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Accenture helped this US military R&D organization use Lean Six Sigma to increase production of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles by a factor of five. In this instance, achieving high performance translated directly into American lives saved.
The client is a US military research and development organization that produces mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles. Due to the vehicles’ ability to withstand unexpected attacks from improvised explosive devices, they developed a reputation as assets in 21st-century warfare.
Like most heavy equipment, the MRAP vehicle requires close collaboration among designers, suppliers and manufacturers. The final assembly process mandates integrated specialized battlefield electronic and communication equipment into the vehicle at a single US government-owned integration facility.
In 2006, only 200 vehicles had been requested. At that point, the integration facility was able to produce five to 10 vehicles a month. The following year, demand suddenly increased in response to growing concerns about the vulnerability of US warfighters’ military personnel abroad. Achieving this aggressive objective required an exponential acceleration in production: to 50 vehicles per day in a matter of months.
The Program Management office reorganized and expanded from a dozen staffers to more than 400 government employees and contractors to manage the new requirements. Assigning more people to the integration facility did not generate the needed boost in production.
To accelerate the resolution of these issues; military leaders sought consultants experienced in Lean Six Sigma and operational excellence. Accenture was the natural choice given its experience in helping defense and public sector organizations throughout the world.
An initial analysis by Accenture indicated that most of the production delays were linked to inefficient workflows at the assembly facility. Accenture suggested a multistep approach with four key components:
Multi-level, fully integrated engagement. The project team recognized that achieving results required closely coordinated efforts at the policy, program and operational levels.
Value stream analysis. After identifying gaps, the effects were assessed and a basis for assigning priorities for deeper analyses and/or actions was established.
Lean Six Sigma guidance. Formation of a robust Lean Six Sigma team was recommended, which combined in-house Lean Six Sigma talent along with experienced master black belt consultants from Accenture.
Rapid improvement events. More than 30 kaizens, or rapid improvement events, were completed in a matter of months. One of the critical kaizen events resulted in the redesign of the GFE integration process from a cellular build station to a flow line with two stations. This kaizen event reduced production time by a full day. The improvements were replicated rapidly in all of the facility’s 25 production lines.
The success of the improvement events uncovered additional issues that required supplier attention. Accenture consultants were sent by the Program Office to be utilized at vehicle supplier facilities to help them improve their speed and quality which improved the delivery of MRAPs to US military personnel positioned in harm’s way. Suppliers adjusted delivery schedules and in some instances specifications, thereby helping the client to deliver vehicles that were easier—and faster—to produce.
In four months, the MRAP program increased production by a factor of five: from approximately 10 vehicles per day in August to 50 per day by year-end.
By December 2007, over 1,500 MRAP vehicles were delivered abroad as mandated. In mid-August of 2008, the program passed the 10,000 vehicle mark and the speed of production had accelerated up to 70 vehicles per day. Most significantly, tens of thousands of US military personnel were better protected from injuries and death.
The MRAP Lean Six Sigma Team was honored with a Joint Logistics Team Award. A deputy chief of operations credited the combined Accenture-client project team with “dynamic leadership and innovative skills. For each MRAP vehicle deployed, six warfighter’s lives were saved if they encountered an improvised explosive device. As a direct result, warfighters are alive today.”
In addition to accelerated production, the project team delivered lasting value in the following ways:
Complexity reduction: In-depth analysis helped leadership to improve alignment among mission-specific requirements.
Supply chain improvement. Contracts for suppliers have been adjusted to require weekly or daily shipments, thereby improving efficiency at reduced cost.
Change management: A robust infrastructure provided efficient management of engineering changes originating from multiple sources.
Accenture’s involvement provided the client with exposure to new methods of problem solving. Crew members were supported in their efforts to apply new skills and tools to strive for operational excellence. As a result, MRAP personnel gained strategic agility to continue dealing with production problems and driving toward high performance.
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