Lean Six Sigma to Improve Management of Sustainment Funds
October 2, 2008
By Dan Galarza
NATICK, Mass. - In these days of dwindling budget cuts and reduced funding, all Army organizations are taking a closer look at how best to manage their budgets and stretch their dollars in order to enable them to provide the best support to our Soldiers.
At the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here, organizations have partnered together, and using the tools of Lean Six Sigma, established a joint process to improve the accuracy of their support budget proposals by at least 50 percent.
The problem that needed to be addressed was defined as the lack of a standardized process for developing Natick Sustainment Systems Technical Support Program Objective Memorandum submissions. This resulted in the failure of capturing true SSTS requirements, which caused the POM submission accuracy rate to be as low as 39 percent.
The POM is a document that provides a comprehensive, detailed description of proposed programs and the resources required to support them for at least six years into the future. Once developed, the POM requirements are fed into a central database and examined by Department of the Army representatives who certify the requirements and disseminate the funds based on the current and future needs of the Army.
Matt Taylor, Soldier Support Systems Group Leader, Soldier Support Systems Group, Integrated Logistics Support Center said, "Receiving funding for known sustainment needs is critical to providing the quality sustainment support required to support current and future operations."
The Readiness and Sustainment Directorate of the ILSC took the lead for this black-belt level project and assembled a team comprised of representatives from the ILSC, the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center and Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. The sponsors for the project were Lt. Col. Craig Rettie, PM FSS, and Taylor.
The primary goals of the project were to increase the accuracy of the submissions by at least 30 percent, and to develop a standardized process for collecting and submitting SSTS data.
In the Army, SSTS funds pay for a variety of technical support functions such as engineering change proposals, technical data packages, technical support, and technical publications. Once labor hours and costs are determined for these functions, SSTS requirements are listed in a POM.
Rettie emphasized the importance of the project. "As the Natick acquisition community moves forward with the complete inculcation of total life cycle management teaming, projects such as this SSTS submission process represent the fruits of that effort and can be harvested for the gain of the taxpayer, Army and Soldier."
The team examined the process of how POM input was being gathered and submitted and after analyzing the data, found four major root causes of the inaccuracies.
Lack of operational definitions, lack of historical data, a lack of standardized procedures to collect and submit data, and a lack of input from subject matter experts were discovered to be reasons behind the inaccuracies.
Once the causes had been identified, the project team focused on developing solutions. The main solutions decided upon were to develop standardized operational definitions, develop a tracking system to monitor and store historical data, develop standard operating procedures, and
to solicit input from SMEs.
Taylor said, "By developing a standardized process to collect, estimate and submit our sustainment requirements, we will collect empirical data that will validate and strengthen our support cost requests."
The implementation of the solutions produced dramatic results. The accuracy rate of the POM submission rose from 39 percent to 89 percent. Also, ten systems that were previously not identified in the POM have been added and are now being tracked and monitored.
By partnering together and using Lean Six Sigma tools to improve management of SSTS funding, the organizations at the SSC are demonstrating their resolve and commitment to providing great support to the Warfighter, while also ensuring smart fiscal use of taxpayer dollars.