By Capt. William Brink (13th ESC)November 3, 2016
The American Society for Engineering Management recognized Capt. Michael Smith, material management branch deputy of the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, for the best article at their International Annual Conference in in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Oct. 27. His paper, "Improving Army Aviation Maintenance One Part at a Time: a Lean Six Sigma Application" was published at the ASEM international conference and in the May-June 2016 issue of Army Sustainment Magazine.
The article highlights the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division's use of Lean Six Sigma processes to systematically address issues related to the Global Combat Support System -- Army Supply Support Activity turn in process that resulted in an over $1.2 million loss in fiscal year 2015. Additional analysis identified at least $9.6 million in avoidable losses to FORSCOM units in 2015.
"During the academic portion of the conference, a lot of observers were surprised to hear that the Army utilizes Lean Six Sigma techniques to improve operations," Smith said. "The audience keyed in on the fact that a very junior Soldier was able to come up with an idea that has been adopted across the Army during my presentation."
The errors made it appear that units were not eligible for reimbursement of turned-in items, when, in fact, they were.
In the paper, Smith went on to say, "If lost credit within FORSCOM was treated in the same way as lost property, then 16 brigade-level turn-ins would trigger a general officer level financial liability investigations of property loss because the loss would exceed $100,000. In addition, 253 brigade-level investigations would be triggered from errors that cost units between $5,000 and $100,000.
Smith is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and believes that LSS is a valuable problem solving tool that can make Army processes more efficient and save both time and money. "Lean Six Sigma is a systematic method to improve stable, recurring processes. My project team knew that our brigade was losing money because of how supply support activity clerks were processing parts. The traditional Army solution would have been to retrain the SSA clerks, but because we used a systematic approach to study the problem, we realized that the root cause was a result of SSA customers not communicating critical information," Smith said.
Smith wrote the article while he was the assistant logistic officer budget officer for the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade. He said that he, "wanted to share his solutions with other units and to be published in an academic journal to build professional credibility and make himself more competitive to be accepted into a top graduate school."
Smith received a phone call a few weeks ago that the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade was going to implement the solutions he identified.