Going Lean: Applying Lean Methodologies to the Government & Military

Applying Lean Methodologies to the Government & Military
Applying Lean Methodologies to the Government & Military
Applying Lean Methodologies to the Government & Military

Going Lean: Applying Lean Methodologies to the Government & Military

Imagine improving productivity by 30 – 70%? That's what Boeing Everett did while reducing its chemical usage per airplane by 11.6 percent. Boeing's significant spike in production and cost savings are thanks to the implementation of Lean initiatives. We often think of Lean practices and tools applying to manufacturing initiatives, but various industries are implementing Lean methods with success.

Government and military often invoke images of red tape and bureaucracy. Yet, federal agencies like the EPA and the Army National Guard are demonstrating how adopting Lean production management strategies can result in significant savings and increased efficiencies.

Identifying Wastes 

Lean is a process and a set of tools that identifies and minimizes waste while maximizing value to customers. Lean identifies seven wastes:

  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting 
  • Overproduction
  • Over-processing
  • Defects 

Both the military and government are massive bureaucracies with bottlenecks and redundancies.

Lean Waste Specific to Government and Military 

Some examples of Lean waste in the government and military sectors include:

  • Data errors 
  • Confusing requirements
  • Overproduction of reports 
  • Excessive emails 
  • Time wasted waiting for approvals and decisions
  • Narrowly defined jobs that underutilize talent 
  • Backlogs in inventory due to wait times for work permits
  • Necessary travel and unnecessary process steps such as too many signature levels 
  • Outdated codes and regulations

EPA-developed Lean Management System

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides an example of Lean systems in action in the government. The EPA developed a Lean Management System to promote continuous improvement across the seven areas of waste noted in Lean Methods. Not only does the EPA practice Lean methods internally, but it also offers businesses Lean tools and training to create more efficient and environmentally-friendly initiatives.

The EPA asks employees to identify areas for improvement, such as increasing their office's reliability, speed, production, or quality. Staff are trained in problem-solving, creating a standard process, how to measure operational health and goals, and how to create visual management tools such as flow-process boards. 

The program led to Canyon Creek Cabinet Company saving $1.5 million while reducing waste and decreasing volatile organic compounds which leads to cleaner air. EPA's Lean Management Program also helped Lockheed Martin reduce hazardous waste while reducing costs. The company reduced its facility size by one-third and reduced chemical storage capacity to 2% of its original size.

Lean Techniques: Take More Time

You've heard the phrase "watching paint dry," referring to a slow and tedious process. We often think that getting things done faster produces better results, but in some cases taking more time is the key to savings. By employing Lean tools to identify and remove defects, a team at Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania saved $4.5 million over five years by allowing more time for paint to dry. 

The non-skid adhesive and paint primer a team was using for the upkeep of a particular vehicle was blistering, resulting in rework and repainting. They found when the drying time increased, the blistering decreased. This one simple change reduced labor hours by 34%. In this case, a slower process led to more efficiency.

Lean Applications = Positive Outcomes

There are other ways Lean Production Management can lead to positive outcomes for the government and military. These include:

  • Initiate processes designed to remove defects in data errors
  • Encourage preventative maintenance for vehicles, tools, and machines to reduce vehicle downtime and waiting
  • Reduce waiting time for meetings, approval cycles, and supplies
  • Implement technology to reduce paper waste and enhance task speed
  • Adopt Just-In-Time strategies thereby removing backlogs of work permits and procurement approvals
  • Reduce waste of motion by finding efficient ways to move people, tools, and supplies to the work locations
  • Remove unnecessary steps in processes such as having too many signature levels, providing unclear job descriptions, using outdated codes, and perpetuating regulations preventing efficient work
  • Support clearer thinking about how to increase value while decreasing waste
  • Create environments where employees at all levels can suggest, lead, and implement improvements
  • Measure outcomes
  • Finding  ways to create a continuous improvement cycle

Learn more about the modern manufacturing process and Lean Six Sigma skills with Kettering University's MS Lean Manufacturing Online program. Apply now!



Case Studies and Best Practices | Sustainability

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