By Amy WalkerApril 6, 2011
By thinking "lean" and streamlining the government purchase process, Maj. Anthony Douglas saved time and money for the Army, earning him a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Green Belt and promoting ongoing process improvement efforts throughout his organization.
"Lean Six Sigma is really about efficiency, how we are doing things within the PEO, and what we can do to standardize and to make the process better, which usually saves the government money," said Douglas, assistant product manager for Blue Force Tracking (BFT).
BFT is assigned to Project Manager Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and -Below (PM FBCB2)-- a digital command and control system that provides battle command and situational awareness information from the brigade down to the Soldier level.
To commemorate his achievements, Brig. Gen. N. Lee S. Price, the program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), recently presented Douglas with a LSS Green Belt certificate as well as an honorary one-star note.
Lean Six Sigma is a comprehensive process improvement methodology that has been deployed throughout the Army and industry to boost efficiency and quality while eliminating non-value-added activities. The LSS program allowed the Army to submit $96.6 million worth of projects in 2009 in support of President Obama's goal of government-wide savings of $100 million, according to the 2011 Army Business Transformation Plan.
"Lean Six Sigma allowed me to recognize that there are always areas for improvement, and you can analyze things and determine root causes," Douglas said. "Lean Six Sigma can be applied to any aspect of our jobs."
The objective of Douglas' Green Belt project was to improve the process and procedures required when using Government Purchase Cards (GPC) within PEO C3T. GPCs are used for purchasing supplies and higher-end products unrelated to travel. Only a select few individuals are authorized to use GPCs, usually two people per division, Douglas said.
The former PEO C3T Budget and Cost Analysis Branch Chief, Carol Phelan, recognized that standardization was one of the key areas to target for improvement in the GPC program. Prior to this effort, there were multiple variations of request forms, and the submission process was inconsistent across the PEO. The request process required a long list of steps that included electronic preparation, physical signature, electronic scanning or faxing, and redundant verification before an order was placed by the credit card holder. Through the LSS process, the team recognized that nearly 33 percent of all GPC request process time was wasted on non-value added steps.
With Douglas at the helm, the team improved the GPC process by synchronizing the efforts of all the divisions, standardizing the process, reducing purchase request cycle time, and simplifying the process to reduce workload by 30 percent. Further, they developed a standardized PEO C3T GPC Request Form and Standard Operating Procedure outlining the GPC process and training plan. In addition to the operational results, the team expects a minimum of $5,000 cost avoidance per year, or roughly $45,000 from now through Fiscal Year 2017.
"This was a team effort," Douglas said. "The team that I had did an outstanding job and definitely supported this Lean Six Sigma project."
There are various certification levels in LSS training, including Green Belts, Black Belts and Master Black Belts. To earn certification as a LSS Green Belt, one has to attend several weeks of training, pass a final exam and lead a project team, with the help of a mentor, from defining a problem through implementing a permanent solution. Douglas completed his LSS training in September 2010. Now that he has earned his Green Belt certification, he is looking forward to pursuing a Black Belt.
One of the key focus areas of the Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Staff of the Army is to increase efficiencies. By facilitating and implementing Army process improvements and executing LSS initiatives across PEO C3T and the Army as a whole, individuals can help streamline internal business processes to yield both operational and financial benefits.
Since LSS efforts contribute to the efficient management of government resources, PEO C3T continues to streamline its own internal business by facilitating and implementing Army process improvements and executing LSS initiatives across the organization. PEO C3T currently has 20 LSS projects in progress, three have been completed in the last month, and 11 belts have signed up for LSS training courses.
Amy Walker is a staff writer for Symbolic Systems, Inc. supporting the Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).