Sometimes progress seems to move at a glacial pace until you add a little heat. A team from the 21st Theater Support Command is applying some focused fire to workplace inefficiency. And now they’re seeing immediate results.
During a weeklong Rapid Improvement Event, held Dec. 11 to 15 on Rhine Ordnance Barracks, a group of Lean Six Sigma practitioners, called Green and Black Belts, aimed to improve output for the Theater Logistics Support Center, a new Humvee engine rebuilding line for U.S. forces in Europe.
“We are the first to host an RIE in Europe; because we want to see our process efficient,” said Klaus Rupp, the facility maintenance manager, referring to the engine work that several weeks ago relocated to ROB from its former home on the Kaiserslautern Industrial Complex. “The RIE is making this improvement possible in a very short time.”
An RIE is a project designed to identify inefficiencies and recommend immediate corrective action by using LSS, a process improvement method used in industry and being adopted by the military.
Every employee is involved and encouraged to offer criticism of current work processes and to suggest possible solutions to problems they’ve identified, said Klaus Kastrup, an LSS specialist from the George Group, a consulting firm that is assisting U.S. Army, Europe with this and other such projects.
The team spent the first days of the RIE, observing mechanics at work and identifying specific areas in need of streamlining. Organizing parts and tools was one of the obvious improvements immediately incorporated.
“We must think about how much time the mechanic takes to find a tool or find a part,” Mr. Kastrup said. “If he takes too long because we don’t have the part where he needs it, that’s waste.”
Other improvements the team recommended: co-locating the engine disassembly and parts-cleaning centers; and improving communication between mechanics and supervisors by using a status-tracking board.
Mr. Rupp believes the changes will “improve life for everyone.”
“It gives ownership of the process to the mechanics; improvements come from their ideas,” he said, adding that it also will result in returning high-quality vehicles to field units.
European Command units interested in hosting an RIE or needing more information on LSS can call the USAREUR Comptroller’s office at 370-3530/9349.
“We would be thrilled to see others conducting similar RIEs,” said management analyst Jack Van Den Belt. “Process improvement is critical to our force readiness and must be embraced by all.”