Anthony Lewis
CECOM engineer Anthony Lewis recently secured the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. -- Having served as an Army engineer for 20 years, Anthony Lewis recognizes a problem when he sees one. Armed with a determination to take challenges head on, he recently brought significant improvements and new flexibility to a key system Soldiers use to secure battlefield resources. And in the process, he also became the newest U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command civilian employee to earn the coveted Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification.

Curiosity kicks in

Based at Picatinny Arsenal, Lewis works in the Quality Assurance team of Army Shared Services Center (SSC), supporting the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) and other enterprise resource planning organizations within Army SSC. LMP is one of the largest integrated supply chain, maintenance, repair and overhaul solutions in the world. The Army uses LMP to manage and track orders and delivery of materiel to Soldiers where and when they need it.

In 2017, Lewis started his current position as the LMP process lead for innovation. Effectively, his job was to take a hard look at LMP systems and procedures and find ways to do things better. In his previous position in the Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center, he had earned his Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, the third of five certification levels.

“I was curious about doing a Black Belt project, but I didn’t know of one that fit the bill,” he said. “In this new role, the LMP process innovation fit perfectly.”

Defeating defects

For his project, Lewis decided to tackle the problem of the time required to repair low-risk defects and change requests in LMP. While that may sound simple on the surface, he noted the baseline process included numerous gates and documentation reviews to implement even minor changes. As a result, LMP users would sometimes have to use workarounds for months after defects were identified.

“The old process didn’t reflect the complexity of the problem,” he said. “So I decided to create one that could.”

In 2018, Lewis began redesigning the process so that minor change requests did not have to rise up to prioritization reviews with Army Materiel Command senior leaders. Instead, LMP engineers were empowered with more discretion to determine what defects they could fix immediately. This new efficiency also gave the engineers more time back to focus on bigger, more complex requests.

One of the project’s challenges was cultural, Lewis said, as there was natural resistance to process change because of risk aversion. As a result, he and his team worked with all stakeholders to ensure the project appropriately mitigated risk.

“I understand my end-user, listening to the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots,’” he said. “It’s important to consider how you are going to address those concerns.”

The achievement

Eventually, Lewis and his team received the green light to implement the proposal, and he received his Black Belt certification in January 2021. This marked the end of a long, multi-year effort that also involved four weeks of classroom training and a test.

He acknowledged there were times throughout the project that he became frustrated. But he credited his Army Shared Services Center teammates with encouraging him to see it through.

Harlan Black is the CECOM Software Engineering Center command lead for process readiness who mentored Lewis on the project and eventually certified him as a Black Belt. He noted that Lewis is one of only a handful of Black Belts across CECOM.

“He didn’t give up; he kept at it and at it,” Black said. “I thought it was remarkable.”