In order to provide the best logistical support to soldiers, Army organizations at Natick, Mass., USA, are using Lean Six Sigma to establish a joint process to improve the accuracy of equipment support budget proposals by 50 percent.
With increased budget cuts and dwindling funding, Army organizations are examining how best to manage budgets and stretch dollars to provide the best logistical support to soldiers. Army organizations at Natick, Mass., USA, are using Lean Six Sigma to establish a joint process to improve the accuracy of the soldier equipment support budget proposals by 50 percent.
The Army uses Sustainment System Technical Support (SSTS) funds to modify or upgrade existing equipment during its life cycle. SSTS funds pay for the technical support required to sustain weapons systems through configuration changes, modifications and upgrades. SSTS, a multi-million dollar funding stream, pays for a variety of technical support functions – engineering change proposals, technical data packages, technical support, technical publications, etc.
SSTS-funded requirements are listed in a program objective memorandum (POM). The POM is a comprehensive, detailed description of proposed programs and the resources required to support them for at least six years. Once developed, the POM requirements are fed into a central database and Department of the Army representatives certify the requirements and disseminate the funds based on the current and future needs of the Army.
At the U. S. Army Soldier Systems Center, the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) and the Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) partnered on a continuous improvement project to develop a joint, standardized process to improve the accuracy of forecasting SSTS requirements. The sponsors for this project were Lt. Col. Craig Rettie, a product manager from Force Sustainment Systems and Matthew Taylor a Soldier Support Systems group leader with the Integrated Logistics Support Center. They asked Dan Galarza (the author), the Lean Six Sigma deployment director of the Soldier, Readiness and Sustainment Directorate, to lead this Black Belt-level project. The project team consisted of representatives from the:
Co-sponsor Taylor addressed the anticipated results of the process improvemen,t noting that funding for known sustainment needs was critical to providing quality sustainment support for current and future operations. By developing a standardized process to collect, estimate and submit the sustainment requirements, the team would collect empirical data to validate and strengthen the support cost requests.
The sponsors defined the problem as, “The lack of a standardized process for developing the Natick SSTS POM submission results in the failure to capture all true SSTS requirements from a total system viewpoint to include a POM submission accuracy rate of 39 percent.” The failure to capture all of the requirements impacted the POM in two ways:
After the sponsors defined the problem and determined its impacts, they set project goals: standardize the process and increase the accuracy by at least 30 percent. In addition, during the Define stage, voice of the customer surveys revealed the customer’s requirement and helped validate the problem statement. Three critical customer requirements were identified:
The team then gathered data to measure the SSTS process and develop a baseline related to the problem and its impacts. Below are highlights of the data captured during the Measure phase:
After collecting and analyzing the quantitative and qualitative data, the project team discovered many sub-systems had been overlooked and not included in previous POM submissions. In addition, after examining the various methods among the organizations used to capture historical data for tasks and labor in support of SSTS, the team determined that, in the aggregate, the data was insufficient to justify SSTS requirements as stated in the POM. While the data may have met an internal need, it was of less value in justifying SSTS requirements.
A lack of data can create a challenge when determining the root causes after conducting the analysis. In this case, however, the team used Lean Six Sigma tools, including a fishbone diagram, failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) and measurement system analysis (MSA), to make the root cause determination straightforward and uncomplicated. The root causes of the SSTS problem were:
After completing the analysis and determining root causes, the team focused on developing solutions to the problem of SSTS POM submission accuracy. Although each root cause was addressed individually during the improvement phase, the solutions were interrelated, and each played a valuable role in resolving the accuracy problem. Following are the solutions implemented:
The results of the implemented solutions were favorable. Systems previously not identified in the POM have been added and are now tracked and monitored. The accuracy rate has risen from 39 percent to 89 percent. The sigma quality level rose from .78 to 2.60, representing a dramatic improvement in the accuracy of the SSTS forecast. To leverage this information technology tool, transfer of the SSTS On-Line System is being considered for deployment throughout TACOM LCMC.
The ability of the TACOM LCMC and RDECOM organizations to gain better control of their funding streams represents a staunch commitment to using every dollar wisely and responsibly. With the development of operational definitions, the leveraging of information technology, a SOP and the inclusion of SME input, these organizations now have the ability to capture, track, validate and justify their SSTS requirements.
As a small but vital cog in the wheel of the Army, Natick organizations are working to make every dollar count. According to Rettie, co-sponsor of the project, “As the Natick acquisition community moves forward with the complete inculcation of total life cycle management teaming, projects such as this SSTS submission process represent the fruits of that effort that can be harvested for the gain of the taxpayer, Army and soldier.”
About the Author: Daniel Galarza is a retired Army officer who is now the Lean Six Sigma deployment director for the Soldier Readiness and Sustainment Directorate within the TACOM LCMC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.