21st TSC project showcased at symposium

by Angelika Lantz
21st TSC Public Affairs

It is two out of two for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. The Department of Defense hosted its second annual Continuous Process Improvement Symposium in Lansdowne, Va., recently, and like last year, a 21st TSC project was showcased.

This year’s featured Lean Six Sigma project, “Improve Hazardous Receipt Process at Supply Activity Europe,” like last year’s, was completed by the 21st TSC’s Theater Logistics Support Center, Europe.

“It’s a project that has already received some attention last summer when it was selected by U.S. Army Europe as a Best Practices for Logistics project and presented to an Army-wide audience of logisticians,” said Ron Stanley, an operations research analyst and master black belt candidate with the 21st TSC’s Operations Research and Systems Analysis section.

A total of 71 Best Practices projects were selected from all military services with only 14 coming from the Army. The TLSC-E project was featured in the operations category during the CPI exposition portion of the symposium.

Like all LSS projects, it began with a problem. In this case, the existing procedure to process a variety of diverse hazardous and non-hazardous materials resulted in receiving backlogs and delayed accountability processing. A process to eliminate poor work flow, double-handling and safety hazards needed to be established.

“It was broke, and we fixed it. It’s OK to admit something is broke as long as you have a solution, and we did,” said Michael Printer, a black belt and the chief of central shipping and receiving at TLSC-E’s Supply Activity, Europe.

Mr. Printer’s team measured and analyzed the productivity throughput for several months, identified the root causes and their effects and set their goals.
 “You have to get the employees involved. You have to promote a culture of change, where you have people with open minds who want to improve the processes they own,” he said.

For Thomas Gruhn, LSS core team member and black belt at TLSC-E’s quality assurance management office, this is what makes or breaks a project.

“LSS is not just a tool but a toolbox, and most importantly, with LSS we involve the workforce and actively seek their input. They know the processes; they are the true subject matter experts,” Mr. Gruhn said.

While the initial goals may have seemed ambitious, Mr. Printer’s team managed to beat them. The revised process now meets Department of the Army standards for processing material into the Standard Army Retail Supply System. The process cycle time was reduced from an average of 48.7 days to 1.86 days, and the backlog of 500 receipts was eliminated within 22 days. 

Consequently, the project received a lot of attention from the approximately 750 symposium participants.

“The Army Materiel Command asked that we share all our standard operating procedures with them so they can distribute them to their depots,” Mr. Printer said.
Even more significant than any potential cost savings, the process directly benefits the war-fighter.

“The increased account visibility means customers can requisition items directly from TLSC-E instead of passing their requests to the United States. That is a direct contribution to the war-fighter,” Mr. Printer said.