Four earn Green Belt certification

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville Public Affairs
Published Feb. 18, 2014

Four Huntsville Center employees received Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification Feb. 10 at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville.

Lee Hanks, program manager, and Deborah Neel, project manager, Central Furnishings Program;  and Joaquin Tucker and Jordan Miller, contract specialists with the Contracting Directorate, completed LSS training and projects that helped them earn certification.

The four join Arkie Fanning, Engineering Directorate, and former employee Greg Havo who previously received the Green Belt certification in 2009.

Lean Six Sigma is a value stream process that combines Lean, getting rid of waste in a system, with Six Sigma, reducing variations and defects.  Green Belt candidates look at business processes to see if work can be accomplished better and faster.

The four new Green Belts all worked projects that looked into acquisition processes.  Each project looked for ways to reduce lead time, develop an internal tracking mechanism and reduce labor costs.  From their efforts, the Huntsville Tracking System – Request for Contract Action went online in spring 2013 and is available for all programs to use.

Neel’s team looked at streamlining the Medical Repair and Renewal Program’s pre-award process and redefining team member responsibilities.  Hanks’ and Miller’s teams looked into pre-award and acquisition processes for the Furnishings Program.  Tucker’s team looked at the acquisition process for the Utility Monitoring and Controls Systems Program.  Each team produced a process map and a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) chart.

“The Lean Six Sigma projects began in February 2012 with a kick-off training seminar from the USACE Master Black Belt, Ben Simao,” Neel said.  “After a three-day introduction aimed at the Huntsville Center executive leadership, the belt candidates were assigned individual projects and sent to Lean Six Sigma training for two weeks at Fort Knox, Ky. Intensive classroom training was followed by weekly mentoring teleconferencing sessions and concluded with hands on support from our local Black Belt, Carolyn Harris.  Each of us completed a Green Belt candidate project.”

Team meetings for the MRR Program started in March 2012 and completed in February 2013. The team included Wes Turner, Pat Clark, Nikki Dean, Crystal Bennett-Echols, and Rex McLaury from Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate, and Julie Shaddock with the Contracting Directorate.

“We had a great team and were able to identify and implement several process improvements,” Neel said.  “The resultant plan to streamline the pre-award process also redefined team member responsibilities and automated the existing paper Request for Contract Action process.”  

Hanks’ project looked at three main issues with the pre-award process:  Contracts to be awarded by the agreed upon award date (timely); contracts to have the necessary items on the contract (quality); and that the external customers and PDT members are kept informed of the progress of the award (communications).  The project’s goal was to improve the pre-award acquisition process average number of late days by 20 percent.

“To my knowledge the complete end-to-end process of pre-award acquisitions had never been fully mapped,” Hanks said. 

The project, conducted between February 2012 and July 2012, included team members:  David Curry (sponsor) and Marcus Adams, Contracting Directorate; Mindy Shelton, Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate; Valerie Clinkenbeard, Engineering Directorate; Howard Swims, Resource Management; and Kay Sommerkamp, Office of Counsel.

“The initial process duration was 730 days,” Hanks said.  “The group was able to reduce the total number of days to 709 working days.” 

Miller’s team looked at the Furniture Program’s end-to-end acquisition process.  Team members Arthur Martin (sponsor) and David Shores with Contracting Directorate; Deborah Clark, Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate; Lauren Ploetze, Engineering Directorate; and Cindy Halbrooks, Resource Management Directorate, worked on the project from February 2012 through July 2012.

“In addition to mapping the end-to-end acquisition process, our team mapped the overall modification process,” Miller said.  “The goal of the project was to improve delivery, increase program savings and reduce labor costs by streamlining the process.”

All recommended process models removed 24 - 34 working days from the acquisition process except the modification model, which was only documented, Miller said.

Tucker’s team:  Darren Sackett (Sponsor) and Kristi Daggett of Contracting Directorate; Laura Mabee, the UMCS program manager; Brandon Hicks and Jonathan Stephens, Engineering Directorate; and James Owens, Resource Management, analyzed the UMCS Program’s acquisition process.

“Each process was documented, which should help the PDT better understand the holistic perspective of the entire process and hopefully improve communications,” Tucker said.  “In addition, some steps were trimmed or calibrated to run parallel rather than linear to remove days from the process, which hopefully passes savings to the customers.”

Continuous Process Improvement tools are used to increase customer satisfaction by meeting or exceeding their expectations, achieving cost wise readiness, improving quality of our products and services and improving our work environment. 

“Integrating a culture of continuous improvement is the way forward,” Harris said.  “I want employees to understand CPI/LSS is not only projects that may last one year or more in duration, but other initiatives such as quick fixes, eliminating non-value added steps in their processes or finding  better ways of doing things and just doing it.