SCHINNEN, Netherlands - By keeping the focus on newcomer needs, in-processing just got a little easier with the official opening of U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen's recently renovated Housing Referral Office. Led by Schinnen commander, Lt. Col. Fern O. Sumpter, members of the garrison gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Nov. 23.

"We've centralized the customer service stops and built a reception area that allows newcomers to easily in-process and explore the housing referral list, while their children enjoy a small play area," said Patrick Maessen, engineering division chief for USAG Schinnen's Directorate of Public Works.

"Before the renovation, customers wandered through the building trying to find where and how to in-process, but now, with all the customer service offices centralized, the customer can easily find our new reception area and receive prompt, professional service," Maessen said. The new consolidated design of the office makes it easy to book appointments for furniture and appliance pick-up and deliveries or search for housing.

"There had been many moves to accommodate changes to our organization in the past that, over time, spread out the customer service locations associated with in-processing. So, we've re-designed our staff structure to better suit soldiers, civilians and family members - our customers," said Robert Mackson, director of Schinnen's Directorate of Public Works.

"If you have a CAC card, you can begin looking on-line for housing before you arrive. Just be sure that you in-process with us within 48-hours of your arrival in the Netherlands before you make any verbal, informal or formal housing agreements," said Marcel van der Zanden, the USAG Schinnen Housing Referral chief.

The refurbishment culminates a year-long effort not only to improve facilities but also to improve processes related to housing and in-processing on the garrison. A Lean Six Sigma project, for example, focused on the time it took customers to receive housing.

"We made the process more efficient, shortened the time it took for customers to move into government or private leased quarters while saving the garrison between $10K and $15K per quarter," van der Zanden said.

USAG Schinnen has spearheaded additional in-processing support initiatives throughout the past year. Through the USAG Schinnen Army Community Service, newcomers can be issued a pay-as-you go phone and GPS navigation device to help with their housing search. Flat-screen televisions and video players are also available, which give families something to fill the void between the time they sign for housing and when their personal property is delivered.

"We deploy soldiers with tools to perform their mission in Afghanistan and Iraq. So, when they're in-processing it makes sense to give them the right tools to make their transition into their new European home. After all, their mission during a PCS is to find suitable housing as fast as possible," said Ed Carter, USAG Schinnen's relocation manager.