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Lean Six Sigma in the Army: A Success Story

Since the 1980s, Six Sigma has been synonymous with process improvement in the corporate arena, adopted widely by organizations striving to improve processes, and through that improvement, boost customer satisfaction. More recently, adoption has expanded to the public sector as well. In 2006, the U.S. Army adopted Lean Six Sigma, and within the first five years of Lean Six Sigma implementation, the Army had realized an estimated $19.1 billion in savings, according to the Army website. That substantial figure represents improvements in existing programs, avoiding future costs and establishing revenue from reimbursable items.

How Six Sigma is Implemented by the Army

The Six Sigma methodology has a singular focus: remove error-causing elements that can lead to defects, oversights or issues, and therefore improve the business or system process. Through this methodology, organizations establish a management system geared toward finding and eliminating errors systematically.

The process of removing errors becomes perhaps more critical when moving from the private sector space to national security processes in the Army, which spans administrative, manufacturing, defense and other functions. And since its deployment, it has a return on investment of 700 to 1, according to the Army’s website.

But the benefits of Lean Six Sigma aren’t isolated to the macro level. Within the Army, several groups have effectively leveraged Lean Six Sigma to improve process and yield dividends.

  • The Regional Health Command-C (RHC-C) Lean Six Sigma team earned the title of “best” in U.S. Army Medical Command through applying Lean Six Sigma to critically review and revamp processes, ultimately improving the way the unit addressed regional unit commanders’ needs. The team applied Lean Six Sigma to vet policies, monitor training and understand available support for trainees. What they found was a gap in tracking, which they standardized across the region. Through this plan, they’ve noted an increase in trained individuals.
  • Texas’ Red River Army Depot (RRAD) revamped their productivity on Humvee production, saving the Army an estimated $30 million on production. RRAD is tasked with restoring tactical vehicles – including Humvees, heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks (HEMTT), and Bradley tanks – to mission-ready condition after they are damaged in battle. As a result, urgency is a key factor. Applying Lean Six Sigma and striving for ongoing improvement, RRAD exponentially increased productivity, moving from restoring half a Humvee vehicle a day before their process overhaul to restoring 32 a day afterward. They dramatically reduced lead-time on HEMTT, moving from 130 days to a mere 30.
  • Inspired during a Lean Six Sigma project, logistics specialist Kevin Joyce opted to put the task of computer reset back in the hands of the unit. Previously, laptops were shipping to contractors to reset them, and then returned – a costly and timely process. When this pain point was identified, two test units began the reset work in their home stations, and they found that with no impact to quality, turnaround time moved from 30 days to only a few hours. And applied across the next five years, the new approach saved an estimated $10 million, according to the Army website.

With a focus on eliminating pain points and ramping up efficiency, Lean Six Sigma provides value across organizations in public and private sectors. Experts can earn training at a project level, ranging from a beginner Green Belt level to a Black Belt, or become a Master Black Belt to improve an organization at a strategic level. Earning a certification equips professionals to provide valuable expertise and contributions regardless of the industries and sectors he or she is involved in.

Interested in implementing this process methodology at your organization? Click here to learn more about our Lean Six Sigma certificate courses.

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