Military Order of the Day: Transformation

We’ll clarify that: it’s transformation through Lean Six Sigma (LSS). No less than the Secretary of the US Navy has initiated a three-year LSS action plan. This piece of news comes straight from the Pentagon and was published today, May 8, 2008.

Serving as a backdrop to this initiative, we have:

Fact # 1: the US Navy has a war to fight
Fact # 2: the US Navy has to position itself for the uncertain future
Fact # 3: the US Navy wishes to implement better stewardship of taxpayer dollars
Fact # 4: the US Navy will look towards LSS to help them achieve their general and specific objectives

In a move to concretize the action plan, the news was that the Secretary intends to meet every month with those who report to him to discuss action plans. He has also sounded off the challenge for completing Green Belt training: the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations & Environment, the  Chief of Naval Operations and several assistant deputy secretaries among others have or are scheduled to undergo Black Belt training.

The number even becomes more interesting: to-date there are 935 trained LSS Black Belts in the Department and 93 of them hold the Black Belt Certification from the American Society for Quality.

Kaizen events are also part of the US Navy LSS agenda. Over 2,000 Kaizen events have been held. The Pentagon keeps a report of all Kaizen events. On its web site, there is a link that leads to the Transformation section where transformation mission, priorities, elements and transformation in action are featured.

The US Navy in 2006 linked up with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) to help launch its LSS action plan, where the main focus was on Black Belt Certification Process. ASQ’s mandate was to launch a pilot certification test with 50 participants at eight different sites of the US to be followed six months later with another certification exam for 100 participants.

The process improvement manager based in NAVSEA’s Virginia headquarters acknowledged that the Navy wanted to take full advantage of ASQ’s capabilities, particularly in Black Belt training, LSS and the Theory of Constraints.

To prove that the US Navy is truly committed to Lean Six Sigma, the Indian Head Division (IHDIV), part of the NAVSEA warfare centers, integrates LSS terminology and devotes an entire section of its web site in explaining the more common LSS terms.

We’ve found some interesting definitions – not the official ones you find in most LSS books, but definitions provided by the IHDIV which reflect the unique LSS program in place at their headquarters.

Some examples –

  • A Black Belt is considered a change agent. His role is to lead change, coach and mentor others. Curiously, the definition begins with the question, “Want someone to lead a team and save the big money?”
  • A Green Belt is what the IHDIV refers as the “backbone”, the one who supports Black Belts. Green Belts possess the knowledge of LSS tools and processes and are capable of applying these tools in a given project environment. There’s something worth noting in the IHDIV definition: “…skilled at implementing smaller continuous improvement efforts.”
  • Poka-yoke is regarded as anything that will prevent mistakes or warn of a potential defect. The IHDIV uses the example of the computerized ordering system. By providing a scroll down menu, the user simply has to click on his choice instead of typing out the order which is subject to human error. Another example would be joining two separate parts where there is only one way to join them.
  • Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) is also a phrase used in some of the US Army and US Air Force LSS projects. It is based on training on an event calling for action. The RIE, in IHDIV’s context, means that an improvement cycle of seven weeks is launched and divided thus: preparation (3 weeks), execution (1 week) and follow-up (3 weeks).
  • Value Stream Analysis (VSA) is a top to bottom analysis done at a higher level. It includes the concepts of “just-do-it”, RIE and long range project where improvements to the product are performed based on the wishes of the customer, taking into account that LSS techniques have to be part of the process.
  • Value Stream Mapping is the process of pinpointing all of the activities that occur in a value stream for a product or a group of products.
  • And lastly, the IHDIV includes muda. Manifestations of muda are overprocessing of parts (due to poor design), excess inventory, unnecessary transport of materials and unnecessary movement of employees (when searching for tools to perform their work), and waiting times.

Peter Peterka is the President of 6Sigma.us. For information on Six Sigma trainingSix Sigma Certification or Master Black Beltprograms contact Peter Peterka.

Author: Peter Peterka Google

Published 09/3/2008

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