By Ms. Dawn M. Scott
The Army Contracting Command (ACC) has established a continuous process improvement (CPI) team in its Operations Group that will assist with the implementation of initiatives throughout the command.
“The goal of the CPI program is to document, analyze and improve all of our processes, measure our success along the way and to take the organization to increasingly higher levels of performance. High-performing organizations improve employee morale and customer satisfaction,” said J.R. Richardson, ACC Operations Group director. “I have established very effective Lean Six Sigma programs at other organizations, and I can attest to the great things that CPI programs can do for organizations.”
Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a managerial concept focused on eliminating sources of waste and activities that do not add value to create maximum productivity in an organization.
ACC’s CPI team is led by A.D. Barksdale, CPI deployment director. Barksdale and the CPI team are helping ACC executive directors and commanders prepare strategic plans that will improve areas within their organizations.
“The CPI tool sets, combined with proper formalized training, will help commands achieve their strategic goals and enable auditable, repeatable and agile contracting business processes,” Barksdale said.
Barksdale is a Department of the Army-certified LSS Master Black Belt. The belts—green, black and master black belts—represent the level of training and experience a candidate has.
According to Barksdale, Rebecca Weirick, executive director, ACC – Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is already using the CPI methodology to develop and implement her own strategic plan.
“The ACC headquarters, in conjunction with Aviation and Missile Command CPI teams, are assisting Weirick in identifying potential LSS green belt and black belt candidates as well as securing spaces in the approved training for those candidates. The teams are also helping her identify potential CPI projects imbedded within her strategic plan,” Barksdale said.
LEADERSHIP KEYS SUCCESS
Training a LSS belt candidate takes time and commitment, but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs, Richardson said.
“Commanders and center directors should consider employees who are already reviewing contracting packages and work products, conducting and leading peer reviews or writing and implementing policy within your organizations,” Richardson said. “These are people who already know and understand existing processes, therefore they will be most effective when you are trying to implement CPI.”
Ultimately, said Richardson, success of the CPI program lies with each organization’s leadership.
“This is their program. The success it will bring to their organizations, and to ACC as a whole, is contingent on leadership. Our role at the headquarters is to assist them in implementing an effective CPI program in their respective organizations,” Richardson said.
ACC’s CPI team is working with the centers and subordinate commands to identify points of contact to help administer the CPI program at the local level. The team is also trying to provide the necessary resources to train personnel at each location so each organization can become self-sufficient in process improvement, Richardson said.
He said the ACC CPI team will be conducting staff assistance visits during fiscal year 2014 to help executive directors and commanders develop opportunities via project identification and selection workshops. Also during these visits, the team will conduct CPI executive leadership training that outlines the ways in which management can encourage and support Lean Six Sigma candidates who are executing projects on their behalf.
“Many of the centers and field offices are already doing fantastic work on process improvements, but not necessarily in a standardized, repeatable way,” Richardson said. “Our goal is to provide information and assistance to center directors and commanders regarding LSS belt candidates and project selection, training opportunities, process mapping and other LSS tools so that they can implement successful programs at the local level.”
NEW CLASSES PLANNED
This fiscal year the ACC team is developing an “Introduction to Lean” course that will be incorporated into the Contracting Officer Refresher Course and the Contracting Intern Boot Camp, Richardson said.
“Exposure to CPI principles in the early phase of contracting training will enable the junior workforce to embrace methodologies that will assist them throughout their careers, and in the drive to meet the 2020 strategic goals,” Barksdale said.
For more information regarding the CPI program, go to the CPI page on the ACC SharePoint portal.
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If necessity is the mother of invention, then aggravation is the father of process improvement.
Undocumented methods for in-processing were so frustrating to Maj. Marty Jackson, he leveraged his Lean Six Sigma (LSS) training to find a solution. It took the former assistant product manager for Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) 15 days to set up his e-mail when he in-processed.
Jackson, now the Executive Officer to the Program Executive Officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), refused to let his experience be the norm. He completed a Green Belt LSS project to increase in-processing efficiencies within Project Manager JBC-P.
His LSS team made two recommendations. First, send new employees a welcome letter and any forms that can be completed prior to their start date and request that they take training that can be completed prior to arriving.
The second recommendation was to create a standard operating procedure (SOP) for new employees. This in-processing checklist applied to new military, civilian and support contractor employees for PM JBC-P. The checklist covers security, human resources and computer accounts.
“We’re changing what we can change,” Jackson explained. “The Garrison’s Network Enterprise Center (NEC) still has its own process and timeline; however, we can get our new employees’ paperwork to the NEC sooner.”
With the recommendations accepted and in-processing checklists in place, PM JBC-P will see $340,000 in net cost avoidance over six years.
Cumbersome Process Revamped
A time-consuming process prompted Maj. Charles F. Faison, product director for Tactical Ground Reporting, part of JBC-P, to complete a software distribution project. The problem was that JBC-P software needed to be sent to various vendors and customers. The tracking process was paper-based and averaged 51 days from start to finish.
Faison’s team used LSS to analyze why it was taking so long.
“The LSS training I received gave me an array of tools to streamline my software distribution process,” Faison said.
LSS training advises team members not to focus on solutions too early during the LSS project. Fully analyzing a problem elicits better solutions.
“My initial thoughts for a solution would not have gained as much efficiency as attacking the root causes of the problem,” Faison said. “It’s human nature to want to fix a problem right away. But you really have to analyze the causes.”
Faison’s team created a process map of the software distribution process as it was, and then the team identified steps that had limited or no value. The team also found there was no database of information—the ‘database’ was a manila folder containing past requests from customers for software.
“Keeping our customers serviced with new software upgrades by leafing through papers was highly inefficient,” Faison said.
The team recommended creating a database and an automated process, both of which were adopted. Since then, delivery time has decreased from 51 days to three days. Because the process is more efficient, JBC-P did not need to hire an additional person to coordinate this process. An employee now does this as an additional duty. The cost avoidance is $11,000 per year for JBC-P.
“This is not a high monetary metric,” Faison explained. “But we did not have to hire an additional person and the whole process is much smoother for everyone involved.”
From Chaos to Order
Confusion while trying to deploy prompted Maj. Michael J. Williams, assistant product manager for Product Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 1 (PdM WIN-T Inc 1), to undertake an LSS project to improve the deployment procedures for Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) military personnel.
“When I deployed on temporary duty to Afghanistan in 2011 it was a chaotic process,” Williams said. “There was no definitive source from Aberdeen’s perspective nor visibility at the PEO level.”
PEO C3T military personnel are expected to comply with APG policies. At the time Williams deployed, the PEO was at only a 75 percent compliance rate.
Williams’ LSS team created SOPs for deployment by combining the Garrison’s policies and the PEO’s policies. One new procedure involves the Military Human Resources specialist tracking Soldiers in the PEO suspense tracking system as they complete the deployment process and sending in completed paperwork on behalf of Soldiers.
“This SOP makes it easier for people to deploy and the suspense system provides visibility for people down range,” Williams said.
Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) at PEO C3T
PEO C3T’s CPI program’s mission is to improve the efficiency of operations by optimizing key processes and identifying and executing CPI projects, with the ultimate vision of driving value to the Soldier and the citizen. Program Executive Officer Maj. Gen. N. Lee S. Price requires all PEO C3T majors to undertake LSS training and complete their Green Belts and encourages all workforce members to undertake the training.
“We always need to be finding efficiencies and quantifying them,” Price said. “It’s up to us to save taxpayers’ money by consolidating or stripping out unnecessary processes.”
In FY12, the Army certified 22 Green Belts and four Black Belts at PEO C3T, including 13 majors and one captain. The PEO’s 26 gated projects and 10 non-gated projects resulted in $23.5 million in cost savings and $116 million in cost avoidance across FY12-18, surpassing the PEO’s goal of 2 percent of its total obligation authority, or $72.5 million.
“We are raising the bar for FY13,” said Thom Hawkins, chief, Program Analysis Branch, and CPI program director for PEO C3T. “The PEO has set a goal of 3 percent of its total obligation authority, or $87.4 million. The PEO also plans to re-deploy its certified belts on PEO-level enterprise projects.”
The FY13 LSS Training schedule is on AKO at https://www.us.army.mil/suite/doc/36722897. Contact your training coordinator or LSS deployment director to register for a course in the Army Training Requirements and Resources System.