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CPI: Improving processes across the network

By Jessica Roman, DLA Distribution Public Affairs

This article is the first in a series highlighting Continuous Process Improvement initiatives at DLA Distribution.

Part of DLA Distribution's duty to the Warfighter includes an effort to improve quality, speed, and agility and to eliminate waste in both our industrial and administrative processes. Focusing on DLA director United States Navy Supply Corps Vice Adm. Alan Thompson's strategic focus areas of Warfighter Support Enhancement and Stewardship Excellence, Continuous Process Improvement, or CPI, can help streamline processes while enhancing customer support.

CPI is an organizational transformation effort that utilizes three proven methodologies - Lean, Six Sigma, and the Theory of Constraints. Lean eliminates waste and improves speed; Six Sigma reduces variations in processes; and Theory of Constraints removes bottlenecks, or things that hinder processes from flowing smoothly. Using these three techniques, which constitute the CPI methodology, DLA Distribution is working to increase process efficiency.

"CPI allows all employees an opportunity to be part of the improvement process," explained DLA Distribution CPI Program manager, Sherry Amrhein. "CPI focuses on having the right employees involved in a project, but doesn't require employees to have extensive CPI training or knowledge to be successful."

A trained CPI facilitator, either a Green belt or Black belt, works with project teams to explain various tools and methodologies that can assist the team in developing current state process maps, assessing process gaps and developing future state processes. "By including employees, we ensure that process mapping captures how the processes are truly done and gives an honest assessment of what works and what does not," said Amrhein.

Currently all DLA Primary Level Field Activities, including DLA Distribution, are developing deployment plans for each of the nine different dimensions that constitute the maturity model. The maturity model represents which phase an organization is currently operating in with regards to CPI. Phase 1 represents an ad hoc organization, while Phase 5 represents the best in class. The dimensions include: active leadership, aligned policy and strategy, framework and structure, measurement and analysis, change management, process and technology alignment, project selection and execution, supply chain integration, and effective training and education. The deployment plan outlines DLA Distribution's maturity level for each dimension and defines future steps to reach the next phase of the model.

"DLA Distribution's focus on the deployment plan and maturity model is key to our future CPI success," said Amrhein. "Without evaluating our current level of maturity against the model, we will not be able to successfully move forward to the next phases of maturity in each of the dimensions. Our CPI practitioners and senior leaders across the distribution network are the key to the successful escalation from ad hoc (or beginning) phases to ultimately being best in class."

DLA Distribution recently hosted two master black belts from DLA headquarters to tour distribution operations and discuss the deployment plan. The master black belts had the opportunity to see first-hand CPI initiatives in both the Aerial Delivery and Textile section, and the Eastern Distribution Center, the largest distribution center within the Department of Defense. In the Aerial Delivery and Textile section, the group saw one improvement made to parachutes, where several lines are replaced to help facilitate easier and faster packing in the field. In the EDC, the group saw several areas where work planning boards and job aids were implemented to improve processes and allow opportunities for staff to update management on improvements within their process areas.

DLA Distribution is also currently participating in several enterprise-wide CPI projects. One such project, the Condition Code Litigation, or L, project, which is being led by DLA Land and Maritime, focuses on items that are placed in litigation at DLA distribution centers for a variety of reasons including not being properly marked, labeled, or packaged. These materials cannot be released until the issue is corrected. Currently in the "Measure" phase of the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control process, this project's goal is to reduce the number of items being received by the distribution center that requires litigation before being placed in stock for issue to customers. DLA Distribution is also partnering with DLA Disposition Services on pilot projects in Japan to collaborate in receiving and storage areas, and in Korea to improve transportation and storage. The project's goal is to improve support to the customer, while reducing costs to the Agency.

The use of CPI is an opportunity to improve any process that supports the acquisition, development, delivery, and sustainment of products and services to the customer. Used in concert with other DLA initiatives, CPI delivers better results for the Warfighter: the ultimate goal of DLA Distribution.

United States Army Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Barnes, Aerial Delivery and Textile Section non-commissioned officer in charge, shows the Continuous Process Improvement team improvements made to the parachute lines.
United States Army Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Barnes, Aerial Delivery and Textile Section
non-commissioned officer in charge, shows the Continuous Process Improvement team improvements made to the parachute lines.

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