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Military Maneuvers: Using Six Sigma in the Army

written by: Misty Faucheux • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 6/27/2013

Do you practice Lean Six Sigma? In the Army, Lean Six Sigma projects have been used to improve process quality and streamline projects in order to make the Army more efficient. And, the military has even saved millions of dollars using Lean Six Sigma!

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    Foreign Language Center

    Lean Six Sigma is in the Army now, and it is being deployed to improve the Army’s overall business model. Army Lean Six Sigma projects have included everything from improving the foreign sales process to streamlining recruiting to updating the voluntary meals program at the U.S. Military Academy in the West Point mess hall. The deployment of Lean Six Sigma in the Army is the largest ever attempted, affecting over one million people, including Army personnel, civilians, and contractors.

    One of the first projects where Lean Six Sigma tools were used, is the Army’s Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center located in Monterey California. The goal of this center is to provide training in foreign language, mostly to Army personnel. The desired ratio was 80 percent of training to the Army to a 20 percent ratio for other branches of the defense arena, including the CIA.

    When this center was reviewed, however, the ratio was shown to be off. More than 20 percent of personnel from other defense branches were receiving training. This meant that monies that should have been going to battlefield armaments, including bullets and tanks, were being redirected to training. The solution was to create a team of professionals from the Department of Defense and create a defense review rule. This rule stated that any non-Army professionals taking part in classes would have to share the training class cost burden, and the rule stated that a review will have to be done every four years.

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    Foreign Military Sales

    Source: http://www.proteusadvisors.com/uploaded_images/Lean_Six-Sigma_Internal-Control-777750.jpg Lean Six Sigma was also applied to foreign military sales. The Army Security Assistance Command updated the sales process to make it more efficient. Applying Lean Six Sigma to this project allowed the Army to improve process quality, cutting lead times by a quarter and to reduce administrative costs by over $3 million.

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    Army Recruiting

    Another Army Lean Six Sigma project involved re-evaluating the recruiting process at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox. The original process for recruitment was quite complicated, involving over 30 steps, nearly 30 approvals, and almost 50 handoffs of information or movement of applicants. The process was streamlined in order to make the process simpler and to improve recruiting efforts in order to meet recruiting goals. The new streamlined process now only involves 11 steps, 14 handoffs, and 14 approvals.

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    West Point Mess Hall

    As mentioned earlier, the mess hall at West Point was something of a mess. The project revolved around West Point’s voluntary meal days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. On these days, cadets weren't required to eat in the mess hall, but the same amount of food was still being made regardless.

    In order to better forecast how many meals were actually necessary, five cadets used the DMAIC model to figure out approximately how many students would come to the mess hall for meals. This way, the hall could determine how many meals to make and reduce the cost since fewer meals would be wasted.



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