By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 10, 2013) -- For the fifth year now, practitioners of Lean Six Sigma were recognized, Jan. 10, for streamlining Army business processes that help save the Army money.
During a ceremony at the Pentagon to recognize winners in the 2012 Army Lean Six Sigma Excellence Awards Program, or LEAP, Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, Ph.D., explained just how valuable practitioners of the manufacturing and business process improvement programs are to the Army.
"Their leadership is important in ensuring our business systems continue to improve, but also in driving efficiency and eliminating redundancy," Westphal said. "And in these days, as you know, we are all about looking at eliminating redundancy and creating greater efficiency."
Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, is a method for improving business processes in a way that can help the Army save money and meet budget challenges, something that has become increasingly important for the Army, Westphal said.
"Our trained LSS professionals, like our distinguished award recipients here today, I think are a critical asset to the Army," Westphal said. "This is particularly true as we negotiate through these very challenging fiscal times, where efficiency really does count."
During the award period, some 894 LSS projects were completed. Of those, 40 were considered "highly competitive" as part of LEAP awards submissions.
Lee Rivas, part of the Army's Office of Business Transformation, said that last year overall, the Army avoided about $2.4 billion in costs dues to Lean Six Sigma efforts. Such efforts, he said, can be applied almost anywhere.
"We have proven that anything can be leaned out from both an operational side as well as the institutional side," he said. LSS efforts have been used to avoid costs and create efficiency both inside the United States and overseas.
This year, Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa., earned the "Non-Enterprise Level (Green Belt) Project Team Award." Their efforts in transforming the purchase request process resulted in a cost avoidance of $5.1 million through fiscal year 2017.
"They charged us with this project to reduce the number of redundant purchase requests in a one-month period that go over to our contracting area, to consolidate as much as we could," said Jeff Wood, of Tobyhanna Army Depot.
Wood said that at the depot, where Army Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance , known as C4ISR, equipment is refurbished and maintained, it is a common occurrence that parts could be ordered one day for a particular project, and the very next day more of the exact same parts could be ordered again for a different project.
"Yesterday we needed ten; today we need ten more," he said. "But they wrote a contract yesterday for ten. So how do we consolidate the ten we need today into the ones we've already written a contract for?"
Processing two purchase requests is expensive, he said, because there is substantial manpower that goes into processing each one through completion.
"We implemented quick wins right off the bat, and we implemented some efficiencies to those inefficiencies," he said. "And then we started looking at the data. What is it that we repetitively are buying? Maybe we could use an inventory provider, someone who is right there who has the [parts] in their truck, right there. Park them right here on our depot. Or buy a bulk shipment of this particular item that we can pull out of inventory and utilize."
Col. Gerhard Schröter, Tobyhanna Army Depot commander, said he sees Lean Six Sigma as being increasingly important for the Army in the face of looming budget reductions.
"For the lean process, what that allows you to do is help you see and identify waste and give you a process to go ahead and analyze that, break it down to its components, and then reduce that waste and inefficiencies," he said. "I think that's extremely important as we get into the next three or four years."
Before Westphal presented plaques to award recipients, he said it is important that those who are involved in Lean Six Sigma spread the word about the effectiveness of process improvement in an effort to help the Army become more efficient in its business processes.
"Only trained experts can bring additional personnel on board," Westphal said. "And I challenge you to be evangelists for this program across the force, and create a legacy of persistent and healthy change and evolution across our Army."
The Army does its own training for Lean Six Sigma, and practitioners of LSS are classified according to their skill level. Today, the Army has trained about 7,500 "green belt," 4,000 "black belt" and 225 "master black belt" LSS practitioners.
"I heartily congratulate today's awards recipients and their achievements," Westphal said. "We're proud of you and we will continue to call on you and your talents in the future."
The 2012 award winners represent "outstanding organizational and project team efforts that have used Continuous Process Improvement/Lean Six Sigma methodologies to transform their business processes," wrote Lt. Gen. William T. Grisoli, the director of the Army's Office of Business Transformation in a memo to LSS deployment directors across the Army.
The winners of the 2012 LEAP Awards include:
-- Enterprise Level Project Sponsor Award: U.S. Army Central
-- HQDA Level Organizational Deployment Award: Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs/G-1
-- AR 10-87 Level Organizational Deployment Award: U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command
-- Subordinate Level Organizational Deployment Award: 21st Theater Sustainment Command
-- Enterprise Level Project Team Awards: U.S. Army Central
-- Non-Enterprise Level (Black Belt) Project Team Award: Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller
-- Non-Enterprise Level (Black Belt) Project Team Award: U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command
-- Non-Enterprise Level (Green Belt) Project Team Award: 21st Theater Sustainment Command
-- Non-Enterprise Level (Green Belt) Project Team Award: Tobyhanna Army Depot, U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command, Army Materiel Command
-- Non-Gated Project Team Award: Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command