DLA updates online mall with new products ordering procedures

The Defense Logistics Agency is beefing up its Internet-based electronic mall which is already one of the largest in the government by adding new products as well as making it easier to place and track orders and pay for products.

This month DLA's EMall will offer registration product ordering and tracking from one place. A single search engine will browse all the stores in the mall for products return the information to the user for ordering accept payment for the item online and later track the order. The current system uses a series of hyperlinks to lead users to the store where an item is located and it requires shoppers to register more than once.

"We're offering one-stop shopping for DLA commodities " said Scottie Knott assistant executive director for procurement strategic business development and implementation at DLA. "We will put long-term contracts and e lectronic catalogs for our products in a system where customers can browse compare prices from vendors access depot stock and actually order using [International Merchant Purchasing Authorization Cards] or the traditional [military-standard requisition and issue procedure]." (Milstrip is a form traditionally used to place and pay for orders.)

Although users can do some of these things on the EMall today "it's not in every store and it's not done the same way in every store " Knott said. "We can [provide] a hypertext link but there are multiple order processes multiple registration processes and only one store [in the mall] uses IMPAC credit cards."

DLA soon will have about 4 million items in its EMall said Philip Church senior procurement analyst in the supply chain development office in DLA's Logistics Support Command. DLA is holding a conference Jan. 20 to encourage vendors to offer their products in the mall. Companies can maintain their own database of products or ask DLA to maintain the information centrally.

"We will also be including non-DLA stores down the line " Church said which means users can order from the General Services Administration's Advantage electronic store and the Navy's ITech mall. "We will not be able to control their ordering or payment process but hope to standardize it down the line. We want to make it easier for the customer " he said.

In addition to making it easier for customers EMall will help the Defense Department reach its goal of establishing a completely paperless contracting process by 2001 said Delores "Dee" Smith former director of electronic commerce at DOD. "EMall is one piece of that [strategy] " Smith said. "EMall will [accommodate] even those who aren't up to where the department wants everyone to be in terms of technological capability " including those who still use Milstrip cards.

DLA's strategy also fits in well with the government's goal of creating a single face to industry for electronic commerce systems said Tony Trenkle co- chairman of GSA's Electronic Commerce Acquisition Program Management Office.

DLA and other agencies later this year will take part in a pilot program sponsored by GSA and CommerceNet a consortium that promotes use of the Internet for EC. The pilot will show "interoperability between electronic catalogs so the buyer can search for products seamlessly " Trenkle said. "We're setting up a standard that can be applied to both government and commercial [sectors]. DLA is along that same path."

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