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Lean Six Sigma and the Navy

Lean Six Sigma is used in all branches of the U.S. military.

The Naval Sea Systems Command, the largest of the Navy’s five systems commands, has introduced a program called Navsea Lean. The programme is based on a business improvement methodology termed Lean Six Sigma (LSS.) LSS is a fusion of two Toyota inspired business transformation models, Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing. Through data collection, data analysis and solution finding both models seek to eliminate waste in terms of over-priced budgets, non-binary process steps, faulty product manufacture and slow process speed. The final result, when the system works, is stream lined processes that delivers better service.

Lean Six Sigma projects are administered by leaders termed black belts within the organisation. Undergoing intensive Lean Six Sigma management training, these black belts are responsible for directing teams of green belts. Black belts are rumoured to save hundreds of millions of dollars on the projects with which they are involved and a typical project lasts around six months. Since its instigation, LSS has played a part in streamlining the naval contracting process, decreasing decision times and accelerating and economizing on base check in check out procedures.

The decision was made in 2004 to introduce Lean Six Sigma initiatives into Navsea (Naval Sea Systems Command.) To date, its application has been broad, with 30 Navsea organizations forming part of the initiative. Following initial introduction, results have been more than impressive. Significantly, the initiative has been held directly responsible for saving two hundred million US dollars before the start of year two of its implementation.

It was Toyota that introduced the systems that spawned LSS. Curiously, it seems that, now, the navy is responsible for exporting LSS back to the nation where its concept was born. It seems somewhat ironic that the U.S. Fleet and Industrial Supply Center in Yokosuka, have a fully integrated LSS program for which the training is executed in both English and Japanese.

Following on from Lean Six Sigma successes in other US service departments, the Department of the Navy (DoN) came to the conclusion that they needed to integrate Lean Six Sigma into their training portfolio. As such, in 2006 they took steps to legitimize their in house training processes by partnering with the world’s leading authority on quality, the American Society for Quality (ASQ) in order to develop a customized Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification.

A three-year action plan mandating Senior leaders to place LSS at the top of their problem-solving toolkit has been issued by the Secretary of the Navy who personally cross-examines his management team to determine how they are applying the methodology to solve their most pressing issues. There is an expectation, proven in many cases, that the benefits from LSS, will include more rapid transactions and decisions, superior quality control, cost savings and a better safety record. The following is quoted directly from the, “Statement of the Honorable Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy before the Senate armed services committee – 28 February 2008. Under the title of, “Management Process Improvement,” he writes,

“Complementary action to our acquisition improvement initiatives is our commitment to enhancing process improvement across the Department of the Navy to increase efficiency and effectiveness and responsible use of resources. The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program, planned for implementation throughout the Department, began initial implementation at Naval Air Systems Command in October 2007. It is an integrated business management system that modernizes and standardizes business operations and provides management visibility across the enterprise. The Department continues to champion the use of Lean Six Sigma as the primary toolset as a means toward increasing readiness and utilizing resources efficiently. Over 4,420 leaders have completed Lean Six Sigma training, and there are over 2,000 projects underway. The Department’s Financial Improvement Program leverages ERP and strengthens control of financial reporting. The Marine Corps expects to be the first military service to achieve audit readiness.

A major process improvement initiative to ensure that the Department applies fundamental business precepts to its management is the Secretary of the Navy’s Monthly Review (SMR). The SMR is a senior leadership forum, involving CNO, CMC and Assistant Secretaries, designed to afford greater transparency across the Department and set into motion actions that garner maximum effectiveness and efficiency for the Department. The SMR reviews a portfolio of the bulk of Department activities and programs involving manpower, readiness, acquisition, infrastructure, etc. Using Lean Six Sigma tools and other business tools, this forum reviews the most urgent issues and discusses and implements appropriate solutions. Ultimately, this monthly interaction serves as a means to synchronize the Department’s actions to comprehensively address complex problems, accomplish strategic objectives, and better position for challenges in the future.”

Note: This document is irrefutable proof that the Lean Six Sigma stamp of approval has been indelibly written into Naval policy. We can only wait with interest for histories analysis of its legacy.

Learn more information about 6Sigma.com’s Lean Six Sigma training coursework, available as a classroom, onsite, or Six Sigma online training options.

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