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R&R: Reading and Reviews

Lean Six Sigma Logistics: Strategic Development to Operational Success. Thomas Goldsby and Robert Martichenko, J. Ross Publishing, Boca Raton, Florida, 2005, 282 pages.

The Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) use of the latest management practices from industry to improve business operations has had mixed results over the years. Some of those techniques include benchmarking, business process reengineering, meeting Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award criteria, using Balanced Scorecards, Total Quality Management, life-cycle management, Business Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Resource Planning, Statistical Process Control, ISO [International Organization for Standardization] 9000, other assorted programs dating back to the 1960s, and the introduction of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System. Not all have delivered on their promises of cost-effective warfighter support. Operating tempo, rising costs, and the status of the national economy drive the urgent search for solutions.

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is another candidate for solving the joint challenges of improving speed and quality throughout the production process. It fuses two management strategies, Lean and Six Sigma, to provide a vision for truly transformational improvements. Lean traces its heritage to the Toyota production system and features a relentless pursuit of eliminating waste and tying customer requirements directly to the design and production systems to improve system throughputs. Six Sigma comes from statistics-based, data-driven principles aimed at reducing variation and improving quality through process control. The fusion of these two strategies has been used throughout DOD with remarkable results.

The Army reports savings of nearly $2 billion on over 2,500 projects since implementing LSS in 2005. The Letterkenny Army Depot case study on LSS (available at http://www.amc.army.mil/lean) is worthy of professional study. The other services’ claims for LSS efficacy are no less remarkable. The combined experiences of DOD agencies, services, and civilian businesses are compelling reasons for professional logisticians to have a working knowledge of LSS.

The authors of Lean Six Sigma Logistics: Strategic Development to Operational Success are well-qualified to write an LSS practitioner’s guide. Dr. Thomas Goldsby is an associate professor of supply chain management at the University of Kentucky. He has written extensively in highly regarded, peer-reviewed professional and academic journals and sits on the editorial review board of the International Journal of Logistics Management. Robert Martichenko is an experienced practicing logistician and an active Lean instructor who sits on the editorial advisory board of Logistics Quarterly magazine.

The book’s central argument is that LSS provides all the tools needed to reduce waste, find and create value, manage the supply chain, and delight customers. Aimed at practicing logisticians, its well-grounded theoretical insights are complemented by the wisdom of experience. The authors consider planning, preparation, and execution concepts from the strategic to the tactical levels and make the case for logistics as a core competency integral to all operations.

The book’s added value is the mapping of LSS concepts to the practice of logistics. Using the metaphor of the “Logistics Bridge,” it maps out the integration of LSS into life-cycle operations to address total logistics costs and waste reduction.

After a quick overview of LSS, the book dives deeply into a taxonomy of waste in its various forms. The Logistics Bridge model unfolds in terms of the flows of assets, information, and money; the capabilities of predictability, stability, and visibility; and the disciplines of collaboration, systems optimization, and waste elimination. The authors describe the application of the full suite of LSS tools to the logistics model. The discussions of the limits of LSS and science are framed by a modern understanding of complexity and systems dynamics. The book concludes with a 20-page case study that is fully documented with the kinds of messy narratives and data collections that managers would reasonably address while transforming their business operations. The book also is extensively supplemented through the Internet with free, downloadable materials from www.jrosspub.com.

Lean Six Sigma Logistics: Strategic Development to Operational Success is written in clear, powerful prose with a tone of quiet, professional authority. In addition to using the book to provide extensive support to industry, the authors have used it as a guiding text for training workshops conducted with several Air Mobility Command units, including squadrons at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland; Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; McChord Air Force Base, Washington; Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Yokota Air Base, Japan; and Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Airmen and officers from several other squadrons participated in these workshops between 2006 and 2008. The core principles and tools of the book have found success in the noncommercial, highly structured environment associated with military support of the warfighter.

I am impressed with the quality and utility of this book and recommend it to logisticians looking for ways to plan for and apply LSS in their organizations. Of the 20 or so LSS titles in my library, this is my favorite practitioner’s guide—especially for its focus on logisticians' challenges.

Ken Long is an assistant professor of logistics and resource operations at the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The Supply for Tomorrow Must Not Fail: The Civil War of Captain Simon Perkins, Jr., a Union Quartermaster. Lenette S. Taylor, Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, 2004, 264 pages.

Detailed studies of logisticians are greatly under-represented in the huge body of Civil War literature. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is the lack of primary source material. The War Department destroyed records after post-war audits were completed, and quartermaster officers’ families, who saw no use in retaining the information after their deaths, destroyed their personal records.

In her first book, author Lenette Taylor has discovered a historian’s long-lost treasure chest and displays its rich contents. While her treasure did come in chests (eight crates from the Civil War, to be exact), those chests did not contain gold or silver. They contained 20,000 documents, many tied together with their original “government red tape.” This trove of papers contained copies of the financial and property reports and personal correspondence belonging to Captain Simon Perkins, Jr., a Union quartermaster officer with the Department of the Mississippi from February 1862 to July 1864.

Using Perkins’s documents, along with other primary archival and secondary sources, Taylor has provided readers with a complete record of the experiences and trials of a Union quartermaster officer in the Civil War.

Just as Major General William T. Sherman famously coined the phrase “War is Hell,” Brigadier General Montgomery Meigs, Union Quartermaster General, could have uttered as convincingly that “War is Business” because of the vast supply undertaking the conflict required.

The logistics organizations supporting the Union Army and the duties and responsibilities of Captain Perkins would be familiar to today’s multifunctional logistician. Perkins was one of fewer than 1,500 Federal quartermaster officers serving under Meigs and carrying out a highly diverse set of responsibilities in mobilizing, equipping, and sustaining the field armies of the Union across all theaters.

Though Perkins only saw combat for 90 days early in the war as a private in an Ohio volunteer regiment, he was as dedicated as any patriot serving in an infantry unit. In order to sustain Army units, he labored daily against the weather, shortages of manpower and transportation, and the accusations of fellow officers that he had shorted or cheated them on supplies (when the accusers may have been guilty of a “midnight requisition” days earlier).

Perkins’s first quartermaster assignment was at the Nashville, Tennessee, main supply depot of Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio in February 1862. Colonel Thomas Swords, Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the Ohio and the Department of the Cumberland (which today would be the equivalent of a commanding officer in a theater sustainment command) made Perkins the forage and fuel officer for the Nashville Depot. In this position at the age of 23, Perkins was responsible for receiving, storing, issuing, and accounting for millions of pounds of animal forage and coal on a monthly basis.

Readers who hold no logistics or business acumen should be forewarned that this book does not concern itself with grand cavalry charges, artillery duels, or tactical maneuvering. For example, in describing the Union capture of Corinth, Mississippi, in May 1862, the author merely states, “With Corinth in Union hands, the military situation changed dramatically.” However, for the discerning operations- or logistics-oriented reader, this book richly describes the machinery of supplying war at the strategic and operational levels from the viewpoint of an adept practitioner.

The major weakness of the book lies in its lack of meaningful illustrations. A logistician lives by maps and detail, and the lone map at the beginning of the first chapter is insufficient to accompany the excellent descriptions of supply operations provided throughout the book. Out of nearly 20 photos, only 3 specifically show some aspect of Civil War supply activities.

Photos on the front and back dust jacket of this book show Captain Perkins in 1862 and 1865, respectively, aged by war and immense responsibility. Though some of his peers were no doubt slothful at best and thieves at worst, Perkins and the majority of his quartermaster comrades “were key figures in the army’s movements; their ability to furnish subsistence for the men and animals ‘often shaped strategy and influenced it.’” Lenette Taylor has done a remarkable job in capturing the wartime challenges of a young quartermaster officer and returning to light Captain Simon Perkins—a figure worthy of study and an example for modern warrior-logisticians.

Allan S. Boyce is an assistant professor in the Army Command and General Staff College’s Department of Logistics and Resource Operations at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.