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Lean Six Sigma: saving money and jobs.

SDDC is implementing Lean Six Sigma (LSS) business process improvement techniques throughout our command. Our twin goals are to save money and jobs. LSS is an Armywide initiative to sustain effectiveness and improve efficiency. It incorporates a philosophy and system for making continuous business process improvements including methods proven to work in the governmental and commercial worlds, tools including metrics and data based decision making, and training in how to use these methods and tools.

Implementing LSS is a huge challenge to SDDC but also a tremendous opportunity to make things better for our customers, our organization, and ourselves. LSS leads to less work for SDDC employees and greater satisfaction for our customers. Greater customer satisfaction translates into greater support for SDDC and the jobs that we do.

Lean Six Sigma is a fusion of lean efficiency engineering and six sgma quality control. The concept of "lean" manufacturing and service goes back to Toyota in the 1950s, while the "six sigma" quality measurement concept goes back to Motorola in the 1970s. Some Lean Six Sigma projects save over $1 million each.

Lean techniques identify and eliminate waste such as waiting and reworking, increase speed and flow, and reduce cycle time.

Six Sigma techniques identify and eliminate variability, increase accuracy and precision, and demand decisions drive by data rather than guesswork and intuition. The term "Six Sigma" is a measure of quality, with six sigmas being almost perfect, meaning almost nothing ever goes wrong. The average U.S. company operates at only three sigmas!

Lean Six Sigma techniques integrate risk and document processes.

So how does LSS work? Basically, small project teams analyze business processes and improvements and then execute those improvements. More specifically, SDDC employees nominate processes for improvement. Project sponsors recommend the best projects for adoption. Management assigns teams to document the processes, develop and analyze improvements, and implement the best ideas. The teams are supported by trained Green Belts (team leaders) and Black Belts (in-house consultants).

The average employee will be trained in basic LSS ideas but is not expected to become an expert in the use of statistical tools. Decisions are driven by data, not intuition. All proposals, analyses and results are documented to improve our knowledge base and to avoid reinventing the wheel.

LSS improvement projects are not additional workload. In fact, they reduce workload and save money by identifying and eliminating non-value added activities. The money saved is redirected to more productive activities. The result is less waste, rework and frustration, and greater employee and customer satisfaction. LSS trained employees are highly employable throughout the Army and DOD.

Training is key to success. SDDC employees will be trained by professional LSS educators and consultants--primarily contractors. The contractors will come to SDDC locations. Candidates for Green Belt and Black Belt certification will have projects to be worked when they begin training. They will alternately train for a week and then work projects for three weeks to immediately apply their newly gained knowledge. The trainers will provide continuing consulting and mentoring services while the candidates are on the job managing projects. No one is left to sink or swim without help. The SDDC goal is to become self sufficient in Green and Black Belts.

More information on Lean Six Sigma is available from the SDDC LSS Program Office, at the Army Material Command website, and through Army eLearning at

So, what's Lean Six Sigma? It is a challenge, but also an opportunity for SDDC employees to eliminate waste and frustration and to increase personal and customer satisfaction. Lean Six Sigma is SDDC's way to the future.

Lee Strong

SDDC Headquarters, Alexandria, G5
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Author:Strong, Lee
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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