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Lean Six Sigma team works to improve customer service

By Pamela Jackson | | June 9, 2011

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In an effort to improve customer service and continue Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s legacy of successful lean six sigma projects, a team consisting of six individuals from various areas of the base is nearing completion on a project in the Military Personnel Center.

Lean Six Sigma is a combination of two proven process improvement methods: Lean, designed to eliminate eight forms of waste, focuses on quality, process, speed and efficiency, and Six Sigma, which focuses on reducing process variation.

Analytical tools are combined to look at complex process problems using the five-step define, measure, analyze, improve and control methodology.

Dana Whiddon, director, Strategic Workforce Analysis Division, MCLB Albany, said the commandant of the Marine Corps realized he needed to find ways to improve his ability to reallocate scarce resources to support the warfighter. LSS was implemented to help Marine Corps organizations look at their operations from a business perspective and find ways to free up valuable resources.

“Much of what we do on the base side is very commercial in nature and the goal is to find ways to eliminate waste in our processes, improve customer satisfaction, and, where possible, reallocate resources for use by the warfighter,” she said. “The ultimate goal with this particular project is to improve the military personnel services we provide to the Marine and his or her families.

Whiddon, a lean six sigma black belt, has been in her current role since August 2010, but has been involved in LSS and continuous process improvement for the past 10 years.

“When I became director of what was then called Manpower Division, I realized issues such as technology, numerous procedural changes and other customer service challenges justified taking the time to conduct a series of LSS projects within the Manpower Division. The director position, which had been vacant for some time, encompassed civilian personnel, military personnel and the adjutant,” she said. “Each entity was working independently and reporting to a different leader, so it created some issues with process and customer support consistency. I knew I needed to bring all these functions together to form one team, and that the LSS projects would help me do that. The projects have also helped the staff see how they affect each other and their ability to meet their mission.”

Whiddon said the LSS project in military personnel did two things for her. One, it looked at what they were currently doing and how they were conducting business, and the other was how she could make services in military personnel better for the customers.

“Based on feedback received from the customers, we learned that the service was being provided, but maybe not as efficiently and effectively as it should be,” she said. “Once this project ends in a few weeks, I will have performance measures I can use to monitor how well we provide military personnel services and to make sure we have the correct resource balance for the processes that are in place.”

Whiddon said the number one priority is to improve customer service and get the customers what they need, when they need it.

Kent Morrison, executive director, MCLB Albany, said this project, like all of our LSS projects, is very important as we become more efficient and effective in everything we do.

“As a matter of fact, CPI is so important that in 2006, the secretary of defense established the Department of Defense Continuous Process Improvement program and mandated CPI throughout DoD,” he said. “The Marine Corps immediately followed up with this mandate as well. I believe we must have an aggressive and well balanced

CPI/LSS program to be able to do continuous analysis of our organization to ensure we are adaptive and responsive to the changing needs of the Marine Corps and to eliminate redundancies and non-value added processes.”

This will allow for the redirection of limited resources (people and dollars) to where they are needed most.

Whiddon said the base commanding officer is the implementation champion for each project and the level of support received has been great and it is critical to the success of any project.

“The commanding officer is represented at every brief, called tollgates, for each of the five phases. Col. Terry Williams has shown his level of commitment to this and other projects by attending or having a representative at each of the five phases,” she said. “He supports what is happening and ensures the resources needed are there. An executive steering committee made up of all leaders within the command has also been established.

“We are in a period of fiscal austerity and there are not enough resources or people to go around, so projects like this give him the ability to use the resources he does have in the most effective way,” Whiddon said.

The military personnel project will not only do great things for the Corps, but for the command and individual Marine as well as it relates to customer service, Whiddon said.

“I believe our customer service will get better and will improve what we do for all of our customers who will reap the benefits of this project,” she said. “Some of the changes that can be expected once the military personnel project is completed is a more customer-focused approach to our processes. Depending on the first letter of a Marine’s last name, he or she will have a dedicated team of individuals who will service them from arrival to departure from this installation.”

Morrison said this particular project is a great example of that process as MCLB Albany leaders look at better ways to accomplish the mission of supporting our customers in the Military Personnel Center.

“I am very proud of the Business Performance Office because they have embraced CPI/LSS and the benefits of this critical program and shared this enthusiasm with the rest of the command,” he said.

Sgt. Maj. Stephen Thomas, sergeant major, MCLB Albany, said the LSS projects are important to this command because they improve our procedures and efficiency after assessing them.

“In the Marine Corps, we’ve always looked for ways to do all things better,” he said. “It makes this program/project valuable to not only this command, but to the Corps as a whole. I’m sure that we’ll apply it in other areas where we can reap the benefits as well.”


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