Lean boot camp helps AMCOM improve efficiency

Deborah Edwards, a logistics management specialist in the Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM) Competition Management Office (CMO), recently undertook a Lean training course through the Department of the Army. With this knowledge in hand, she hopes to be able to cut through much of the red tape that bogs down the execution of many military programs and processes.

First on the chopping block is Maintenance & Overhaul Tech Process Lead Time for Unusual and Compelling Urgent Technical Justification and Certification (TJC). This process, which is designed to limit the number of bids the department receives to award contracts in urgent circumstances, was not very urgent itself – it often took approximately six months. At the outset of the Lean initiative, Edwards hoped to reduce this length of time by as much as 20 percent by applying waste reduction and continuous improvement practices to the process.

“It was simply taking too long,” Edwards told The Redstone Rocket. “By the time the TJC reached CMO it was no longer urgent, and that's time wasted. When you're doing something that's urgent, you don't want it to take 178 days. We must work smarter.”

Persisting through adversity

Looking at the process from a Kaizen point of view, Edwards asserts that there is always a quicker, Leaner way of doing things. Ultimately, it's a matter of identifying wasteful processes, getting rid of them and then looking for more inefficiencies.

Edwards started by following the DMAIC framework, which calls for Lean specialists to define, measure, analyze, improve and control processes. Eventually, she was able to far surpass her original goal, working the 178-day process into a 70-day one. Obviously, the greater efficiency is a benefit itself, but the shortening of the cycle also led to an estimated $356,293 being saved annually. The most important thing, she says, is not giving up – reducing such a technical process seemed difficult, but she was able to persist and achieve her goal.

Even in organizations that have been around for ages – such as the military – there are always ways to improve. As Edwards found, the key is being able to step back and look at processes and programs analytically and through the lens of Kaizen. This will help businesses continue to improve operations.