Any process can be Leaned
July 18, 2013
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The depot's Enterprise Excellence Division offers employees tools to improve processes, reduce waste and make their work flow more efficient.
One of those tools is Lean.
"We use Lean to identify and eliminate waste within a process to improve our efficiencies," said Barry Smith, EED chief, during a recent Morning Show appearance.
Smith said that Lean could be applied to any process - from industrial work to office duties down to the smallest tasks. He demonstrated this through a video of a man making toast.
At first, the gentleman presumes he knows how much and what type of toast his wife wants and winds up wasting more than four minutes.
Then, he improves the process, moving everything into one area and learning what is needed before beginning the process. He even uses his free time while the bread is cooking to load dishes in the dishwasher and straighten the kitchen.
In the end, the man is able to give his wife the toast she wants and accomplishes more in less time.
Here at the depot, 1,036 Lean events have taken place, improving processes everywhere from the Equal Employment Opportunity Office to the Paladin and FAASV line in the Combat Vehicle Repair Facility.
Event number 1,037 is currently underway and is looking at ways to improve the Opposing Forces Surrogate Vehicle, or OSV, production line.
"There is always room for improvement," said Smith. "It is a continuous process.
Some of the installation's successes, such as the Paladin line and the turbine engine shop, have earned accolades including one award that is been considered the Nobel Prize of continuous improvement, the Shingo award.
Smith sees every improvement, no matter how small, that saves time or money for the installation as worthy of being celebrated.
David Kirby, a mechanic in the Turbine Engine Value Stream, learned the importance of process improvement when he participated in a Lean event for the shop's newly established cleaning area.
The Lean event's primary purpose was to establish a standard of work and streamline the processes in cleaning. As a secondary focus, training aids were created to ensure procedures would be performed in the most efficient manner possible.
"None of us had been trained on operating the cleaning equipment, so one of the team's purposes was to train as well as create procedures," said Kirby.
Using the Lean principles, the area was cleaned and placement designated for incoming, outgoing and in-process parts.
"Lean helped streamline the process," said Kirby. "Before, there was no organization. I now know what I have to work with and I can stage the parts as I go."
Kirby particularly liked seeing that the team incorporated people from the shop. He believes that resulted in a more realistic and practical solution.
The addition of the cleaning area within the value stream was, in itself, a process improvement as it placed all the necessary processes under one roof.
Smith said one of the biggest hurdles his division has to overcome is sustainment after a Lean event.
"Most people are inherently resistant to change," said Smith. "We've corrected that a little by having more user involvement in our Lean events."
Smith hopes that by involving those who will use the new processes throughout their development, they will not only embrace the change, but will continue the new procedures long after the Lean team has gone.
He encourages all employees who see a process that can use improvement to speak up and see that changes occur.
"If you have a problem and you know what the solution is, it is just a matter of getting the right people involved," said Smith, adding that, for issues where a solution is not evident, employees should contact the EED to start the process of a Lean event.
• Anniston Army Depot began its Lean program in November 2002.
• More than 3,000 depot employees have served on Lean teams.
• 1,037 Lean events held on the depot.
• More than $220 million has been saved through Lean events at the depot.
• In addition to Lean, the depot utilizes Six Sigma as a process improvement program. While Lean focuses on eliminating waste and improving efficiencies, Six Sigma takes a more analytical approach to dig deeply through one specific issue.