Another Lean Army Report


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    Here's another success story from the U.S. Army's Lean Six Sigma program, increasing production to support troops in Iraq:

    “When the call came in to deliver the door kits we were experiencing production rates twice as high as normal,” said Randall Quinn, chief, Environmental Management Division. “Even though we didn't build new facilities to accommodate increased production, instituting ‘lean' manufacturing methods enabled us to meet the need of our Soldiers in Iraq.”

    Lean manufacturing at Letterkenny is the result of the depot's commitment to the Army's Lean Six Sigma management approach. The lean core team utilizes the kaizen and value stream analysis lean tools to discover and eliminate waste by reducing floor space, flow time and distance traveled as a means of increasing productivity. More than 80 percent of the workforce at Letterkenny has participated in at least one Lean Six Sigma rapid improvement event (RIE). RIEs are exercises designed to identify inefficiencies quickly and recommend immediate corrective action.

    RIE's appear to be a “kaizen event” driven approach. Beyond the initial improvements, I hope the site is also putting a lean management system in place, to make sure that they don't “backslide” and lose their improvements. Driving improvement is impressive, and can be difficult, but putting a lasting, sustainable lean culture in place, driving continuous improvement, is even more difficult.

    The article also talks about waste reduction and environmental impact.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. RIE is indeed a kaizen event under a different (i.e., less Japanese) name. It seems to be a better description anyway given the origin of the word “kaizen”.

      Army RIEs borrow from six sigma project structure and follow an abbreviated DMAIC flow. As such, teams should develop an effective control plan to codify new processes and sustain gains.


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