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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


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Preventative maintenance project uses Lean Six Sigma

By Art Powell | | October 16, 2008

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Heating and cooling units on base will be more efficient thanks to a preventative maintenance assessment based on the Lean Six Sigma process.

“Preventative maintenance is an investment in that it extends the life of equipment, buildings or infrastructure. It’s an investment in reducing the number of failures that we have to take care of through corrective maintenance,” said Col. C.N. Haliday, commanding officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., as he observed a maintenance team at work on an air conditioning unit outside the Daniels Family Fitness Center.

“We’re re-energizing the PM program on the base. We had one, but for a host of reasons, not the least of which is cost, it’s been necked back over the years, but we’re taking a look at it through our Lean Six Sigma process improvement effort to re-establish it and, through those mechanisms, show the value of it and make clear that it pays off in the long run,” Haliday added.

The heating and cooling systems are a pilot project to validate the data collection process that will, in turn, be utilized on other systems.

“We’re using the Lean Six Sigma process to address air conditioner systems. Then we’ll spin off the process to look at things like plumbing and electrical systems on base until we have the entire PM program back on line and have a very aggressive PM program taking care of business,” Haliday explained.

The pilot program began in June with maintenance technicians visiting climate control units to perform maintenance and gather data to establish a base from which future work can be forecast.

“We use hand-held devices instead of paper to input data on the scene so we don’t need several other people sitting behind desks doing that for us. The next time we service this equipment, we can build our work plans from the database we’re collecting now. It’s getting to be routine for us,” said Jimmy Shiver, maintenance worker, Public Works Branch, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany.

As he spoke, workers focused on the particulars involved to service the outside air conditioner unit.

“We cleaned the unit, made sure nothing was leaking, no freon was leaking, all the electric parts were working, no wires were stripped or exposed and we used coil cleaner to make sure it breathes a lot better,” said Fred Alltop, maintenance worker, Public Works Branch.

“This unit will function better after we finish working on it and it will be more energy efficient,” added Eric Tucker, contract maintenance worker, Public Works Branch.

PM is important on air conditioning units to ensure they suffer minimum failures and can perform to standards during peak, summer usage.

“I came out today to see firsthand what the workers do to take apart an air conditioner unit and do some preventative maintenance on it,” said Haliday. “I wanted to see what they do out in the heat and the gnats. They’re working hard to make sure the air conditioners on the base keep running for the whole community.”

Utilizing a process engineering tool such as Lean Six Sigma melds routine maintenance with the latest process improvement methods.

“All roles of a continuous improvement team are imperative to the success of the project. But, as champion for the I & E Preventive Maintenance project, I provide the leadership and communication support for project implementation in partnership with the project sponsor, Hubert Smigeslki,” deputy director, I & E Div., MCLB Albany, said Janet Haviland, executive director, MCLB Albany.

“Champion roles in any Lean Six Sigma project can include identifying opportunities, removing barriers, holding the organization and personnel accountable with scorecards and assisting in the selection of the best personnel to work on a CPI effort. Ultimately, it is a win-win solution. We will have a high quality PM program at an affordable cost and maintain an inherent CPI focus in our day-to-day operations in the future,” Haviland added.

other champion in the process echoed Haviland’s description and added that customer service is one long-term benefit of LSS as it is being used in the PM project.  

“The PM program is a good example of a very successful program and how it can impact the customer,” commented Dana Whiddon, business manager, Business Performance Office, MCLB Albany. “Lean Six Sigma provides a standardized, disciplined approach to evaluating, analyzing and improving our business processes.  Increasing a process efficiency and effectiveness directly translates into better support and, more importantly, enhanced customer service. MCLB Albany is committed to providing its customers high-quality, cost effective support and LSS is helping us achieve that goal.”

LSS applies to any process, from heating and air units to larger, more complicated equipment.

“What we’re doing with LSS is identifying a process that needs to be improved. It helps us make economical decisions and to identify life-cycle critical equipment and what it takes to care for that critical equipment,” said Debbie Haguewood, business analyst, BPO.

As one of four LSS projects in the I & E division, the PM team identified what is missing in the current PM process, the deficiencies, what should be improved and built test pilots to identify ways to continue to improve and involve technicians performing the actual work so they can provide feedback 

During the PM process, the pilot program collects data used to make decisions on how to best perform a PM program.

This includes how the equipment (to be serviced) is identified, how it’s recorded in the database, naming conventions, schedules to work, job plans and economies-of-scale come into play with increased energy usage because cleaned and serviced equipment operates more efficiently 

“The program to assess heating and cooling units began in June and the LSS process will be used to collect data to design a PM program for base facilities. The end product will be a comprehensive heating and cooling PM program that will explain, for future use, how long it will take to do the work basewide,” explained Haguewood.

The manner in which the baseline data is collected for heating/cooling units will also be used to design a PM program for other equipment such as electrical breaker boxes, boilers, generators or for any other equipment requiring PM.

When the data collection steps are in place, based on the current assessment, it will ease the future process for applying the process to other items.

“LSS improves a service’s timeliness, reduces its cost and improves quality,” said Whiddon. “Our goal, using LSS, is to positively impact one or all of those areas within a process. We want to make our base services better, faster and cheaper.”

According to Whiddon, “At the end of the day we want to meet our customer’s requirements while doing it as efficiently and effectively as possible. To do that, we must know our capabilities and balance those against the customer’s expectations so everyone ends up satisfied.”

According to base officials, the PM pilot program is the largest LSS project conducted to date at MCLB Albany and it’s at the Black Belt level, which is the 4th highest LSS level out of five.

“With four LSS projects so far, I & E has been successful using LSS to increase our customer support as well as streamline our business process. We have started the LSS process in our highest profile department, Public Works, and will continue to use it,” said Smigelski.

“MCLB Albany is being touted by the Marine Corps as the model for the implementation of Lean Six Sigma because we’ve stepped out and done so much, deployed it well and we’re ahead of most bases in the Marine Corps,” said Whiddon.


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