People Innovation Excellence

Deploying Lean Six Sigma in Logistical Battles


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By Chris Hook

United States armed forces spent a massive amount of money, representing 48% of the total military spending in the world. Post 9/11, the military spending skyrocket, following the dogma of “more money = more military capability.” This situation leads to inefficient, capability-redundant LogIT (logistics information technology) portfolio. It is important to understand that warfighters out there depend their life on LogIT system to support their missions. Failing to improve the LogIT system may result not only in money but also casualties. Lean Six Sigma methodologies should be implemented to improve the system.

LogIT systems is divided into three areas, LogIT capability development strategy, LogIT operations in place to enable the delivery of LogIT support, and the actual logistics technology used to deliver the service within the LogIT portfolio. First of all, understanding how a decision is made is vital. Root cause analysis using five whys method found out that there is no clear policy direction. They do the analysis and create the framework, but all this information does not reach the decision-makers due to lack of communication on the part of program offices. In the end, the decision is made by following the “loudest voice in the room” culture. The biggest issue is disjointed communication. There is also the issue of different preference at sublevels. Top-level leadership prefers agile development of logistics system while program offices favor operating according to legacy principles; thus causing discrepancy in capability expectations, leading to inefficient acquisition decision.

LogIT optimization main challenge is the lack of data and documentation. There is uncertainty about the LogIT portfolio’s capability and authoritative data sources. Capability in LogIT system must be defined first. What exactly make LogIT valuable to its end users? What do the warfighters demand from LogIT system? These questions prompt a change from basing acquisition decisions on LogIT system capability alone to investing systems based on its respective fit within the capability of the portfolio at large. The key in optimizing LogIT is bringing the three areas into a full circle. Strategy represents “why we are providing this kind of LogIT service”, operations embody “how the operations are executed”, and technology characterizes the “what technology will be used to facilitate successful operation”. Having these three areas in touch with one another will help directing Six Sigma implementation to the greatest.

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