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Accenture developed a customized Lean Six Sigma solution to help this specialized warfare unit reduce costs quickly without compromising its fighters’ effectiveness and safety.
Like other warfare units in the US military, the client faced significant budget pressures.
To maintain its high level of preparedness in this cost-conscious environment, the unit knew it needed to fine-tune its ability to “do more with less.” Specifically, the group wanted to implement a program whereby it could not only save a minimum of $20 million in the short-term, but also develop the skills necessary to identify and act upon additional cost-saving and performance-improving initiatives in the years to come.
Lean Six Sigma—a business management strategy that uses a combination of Lean tools to identify and remove waste and Six Sigma methodologies to reduce or remove process variations—offered an attractive way forward. The unit’s interest in Lean Six Sigma was supported by Accenture’s research and experience. Having helped dozens of military agencies around the world, Accenture knew that Lean Six Sigma was one of the most important tools to help defense organizations optimize efficiency and effectiveness. This was not to say, however, that the development of Lean Six Sigma capabilities within the client organization did not present its own unique set of challenges. Most notably, Lean Six Sigma was particularly well suited to addressing straightforward and relatively uncomplicated problems. The warfare unit’s challenges, in contrast, were extremely complex and fast changing. In addition, the successful deployment of Lean Six Sigma traditionally took time, often requiring months to realize benefits. The warfare unit needed immediate results.
The unit’s logistics officer believed, however, that Accenture’s Process and Innovation Performance group could deliver what was needed: fast results, along with the effective transfer of skills that would enable the unit to carry out future Lean Six Sigma initiatives on its own. Most important was Accenture’s willingness and ability to craft a new Lean Six Sigma solution aimed specifically at meeting the critical needs of this unique military force.
After gaining a solid understanding of the warfare unit’s requirements and existing process improvement methodologies, the Accenture team devised a tailored approach to Lean Six Sigma capability development. This approach—dubbed Rapid Path to Results, or RPR—combined:
"Shingo-Style" Value Stream Analysis.
Customized Lean Six Sigma and continuous process improvement training.
Hands-on improvement events.
Working closely with the warfare unit, the Accenture team launched the RPR program with a rapid pre-work assessment. In this phase of work, the team took the client’s needs and unique culture into consideration to create a customized road map.
Following the assessment, Accenture collaborated with the client organization to conduct workshops that brought together project execution, issue analysis, and Lean Six Sigma and continuous process improvement training. Because they were based on expressed goals of the client, the customized workshops engaged senior leadership in the process from the start and maximized the time and money invested in the program.
Several RPR workshops conducted in sequence were used to solve larger and more complex organizational problems. In other words, while each session focused on driving improvements in a given area, multiple workshops were used as building blocks to much larger gains. Most notably, the workshop solutions were identified and piloted in the same week, delivering the fast results the warfare unit required.
With Accenture’s help, the client organization successfully launched a focused program of improvement aimed at better meeting the needs of its soldiers with speed, efficiency and consistency.
For the client organization, results were tangible, impressive and quickly realized. For example, the program identified opportunities for the unit to reduce its inventory of a certain class of combat craft, resulting in savings of $25 million. These savings were possible because process improvements reduced the cycle time to repair craft from 180 days to 90 days. Savings from this project alone represented 40 percent of the organization’s cost-reduction goal. Subsequent RPR events, currently being carried out by the client organization, will satisfy the remainder of this goal. In another instance, a five-day RPR workshop instituted process changes that allowed workers to increase production of cables from 6,000 to 24,000 per month—with no increase in resources or reduction in quality. This improvement translated into $5 million in hard dollar savings for the client.
The RPR program stood out for a number of reasons. In addition to the results it generated, the program enabled specific training modules to be completed in just one week (versus two months under traditional Lean Six Sigma approaches). In addition, the training addressed real-world issues and focused on improving client processes. At the time, no other continuous process improvement methodology applied customized learning programs to a client’s own processes. Finally, traditional Lean Six Sigma training typically does not produce client results at the end of a one-week workshop. RPR did—and did so consistently.
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