The Fort Bragg Directorate
of Logistics used Lean Six Sigma
to improve its equipment maintenance and repair processes
in order to help the XVIII Airborne Corps reset
after its return from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The redeployment of Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps, from
Operation Iraqi Freedom to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in January
2006 signaled the end of the corps’ mission in Iraq.
However, as the welcome-home celebration ended, we in the Directorate
of Logistics (DOL) knew that our mission was not finished.
The field reset of tactical equipment for corps units that
had begun with the
return of early deploying units in September 2005 was not quite
at its midway point when the corps
Since 2003, DOL had been instrumental in preparing Active and
Reserve component units for deployment. During that time, DOL
had pushed nearly 100,000 pieces of combat-ready equipment
without missing a port call. With its modern, well-equipped
maintenance facility and highly skilled labor force, DOL naturally
played a key role in the reset effort when the units redeployed.
The DOL reset program was established in 2004 as equipment
began to return from Afghanistan and Iraq. This reset experience
prepared our materiel maintenance division (MMD) to reset the
corps when it returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom 04–06.
However, the MMD and our primary logistics contractor, ITT
Corporation, Systems Division, now had another tool in their
kit bag that has since propelled productivity well
beyond our highest expectations—Lean Six Sigma.
from Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps, return from
Iraq in January 2006, signaling the end of the corps’ mission
in Operation Iraqi Freedom 04–06.
Lean Six Sigma Analysis
ITT brought in a Lean Six Sigma master black belt to measure
our overall maintenance process. The value stream map he developed
showed only 4 percent value-added
time (time in which activity was being directly applied to
improve the condition of a vehicle). The MMD goal for value-added
time was 25 percent, which is the world-class standard for
an activity of this type. The value stream map also proved
to be an excellent tool for identifying the value-added and
non-value-added steps in our maintenance process. It was a
tough measuring stick.
When the original value stream map was developed, the MMD field
reset program was completing about 50 vehicles per month. The
vehicles returning from the desert, particularly those that
had operated in the mountains of Afghanistan, were in bad shape.
They needed a lot of hands-on time in the pits and component
repair shops to restore their serviceability. The ITT process
improvement team began identifying and eliminating the sources
of non-value-added time by analyzing the primary causes of
wait time for shop space, tools, parts, equipment, technical
inspectors, and repair teams. Surprisingly, the analysis showed
that 60 percent of the non-value-added time was attributed
to awaiting shop space, primarily at the body shop. Although
we knew that we had a problem there, the deliberate measurement
and analysis techniques used in Lean Six Sigma clearly showed
the magnitude of the problem. More importantly, it identified
where we needed to improve to get the results we needed.
Based on the results of the Lean Six Sigma
- Improved the process of moving equipment from one value-added step to another.
- Redesigned workspace to limit unnecessary motion.
- Developed repair parts kits.
- Outsourced work when requirements exceeded our capacity.
At the same time, we applied Six Sigma to identify
the key input and output variables and establish the metrics that would help us measure
performance and control the process.
The results were impressive. The MMD doubled its field reset
program production in the first year of the program. Although
we were making tremendous progress, this level of production
still would not meet the timeline for the reset of corps
units redeploying later in the year.
In July 2004, we implemented what became known as the field
reset “pit stop” program. We selected the NASCAR
pit stop as a best business practice to emulate. The idea
was to place at the fingertips of our mechanics all the
tools, equipment, parts, and information they needed to
without leaving the pit. Our goal was to process 150 vehicles
As we planned the corps’ reset program with the corps G–4,
Army Forces Command, and Army Materiel Command (AMC), we realized that
we would need to use all maintenance sources available and continue to
improve productivity. Another lesson learned in our Lean enterprise effort—to
move the workload from one value-added step to another as directly and
quickly as possible—had to be applied to the overall process. We
also needed to control the flow of equipment into each repair source to
maximize the use of each capability without creating a backlog of equipment
at any one location.
The corps elected to move its equipment from the railhead directly to
a staging area for distribution,
using contractors and drivers who had returned from the
theater earlier in the year with the 507th Corps Support
Group. This removed from redeploying units the burden of
organizing rail load and driver teams
just as their Soldiers were returning from block leave.
It also eliminated the need to move equipment to the unit
area. However, it placed a tremendous
workload on each recently redeployed unit to sort through
and prepare almost all of its equipment for support
The DOL played a central role in this plan. ITT provided oversight of
the process with visibility of equipment from the time
the ship departed port in Kuwait, through the east coast ports of debarkation,
the gate at Fort Bragg. ITT also was responsible for coordinating
the movement of equipment through its initial inspection in the staging area
and distributing it to one of five sources of repair for
reset. For the first time in the DOL reset program, ITT had a steady, predictable,
flow of equipment feeding the production line.
pit crew mechanics complete repairs to the engine
The continued application of Lean Six Sigma has had a powerful
effect on productivity and has yielded spectacular results.
In November 2005, DOL reached its goal of 150 vehicles per
month in the pit stop program.
Since the beginning of the field reset pit stop
program, we have had the help of some remarkable partners.
The national-level AMC Reset Program has had a significant
impact. Because of this program, we seldom receive equipment
that requires extensive shop work. The AMC National Maintenance
Program and the Defense Logistics Agency also have ramped up
their programs. We could not have
tripled our production in 16 months without the major component
and repair parts availability that we are experiencing now
because of the increased output of those programs.
We also have expanded the program to meet
increasing requirements by adding more pits with additional
equipment and experienced mechanics. The total number of mechanics
in the program has increased from 75 in July 2004 to 115 in
November 2005. With this 53-percent increase in labor, we have
elevated production by 200 percent, from 50 to 150 vehicles
a month. We completed the reset of corps units in May 2006,
a month ahead of schedule. It is clear that much of the success
we have achieved to date has been brought about by a sustained
commitment to process improvement using Lean
from the 82d Airborne Division compete in the tire-changing
contest held outside the materiel maintenance division
maintenance bays at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Pit Stop Competition
It has not been all work along the way. ITT has brought its
industry partner, Gould’s Pumps, and its racing partner,
the Fitz-Bradshaw racing team, into the DOL facility. We
hosted a team of Soldiers from the 82d Airborne Division
and 1st Corps Support Command in a pit stop high-mobility,
multipurpose wheeled vehicle (humvee) tire-changing competition.
The winning 82d
Airborne team then challenged the crew from Fitz-Bradshaw Racing’s
Navy-sponsored car to match their time. I am proud to report
that Army beat Navy. Following the competition, the Fitz-Bradshaw
racing team hosted the Soldiers at their facilities in Mooresville,
North Carolina, and at the race that followed at Lowe’s
Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The enthusiasm
that these events brought to the program cannot be overstated.
Lean Six Sigma has helped make Fort Bragg’s field reset
program a success. Using the Lean Six Sigma concepts, we were
able to improve our production process enough to triple our
output. We returned the corps’ equipment ahead of schedule,
ensuring that they have what they need to train for future
Colonel Albert N. Love, USA (Ret.), is the
Director of Logistics at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He holds
degree in business administration from Arizona State University
and a master’s degree in systems management from the
University of Southern California. He is a graduate of the
Industrial College of the Armed Forces.