is the eyes and ears of the Battlegroup, providing an ISTAR component: intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. However, another vital Irish element has been the afore-mentioned logistical support, the execution of which has met with and overcome many challenges, both strategic and tactical.
NBG: Irish Defence Forces rotation
The Irish Defence Forces operational rotation of the NBG (NBG 2015-1) spanned 18 months, with training taking place between January and December 2014, before a six-month 72-hour on-call period from January to June 2015, followed by the German Battlegroup who stood-to for the next six months, followed by the British Battlegroup in 2016, and so forth. From an Irish perspective, the mission statement, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the Deputy Chief of Staff (D-COS) of the Irish Defence Forces, mandated the Director of Logistics of the Irish Defence Forces HQ in McKee Barracks, Dublin, to have the capability to set up a theatre of operation anywhere in the world within a 72-hour notice period from its base in Collins Barracks, Cork.
To develop this capability, an expeditionary logistics concept was initiated to integrate with the Swedish Armed Forces and set up within a greenfield site in Skillingaryd on a one-month deployment. This concept derived from the commanding officer for this operation, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Carey, who issued a commander’s intent of operation to Commandant Robert Moriarty to lead tactical deployment, supported by Commandant James Hourigan at strategic procurement level. This outlined the purpose, method and end state of the mission. Finalizing the method was subject to constant, and at times innovative, group training and integration, known also as training, tactical and procedures. The MOU adopted a non-traditional all-arms approach that facilitated cross-organizational support to the battle group, such as knowledge and equipment sharing.
Commandant Moriarty was issued with Armaments and Equipment (AAE) and CS-41 documents that outlined the available resources to meet the mission objectives, together with the empowerment, through D-COS support, to internally ‘re-distribute’ equipment as needed. Supply, sustain and maintain were the tenets applied to developing a self-sufficient unit of excellence, food and hygiene being at the forefront of considerations, using a front-load policy that meant positioning all personnel and equipment in Sweden at the start of the operation. By contrast, militaries such as Sweden used a push policy, whereby strategic air support was used to sustain units as needed. Future deployment would necessitate integration with the Swedish push policy as there are limitations to front loading. The AAE and CS-41 made certain provisions from which certain challenges arose within a broad categorization of ‘constraints, restrictions, freedoms’:
The main strategy, or NBG logistical concept, was to conduct operations, regardless of environment, from 30 to 120 days, characterized by a high level of flexibility, modularity and endurance. A statement of requirement provisioned the use of host nation support, contractor support to operations, third-party logistic support and other multinational (including unconventional) solutions to minimize challenges. Supply chain disruptions are contextual and environment specific, and despite the availability of an After-Action Review from a previous exercise (NBG 2011), which was certainly beneficial, a number of challenges arose at various stages of operational preparations.
For example, in advance of the exercise in August 2014, Commandant Moriarty attended a SOR (statement of requirement) coordination conference in Sweden and discovered that an MOU signed between the Irish and Swedish governments did not legislate for electricity maintenance, which it was assumed (as with standard deployment policy) would be provided by the Swedish forces. The Defence Forces (DF) cannot have more than 850 troops overseas at any one time, and a subset of the SOR, a Raise and Concentration Order, did not permit additional electricians and so on. The Irish needed a solution. One option was to secure site generators for the exercise, but the challenge was that these were all deployed on other missions, and had to be transported in pairs, each one in a 20’ container, necessitating an unplanned additional sealift with an engineering detachment. Instead, an improvisation was made to transport smaller generators and lighting systems within the allocated 19 containers on the manifest.
The mission readiness exercise, which commenced in June 2014, giving clearance to build all systems, identified further challenges. An example in the corporate world would be a pilot product launch. An initial problem concerned the newly purchased HP 508 tents, which were not fit for purpose owing to the fact that they were not previously integrated into the DF, and this resulted in damage (note: visualize substantial marquees housing a large contingent of troops, kitchen, dining hall, sleeping quarters and so on, hence their criticality). While the tents were erected through power from vehicles, there were three topside struts that needed to be secured manually and the troops simply could not reach these without potential injury. Therefore, A-frame ladders were added to the manifest and these were placed neatly to the rear of the tent racking systems during transportation to Sweden.
These systems were themselves not without challenges, in particular with regard to optimization of container space, for which an outsourced solution was sought. Standard state procurement legislates the tendering of three RFQs (requests for quotation) to vendors. Timeframe was a key component to NBG tenders, coupled with the vendor listening to very specific needs. Certain suppliers offered generic storage units for the transport of tents, whereas the successful company invested time and resources into designing a bespoke racking system with significantly improved utilization. The additional engineering cost of this was offset by:
Other adjustments to the manifest were the inclusion of tent repair kits and clip flooring to prevent floor damage. The tents simply were not soldier-proof and needed specialist assembly. Generators for the mission were also found to be temperamental, but this was resolved through specialist training and maintenance. The DF were burning 60 litres of fuel per day per heating system (VAM), a problem for both cold and hot climates, twice as much as the Swedes, who used built-in thermostats and lagging systems, which not only reduced fuel usage but also evenly distributed heat throughout the tents. This was identified as a need after the mission but did not materialize during MRE (mission readiness exercise). Food portion sizes and storage of plates was resolved by securing stackable and sectioned prison service plates.
The Raise and Concentration Order also did not provide for cooks, and it was recognized that the field kitchen should be part of exercise/certification training in Ireland. Both the provision of a pot wash facility (hygiene being so critical), since procured as part of the capability development of the NBG, and the leasing of local sanitation equipment (dropped on site) were also identified. In addition, ordnance technicians needed to be co-located with the field kitchen in order to maintain the VAMs. In terms of information systems, the Tactical Operations Centre enabled increased situational awareness, range of operation and capabilities when delivering orders, a significant increase in data transfer rate, and the provision of live streaming. However, the satellite communications link was intermittent, and additional equipment was needed, such as batteries, laptops and phones. Constant training in all communication and information systems (CIS) was essential.
Movement of vehicles also presented challenges and it was immediately evident that a low- loader would be extremely beneficial for future rotations. Bulk collection was arranged for all MOWAGs (armoured military vehicles) and six Nissans, which resulted in significant time and labour savings. By contrast, the collection of five infantry LTAVs (light tactical vehicles) was not as coordinated, owing to other mission needs, and this caused minor delays. This strategy was later adopted for the transfer of vehicles to the German BG. Another consideration was the training of drivers and fitters to enable licences and qualifications in fuel pod operation and LTAV/MOWAG maintenance. In the absence of military aircraft, a 3PL (third-party logistics) ocean freight solution was needed.
Equipment was loaded at Ringaskiddy Port using LIFO (last in first out), bound for Halmstad Port in Sweden. The loading concept of choice was RO-RO (roll on/roll off; 8-hour operation) but LO-LO (lift on/lift off; 20-hour operation) was the procured system owing to 3PL availability and sailing schedules. This presented another immediate challenge in that it would have required two drivers moving four containers at a time from Halmstad to the brigade assembly point 141km away in Skillingaryd. Commandant James Hourigan expertly negotiated with the Swedish forces and secured their assistance to move 13 of the Irish containers using seven of their trucks. Another challenge was that these movements necessitated weapons declarations and thereby the availability of specialist weapons inspectors at specific points along the route to Sweden. This needed to be factored into the transit time. Finally, there were planning considerations such as parking space for 20 containers, stores requirement for 660 cubic metres, and storage bays for the MOWAG and LTAV fleet, including a provision for trickle charging.
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
An Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 1968 to 1977, in which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), strengthened by 3,000 returning militants from the Jordanian civil war, established a quasi-state in southern Lebanon, a Lebanese civil war (1975–1990) between the Maronite Christians and Druze, and Muslims, and an Israeli bombing in November 1977, killing 70 mainly Lebanese, provide a simplistic background to the tensions that led to the Irish Defence Forces’ presence in this region. In March 1978, Khalil Ibrahim al-Wazir, founder of the nationalist party Fatah, and an aide of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, planned to take control of a hotel in Tel Aviv and hold hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and also to disrupt Israeli-Egyptian peace talks between Menachem Begin (Israeli Prime Minister) and Anwar Sadat (Egyptian President). Fatah did not reach the hotel because of a navigation issue, and instead hijacked a bus, having first murdered an American tourist on a nearby beach, and 38 Israeli civilians were subsequently killed in what was named the coastal road massacre. The response was operation Litani, an invasion of south Lebanon by the Israeli Defence Forces, and the death of 2,000 Lebanese and Palestinians.
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was immediately established to supervise the withdrawal of Israeli forces and restore peace and security to the area. The Irish Defence Forces had a continuous infantry battalion in Tibnin on a six-month rotation from May 1978 to November 2001, patrolling an area of approximately 100 square kilometres. A mobile mechanized infantry company returned on 31 October 2006 for 12 months alongside a Finnish engineering company as part of a joint Irish-Finnish battalion. A mechanized infantry battalion of 440 personnel again deployed in June 2011, manning two posts along the Blue Line, a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel established by the United Nations on 7 June 2000. The unit was equipped with MOWAG Piranha III APCs (armoured personnel carriers), Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles (GR32), heavy machine guns, anti-tank guns and Javelin missiles, heavy and medium mortars, and reconnaissance surveillance equipment. In November 2013, the DF changed operations to a 336-personnel ‘high visibility, low profile’ infantry group.
Together with a contingent from Finland and a platoon of 38 Estonian soldiers, they form(ed) IRISHFINBATT based at UNP 2-45 in UNIFIL Sector West (Irish Defence Forces, 2018). This sector is also supported by Ghanaian, Italian, Korean and Malaysian battalions. The east sector consists of Indian, Indonesian, Nepalese and Spanish battalions. Seven Brazilian naval vessels provide a maritime task force, and the total mission strength is 10,490 uniformed troops. Ireland is the largest per capita troop contributor (Lawrence et al, 2016). On 1 November 2017, Commandant Robert Moriarty deployed for six months. With four decades of peace support operations, you would assume a degree of internal stability to this current mission, and that the only supply chain disruption would come from the external forces of Hamas, Hizbullah, Fatah, Israel or Syria. Not so in this case. In December, the Finland mandate expired (this was renewed annually) and they withdrew from the mission. This came as a complete surprise – a sudden unplannable change.
Both forces have had a history of strong collaboration since the establishment of UNIFIL and developed joint operating capability through regular overseas pre-deployment training, alternating between Irish and Finnish installations, and of course through active duty together. Each quarter they formally held joint meetings at national headquarters (J-level) in the format of a bilateral military coordination group. In these meetings, issues reported by battalion staff (S-level) from the area of operation (AO) were resolved. It could never have been envisaged at an operations level that such a harmonized partnership would not continue. This significant disruption presented two major challenges to the mission:
‘Outputs simply could not fall’ and fall they did not. In particular, the Finland withdrawal of the mechanized company, APC fleet, weapons systems and other ancillary equipment potentially had the most direct impact on operations. Therefore, to assess the gravity of the situation, an analysis system taught in the DF military college and known as the military decision-making process (MDMP) was initiated, involving the operations officer (S3) and the logistics officer (S4). According to Comdt Moriarty (S4), ‘this is a thought process that we apply when presented with planning issues and can take several hours, it can be laborious and time consuming, but it ensures that no areas are missed’. In terms of strategic alignment and response to supply chain disruption, this process is a lesson for all domains in our profession. This analysis (including here, Comdt Moriarty comments and some MDMP actuals) considers:
One can observe that this approach ensures that the supply chain division does not breach the boundaries of the organization’s core competencies and suggests that the role of our profession is execution. Perhaps this should be applied to all ‘stable’ situations to reduce potential disruption and thereby the gap of pain in strategic implementations. For the DF, this process of analysis resulted in a ‘restated mission for the unit’, from which a number of papers were constructed at a tactical (ground) level, to inform the strategic (decision-making) level. One very positive outcome of the PG was a capability development in the form of a DF investment in a communications system similar to SEPURA, for which a budget allocation has been secured, and a tender has been initiated. This is categorized as COE and therefore the Irish government will be reimbursed by the United Nations under a wet-lease agreement.
The remaining Finnish losses of infrastructure, barrack services and welfare facilities are under negotiation for purchase but again the DF have reshaped this to their benefit. For example, when factoring in the cost of disassembly, transport to Finland and depreciation of maintenance vehicle servicing tents (MVSTs), Comdt Moriarty secured this equipment for less than the standard purchase price. The DF have secured additional combat support capability at an absolute cost to the Irish tax payer of less than 18 per cent of market value. This is supply chain resilience in action, a demonstration of an organization with the ability to ‘evolve to a new and more desirable state after being severely disturbed’ (Yang and Xu, 2015)… by Policy.
Supply chain disruption: Irish Defence Forces
The source of the supply chain disruption described here is Policy. For the combined NBG and UNIFIL missions I am going to dispense with a preparatory phase so as not to absorb into the discussion the purpose of the one-month joint exercise in Skillingaryd, Sweden, or indeed the mission readiness exercise prior to deployment to Sweden, as this was a clearance to build all systems, or the coordinated Irish and Finnish pre-deployment training. While Skillingaryd unearthed further supply chain friction, this was not caused by the mission itself, but by the AAE and CS41 strategic documents. I say this because the literature informs of a phased response to disruption. In equal measure, I found recovery to be consequential to the response. One could argue that an after-action review forms part of the recovery. However, it seems that this instrument is based on conditions that are too contextual and conditional, and do not influence improved organization to supply chain strategic alignment. This viewpoint is strengthened by a 2016 joint report from the International Centre for Defence and Security, and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in relation to Ireland, Finland and Estonia in UNIFIL, which concluded that: ‘there does not appear to be a high-level process for identifying the strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures of each rotation. There is certainly no such exercise involving all three states, nor has the United Nations undertaken a substantive and critical appraisal of the UNIFIL mission’ (Lawrence et al, 2016). This indicates that supply chain challenges and successes (operational and financial) are not factored into the strategic renewal process. This is what we need to change as a profession.
So, what exactly do we want to change as a result of these and further case studies? First, we must increase our understanding of supply chain managers’ engagement in the process of dynamic organization to supply chain strategic alignment, within the context of supply chain disruption, and second, as suggested by Wu et al (2014), contribute to the broadening of
As this chapter concludes, I wish the Irish Defence Forces a safe journey in all their endeavours. It has been my privilege to have been given a small glimpse into such a highly professional organization. My message is simple. Policy is a source of supply chain disruption. Alignment of organization and supply chain strategic goals will have a significant impact on reducing the gap of pain in response to external disruptive events.
Answer the below questions. Keep questions with answers:
The two defense forces case studies outline various disruptions to supply chain operations, and these can be categorized as breakdowns in general. However, given that all logistical challenges were in the absence of enemy engagement…
1) Could you identify the true source of supply chain disruption?
2) Consider supply chain disruptions experienced in your own organization. Perhaps poor supplier performance has influenced operations. Can you search for and provide a few clues as to what may have caused these situations at a deeper level?
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