Operationalizing Lean Six Sigma in Theater

Thursday September 8, 2011

Operationalizing Lean Six Sigma in Theater
(Applying process improvement in OEF and OND/OIF)

What is it?

Lean Six Sigma, a force multiplier, allows commanders to do more with less. Since 2009, U.S. Army Central Command (ARCENT) has been employing a team of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Master Black Belts (MBB) to improve processes on the battlefields in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (OIF/OND). The objectives are to provide commanders and units with timely information and recommendations that lead to better decisions in regards to accountability, redistribution and retrograde of equipment and Soldiers throughout theater, improving conditions on the battlefield while eliminating waste and saving resources.

What has the Army done?

While ARCENT has completed several significant projects, recent work in Afghanistan (Regional Command East) illustrates LSS impact in theater. MBBs established a close relationship with the 101st Sustainment Brigade in late 2010, and immediately began improving the flow of equipment and containers at Bagram Airfield. MBBs mapped processes and made recommendations to commanders, they also conducted Green Belt (GB) training for Soldiers in the Brigade resulting in several smaller process improvements. The synergy of the GB and MBB efforts produced significant results including the reduction of trucks waiting outside the base from 600 to 50 per day, and the reduction of container usage fees totaling $54 million.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

An Army-wide problem and on-going project worked by ARCENT, is to improve the Operational Needs Statement (ONS) process, which allows commanders to request and receive equipment quickly worldwide to meet urgent operational needs. ARCENT is working closely with Headquarters, Department of the Army to improve visibility and flow of requests through the ONS process, allowing commanders to see how and when the Army will fill their current capability gaps.

Why is this important to the Army?

ARCENT's LSS efforts allow the Army to rapidly redistribute equipment to where it's urgently needed, reducing the requirement to purchase more. LSS also reduces congestion on the battlefield, specifically inside Forward Operating Bases where containers and equipment accumulate over time. Most importantly, LSS has improved processes and set conditions to retrograde all equipment and Soldiers from Iraq, an unprecedented mission that may be executed in the near future. LSS is currently setting conditions in Afghanistan to ensure equipment and Soldiers flow out efficiently if and when the mission dictates.


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Senior Leaders are Saying

"I pledge I will work with all the Joint Chiefs and our service secretaries and the secretary of Defense, as we face these very difficult challenges. But I do have a word of caution. We must avoid our historical pattern of drawing down too fast and getting too small. Especially since our record of predicting the future is frankly not a very good one. So as we make difficult resource decisions we must be thoughtful and understanding of the risk we incur to the future security of this great nation."

- Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, addresses the crowd upon completion of the oath to become the Army's 38th chief of staff

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What They're Saying

"You never recover completely. You always want to remember the people who perished. I think that is the lesson of 9/11: You can never be complacent."

- Col. Franklin Childress, with the Army's Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, a survivor and witness to the terrorist attack at the Pentagon

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