What’s good for the geese is good for the gander. Or better, what’s good for the private sector is good for the public sector.
Our Six Sigma focus now turns to the United States Army. The generals have reason to be proud. That pride is expressed in US dollars. How does a savings of $110 million in 2005 sound? In 2007, that figure went up to US$2 billion. These savings specifically relate to the Army’s Six Sigma initiatives.
The US Army considered the Sigma principle basically as two separate components, but that was when the Army was just getting acquainted with Six Sigma. These two components were (a) Lean and (b) Six Sigma. The equation goes something like this – just to add a bit of the historical perspective.
lean Toyota + Six Sigma Motorola
Toyota’s objective for introducing the Lean concept was to eliminate waste so that speed and process flow could be improved; Motorola’s on the other hand was to build on quality and inject continuing improvement through statistical controls.
The US Army introduced Lean in 2002 and the Army Materiel Command (AMC) was the first testing ground. The initiative was to make anti-terrorism operations more efficient, while keeping costs down.
In 2003, Army officials combined the Toyota and Motorola principles and introduced Lean Six Sigma (known as LSS among army staff). What were some of the overall benefits that were directly attributed to the implementation of Lean Six Sigma? According to Michael Marx, there were three general improvements noted:
- there was a profound improvement in communication channels across the chain of command through lieutenant-generals;
- the army recruitment process was reduced from 32 steps to 11 steps;
- a meaningful reduction in clothing outlet inventories took place
Also in the year 2003, Lean Six Sigma enabled the US Army to increase the number of vehicles and systems that needed repairs, improve delivery times and diminish repair cycles. Desirable outcomes are evident in AMC’s depots, arsenals and ammunition plants, according to a US Army report. And in the weapons and artillery arena, the following are just a few of the “beneficiaries” from Lean Six Sigma initiatives (this information was provided by Beth E. Musselman in her article Lean Six Sigma 101). Design, deployment and use of these items showed a marked improvement.
- T700 engine
- M992 Field Artillery Ammunition Supply Vehicle
- Abrams Tank
- M45 CB Mask Program
There are many others. The US Army is a huge machine and it is evident to everyone that Lean Six Sigma introduced improvements in a wide array of weapons and army installations.
Apart from the Army Materiel Command, another unit of the US Army – this time the Installation Management Agency (IMA) – also saw positive outcomes after applying Lean Six Sigma. This agency has the mandate of responding to the needs of soldiers, their families as well as army civilians who live and work in Army facilities. The goal of IMA in adopting Lean Six Sigma falls in line with the general principles of the concept itself: to reduce costs, increase productivity and improve and maintain the level of quality.
As a continuing effort, the IMA has various ongoing programs related to Lean Six Sigma: executive awareness training, project sponsor, Green Belt training, awareness training for staff members, and awareness e-learning for headquarters, region staff and the Garrison Directorate.
TRADOC (US Army Training and Doctrine Command) is another division where LSS is thriving. Next month in San Diego, California, a conference entitled,Lean Six Sigma for Defense will be held. Susan Cole of the US Army Reserve will deliver the keynote address. Her speech will cover the transformation of the US Army through the integration of continuous process improvements, discussion of the future of Lean Six Sigma in the Department of Defense, training and performance maximization for stakeholders and the transformation of a resistant culture.
The two-day conference is steeped in Lean Six Sigma concepts and specific themes are apparent. For example, Charles Brandon of TRADOC will discuss supporting the army-wide deployment of Lean Six Sigma, the training of soldiers in process improvement and efficiency techniques and how in-house Master Black Belts improve LSS flexibility.
A whole afternoon will be devoted to continuous process improvement and how to deal with the cultural divide among Army staff. Discussions will also reinforce the benefits of LSS so that it doesn’t end up as just the “flavor of the day.”
This conference mirrors the 100% commitment of the US Army to Lean Six Sigma particularly at a critical time of the country’s national security concerns.
Author: Peter Peterka Google