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News | July 13, 2017

Minor adjustment to order-tracking process yields major cost avoidance

By Shawn J. Jones DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

One Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support employee applied continuous process improvement techniques that will help the agency avoid a quarter million dollars in costs over a three-year period.

Saplay Seke, a business process analyst in DLA Troop Support’s Process Compliance directorate, facilitated a series of discussions to address an issue related to how DLA employees communicate the status of transactions in their business software.  

As a candidate for certification as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, his role wasn’t to solve the problem, but to facilitate a solution by guiding a team of subject-matter experts to identify the root of the problem and devise solutions. 

Specifically, Seke’s task was to reduce the number of transactions greater than 30 days old that received an order status code of BA, which means the item is being processed for release or shipping from a DLA Distribution center.  

“We couldn’t see their real status, whether they were still in inventory or were shipped to the customer,” Seke said. 

As an audit readiness specialist, Seke knew that for Troop Support to have an auditable financial statement, the problem had to be resolved. If statuses were not updated appropriately, then they wouldn’t reflect DLA’s true financial status. 

He first learned of the problem from Jamie Van Buskirk, the chief of order fulfillment. She said she thought Seke could apply continuous process improvement methods to better identify the root cause of the more than 1,000 transactions that were in BA order status. 

Under the mentorship of Peter Stupak with the Continuous Process Improvement office, Seke got to work facilitating a solution. 

The team determined the root cause of the process was the lack of formal instruction and an inefficient work flow.  

He then coached the team to develop a formal instruction that rearranged the workflow and emphasized specific roles, responsibilities and expected timeframes.

The project also helped improve communication between Troop Support and Distribution employees. 

The improvements paid immediate dividends. Troop Support slashed the number of BA status codes older than 90 days by 86 percent. This led to a more than 90 percent reduction in the time spent by logistics specialists resolving BA order status codes. The reduced labor requirement projects to a cost avoidance of $243,000 over three years. 

“Saplay's project is a great example of how improving communication between agencies can help to eliminate unnecessary steps, improve overall support and streamlines the process,” Stupak said. 

Van Buskirk said she was pleased with the project. 

“On this project, results were demonstrated so quickly that Saplay's efforts were incorporated into an ongoing enterprise effort to reduce open BAs,” Van Buskirk said. “Through enterprise-wide coordination, a single step change greatly reduced research time and the number of aged requisitions in BA status.” 

For Seke, the project represented a significant development in his career.  

With a background working in finance, he’s no stranger to working with large dollar amounts. However, the cost avoidance created by this project was especially important to him because he didn’t just execute an efficient task. He facilitated the development of an efficient task. 

“It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I’m being productive for DLA,” he said.  

The Defense Department mandates the application of continuous process improvement and Lean Six Sigma methods as tools for improving effectiveness of operational, science and technology, administrative and support functions.