Army Taking Care of Business through Continuous Process Improvement
May 14, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 14, 2008) - When a CEO told the Army, 'I'd do business with you if you were more efficient,' the Army listened.
That's what happened shortly after Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, commanding general of Army Materiel Command, took command, Griffin told a near-capacity ballroom of joint servicemembers at the Department of Defense Continuous Process Improvement Symposium at the National Convention Center in Leesburg Tuesday.
The DoD's CPI program provides methods, tools, and philosophies that can be used to improve the way the Army works through training and certifying its workforce.
In short, the Army is taking care of business-more efficiently, Griffin said.
The Army does this by using joint-service strategy sharing, and adopting models from the corporate world. The yield is overall gains in quality, quantity and safety, Griffin said.
As part of the four-day event, Griffin's speech for the afternoon session opened with a definition and overview of Army materiel: "If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, or eats it, Army Materiel Command probably has something to do with providing it," Griffin told the audience. He also discussed Lean Six Sigma and the role of leadership-management in shaping the military's business practices.
Lean Six Sigma is a method of improving quality while removing the causes of defects and errors. Based on the practices of Toyota and Motorola, the process centers on improving production time, eliminating waste while reducing cost and creating an infrastructure of employees (e.g. green belts, black belts) who lead these efforts.
"We're very proud of the number of green belts, black belts and master black belts we've got. We're also very proud of the fact that we're doing more and more training in-house," Griffin said.
The goal is to help the warfighters, Griffin said. Applying continuous process improvement, Lean Six Sigma and other aspects of efficiency improves support to the servicemembers in the field, he said.
Griffin urged leadership-management to explain the benefits of Lean Six Sigma; otherwise, "it will go nowhere," he said.
Griffin said idea sharing benefits more than just the Army.
"What we've attempted to do is learn from how the other services do business, and also in the private sector--we've gone out and spent time with different companies and watched their process. They've shared ideas with us, and they've helped us improve our process, which all benefits the taxpayer at the end of the day," Griffin said.
The other services and the private sector are able to learn from the Army as well, Griffin said.
With events like the symposium, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is making strides in facilitating partnerships, Griffin said.
"I think the effort on the part of the OSD is a positive step to bring the services together because clearly it was a joint audience out there today," Griffin said. "There's room for sharing ideas and working closer together in the joint arena. I applaud OSD's efforts to do that. There's ongoing dialogue and education. It is truly a joint endeavor down at the production site," Griffin said.
Various storyboards were on display depicting the ways the services have reduced costs and improved processes. One bearing the Army logo was the Defense Foreign Language School Rapid Improvement Event board. It showed a change in the process of incurring costs for non-Army students and a savings to the Army of an estimated $139 million per year.
Others included the Government Purchase Card Process Improvement, which streamlined efforts to eliminate waste, and Improved Army Equipment Loss Reporting, which reduced reporting time and improved reporting accuracy.