West Point improving processes through Lean Six Sigma

By Lean Six Sigma Program

February 10th, 2017 | News, News and Features
Staff and faculty from across the U.S. Military Academy apply L6S process improvement skills in a hands-on exercise Feb. 2. Graduates of the one-day Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt course represented 10 Academy organizations during a daylong Yellow Belt level certification for the U.S. Army’s Continuous Process Improvement program.    Courtesy Photos
Members of the West Point Lean Six Sigma Training team that taught 33 people to become Yellow Belt practitioners equipped with the basic L6S tools to improve their organization’s day-to-day process. The trainers were: front row (left to right): Jason Medford (KACH), Master Sgt. Jeremy Schlegel (BAND), Sgt. 1st Class Bill Cuthbert (BAND). Back row (left to right): Col. Doug McInvale (MATH), Capt. Micha Klein (CALDOL), Staff Sgt. Courtney Martin (BAND), Lt. Col. Jose Ramirez (DSE).  Courtesy Photos

The U.S. Military Academy (USMA) was recently transformed into a high-energy Lean Six Sigma Training Center Feb. 2. Graduates of the one-day Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt course represented 10 organizations from across the Academy during a daylong Yellow Belt level certification for the U.S. Army’s Continuous Process Improvement program.

Seven experienced local trainers led the event, resulting in 33 new Yellow Belt practitioners equipped with basic Lean Six Sigma (L6S) tools to return to their organization and improve day-to-day processes.

Along with a similar event that took place in September and trained 34 staff and faculty, a total of 67 members of the West Point community have completed this entry level L6S training.

Lean Six Sigma combines two process improvement methods—Lean, focusing on reducing waste, and Six Sigma, reducing variation to improve quality.

In an operating environment where you’re asked to do less with more, one goal is to develop a culture of continuous process improvement.

The Department of the Army executes Lean Six Sigma through the Office of Business of Transformation (OBT). West Point is affiliated through local involvement by military and civilian leaders who collectively support L6S education, certification and projects for cadets, staff and faculty, and the workforce across the installation. Certification progress in the program is represented by the karate style colored ‘belts.’

The U.S. Military Academy supports the initiatives of the Army’s Business Transformation culture, to improve the quality, cost and speed of operations and processes.

However, Lean Six Sigma principles have been utilized in the private sector for years, initially introduced by Motorola in the 1970s.

Over time, the methodology has been applied across many industries, especially the services sector, and now, the federal government.

“We’re just building on years of success by local operations researchers and responding to positive feedback from our recent events that trained dozens of individuals across West Point with dozens more on waiting lists for training,” Col. Doug McInvale, Math Department professor and Master Black Belt, said.

Recent participants from organizations including: USCC, Garrison, IMCOM, ODIA, USMAPS and MEDCOM gained a basic working knowledge of the Lean Six Sigma methodology using the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control framework, while participating in an interactive Federal Budget simulation that immediately connected conceptual learning with hands-on application.

“What an amazing presentation. I am totally looking forward to more training. I’d love to be first on the list,” Chevonne Small, an LPN and Program Assistant at Keller Army Community Hospital, said.

Completing Yellow Belt training sets a strong foundation for select participants to later attend a Green Belt or Black Belt certification course, which involves attending two- or four-weeks of classroom instruction, where they will learn advanced problem-solving tools and techniques.

Every year, the Army nets significant cost savings through Lean Six Sigma Projects. Local initiatives such as the “Post Taxi Service & Central Post Shuttle Transportation Project,” demonstrated tangible savings in 2016.

Master Sgt. Jeremy Schlegel, of the West Point Band, led this effort on his way to becoming a newly certified Black Belt.

Schlegel serves as the L6S program NCOIC.

“It is exciting to see so many departments and seniority levels represented at training. It shows that there is an appetite for making improvements at all levels of the Academy,” Schlegel said.

Capt. Micah Klein, a member of the Dean’s staff, recently completed his Lean Six Sigma certification project and is the Army’s newest Lean Six Sigma Green Belt at West Point.

Klein credits the strong support network of Lean Six Sigma professionals on West Point for inspiring him.

“I’m in awe at how many people wanted to support me during the course of my project,” Klein explained.

Klein’s project anticipates an estimated savings to the government of over $200,000 over the next seven years.

“L6S is not magic, but the philosophy and tools promote quality across many areas. The exciting part is connecting quality people with quality improvement achievements in local processes that benefit of our community,” McInvale said.

Plans are underway to hold a two-week Green Belt training course at West Point this summer.

To learn more about the program, visit https://www.army.mil/standto/archive/2011/04/11.

Sign up to receive, Lean Six Sigma Minute, the program’s monthly newsletter, or request training by contacting Schlegel at 845-938-1338 or Jeremy.Schlegel@usma.edu or Jason Medford at 845-938-6940 or Jason.J.Medford.civ@mail.mil.