Lean Six Sigma at Joint Munitions Command: Past, Present and Future
January 24, 2011
- JMC started utilizing LSS more than five years ago.
- JMC's customers are the warfighter and the taxpayer, both of whom expect products better, faster, and cheaper.
- Lean Six Sigma helps JMC achieve these ends.
- More than 340 LSS green belt and 53 black belt projects have been completed across JMC.
If you are like the "average Joe", you may have asked yourself: What is Lean Six Sigma, really' How does LSS impact JMC'
Steve Tutt, deployment director for JMC's LSS office, recently addressed these questions and more.
"JMC started utilizing LSS more than five years ago," Tutt said. "We're not one hundred percent done, but LSS has become part of the culture of JMC. Now we need to ask: 'How do we move to sustain its use''"
The answer to this question lies in the intriguing history of LSS which is based on continuous improvement strategies.
Well-known as the inventor of the cotton gin, Eli Whitney also manufactured muskets for the U. S. government using a French method of artillery manufacture involving interchangeable parts.
This method introduced the concept of product standards in the U.S. which, throughout the 1800s, was followed by such continuous improvement concepts as industrial production, scientific management, work analysis (Henry Ford), assembly line manufacturing, and quality control.
In the 1940s, Toyota implemented a production system focused on removing anything not valuable to the customer. This "lean" approach promoted efficiency and speed, while eliminating wasted effort.
In the 1980s, Motorola focused on reducing defects to the customer by improving effectiveness and quality, resulting in the "six sigma" approach.
Both of these systems resulted in improved performance by focusing on the customer's expectations and in eliminating resource expenditures that did not contribute to meeting those expectations. Other industries adopted these ideas and improved and evolved them into the Lean Six Sigma used today.
"JMC's depots started using Lean Six Sigma as long as ten years ago, and the command formally started using it five years ago when General Rogers saw the usefulness for JMC," said Tutt.
JMC's customers are the warfighter and the taxpayer, both of whom expect products better, faster, and cheaper. LSS helps JMC achieve these ends.
Employees voluntarily take LSS classes to learn the tenets of the program. A "green belt" identifies an issue that may result in an LSS project, and takes the project through fruition.
A "black belt" mentors and monitors the green belt's project. "Master black belts" are highly experienced black belts who can teach and certify others. They mentor and coach green and black belts.
"Yellow belts" are also involved with an LSS project. They are team members nominated to yellow belt status by project sponsors for going above and beyond in their efforts to assist with the project's outcome.
To date, more than 340 LSS green belt and 53 black belt projects have been completed across JMC. They include a diverse range of topics.
A project completed in 2009 was designed to optimize ammunition transportation procurement process input. It involved a joint effort between JMC and a contractor to reduce defects caused by missing or incorrect transportation funding in ammunition procurement contracts. While the original goal was to reduce process cost by 20 percent, the finished project reduced costs by 85 percent. Financially, the project saved JMC $142,259 in validated cost avoidance.
A unique LSS project also brought success. Its goal was to reduce the number of shipping errors associated with Level 1 shipments of low level radioactive waste sent to Rock Island Arsenal's Army Contaminated Equipment Retrograde Team consolidation facility. The team members created an instructional DVD to teach correct shipping techniques to shippers at JMC installations. During the testing phase, nine shipments were received, with no shipping errors.
One recent LSS project targeted LSS itself. It aimed to improve the LSS certification reporting process in the Employee Development Strategy database. In EDS, managers are responsible for overseeing the certification and training of their staff, including LSS training. Managers must meet or exceed training goals.
"This was the perfect project to help me, managers and LSS track staff training," said Ann Washburn, a staff action specialist on the Munitions and Logistics Readiness Center integration team.
The goal of the project was to reduce the time needed to generate a training report. Washburn worked closely with a computer programmer to build a formula to generate such a report.
The project reduced time to generate a report by 99 percent, from 295 minutes to 1.41 minutes.
"Now, with the push of a button, I have a report," said Washburn.
What is the future of LSS at JMC'
"One 'must' is to find better ways to speed up the execution of LSS projects," said Tutt. "We can streamline green and black belt projects by finding more ways to use rapid improvement events and quick wins."
Traditionally, JMC has focused on a bottom up approach to LSS, with employees envisioning small-scale projects for improvements in their work areas. Now, JMC is increasing emphasis on a top down approach in which it uses a strategic analysis and execution plan, a five-to-seven-year strategy that executes plans in one-year increments. This large-scale plan is linked to LSS projects.
"We want to link large-scale opportunities with small-scale opportunities to stride for not missing any opportunities," said Tutt.
"We need to get as good at measuring time, delivery, and quality, things important to the warfighter, as we are at measuring dollars," Tutt concluded. Lean Six Sigma will lead the way.