LTC Andrea Lester, chief of medical logistics for the United States Army Europe, Seventh Army, led a team that completed the first black belt Lean Six Sigma project in Europe Regional Medical Command, helping Heidelberg MEDDAC trim $250,000 in annual supply and administrative costs.

Lean Six Sigma is a tool used Army wide to improve business processes.

The departments of surgery and logistics realized savings by improving untimely feedback on supply order status, sustainment training on supply procedures and monthly reconciliation of supply levels.

A supply specialist moved out of the logistics section and into the surgery department.

"Having one of our supply specialists there was tremendous," said LTC Jose V. Alicea, chief of logistics at the hospital. "We learned a lot and have a better customer focus now on what the surgery department needs. We'll save money, for sure, but we know each other better now, and I think there are lessons learned here that we can apply in other areas."

Different levels of training and experience are awarded martial arts-like belts to show the level of the person's certification in Lean Six Sigma. The master black belts go on to mentor others in the command. Black Belt training entails four weeks of classroom work and completion of a Black Belt project.

"I know I have learned an awful lot in the past six months," Lester said. "Most of all, I learned that people can become very enthusiastic about a project like this and really come together as a team."