A look at Tobyhanna’s Continuous Process Improvement History

By Michael Verton DLA Distribution Tobyhanna

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Up until 2016, DLA Distribution Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania collaborated with Tobyhanna Army Depot on cross organizational Continuous Process Improvement initiatives that impacted both organizations. With focus on Green and Black Belt projects, DLA Distribution Tobyhanna assisted by sending representatives to the projects including but not limited to outside storage, dormant stock, mobile depot maintenance and delivering stock from DLA Distribution to Tobyhanna Army Depot.  Each of these projects produced their own successes, with some being recognized by the Army Lean Six Sigma Excellence Award Program. More importantly, they opened lines of communication and built a stronger rapport between DLA Distribution and the Army Depot.

In May of 2016, former DLA Distribution Tobyhanna commander, Army Lt. Col. John Turner and DLA Distribution Tobyhanna deputy commander Robert Dodson initiated an internal CPI movement.  First on the agenda was to utilize the Army Depot’s Lean 101 Training to introduce basic understanding of CPI to the workforce. To date, 14 percent of the organization has attended the Lean 101 course.  Meanwhile, two personnel have been trained as Green Belts for the organization.  These actions are in direct line with DLA goals, specifically, people and culture and process excellence.

The first efforts in CPI Tobyhanna took were steps at conducting “Just Do It’s” to make quick improvements during the summer of 2016.  With safety in mind, the team utilized visual management by separating the wood shop with chains and stanchions and posting personal protective equipment signs at the entry points.  In addition, the outside storage area was clearly marked as a “no recreational walking area.”

There were multiple ideas presented to be evaluated; some were not chosen to be pursued while others were implemented quickly, such as adding printers to each station in Central Receiving.  The first effort into conducting a rapid improvement event was in the wholesale pack process in November 2016. While the results were mixed for this effort, it was the catalyst to bringing momentum to DLA Distribution Tobyhanna and CPI.

From that moment, the Project Managed Workload Team began looking at their current processes. This team has the most Lean 101 trained personnel with 35 percent attending. The PM team conducted four RIE’s from December 2016 through June 2017.  The team worked to increase the storage capacity of the facility by adding additional storage locations for bin boxes with racks at the end of storage aisles by reclaiming, fabricating and procuring the material needed.

Additionally, they implemented Visual Management for various safety concerns such as electrical boxes and fire extinguishers. Recently, they conducted a redesign layout of their pack area that increased their production from ten completed packs per hour to 40 completed packs per hour.  All efforts were received positively by the PM Team and their customers.

In February 2017, a team came together consisting of members of the Department of Public Works, Safety and the DLA Distribution Tobyhanna deputy, to find a safe manner to secure and ship four cargo trailers in the most effective, efficient and best value method possible.

The team felt they could reduce shipping costs by loading all four cargo trailers into the conex, or an intermodal container for shipping and storage and reduce the shipping costs by 50 percent. The team evaluated using the known processes; they brain stormed, reevaluated the situation and came up with a solution of pre-attaching straps to anchor points on the conex and the trailer in criss-cross fashion. They moved the trailer into the conex and attached the straps to the anchor points on the opposite side.  This diminished the need for workers to climb on, over and under the trailer; by tightening the straps with a ratchet, the material was firmly secured in the conex.

 After working through the process, they not only increased the safety of this operations but reduced the costs of shipping by 50 percent.

"Anytime you can help employees look at things differently, improve their safety and save the government money, it's a good day," said Dodson.

Currently, a Green Belt Project is in its final control phase concerning DLA Distribution Tobyhanna’s In-processing and orientation process. The original process yielded a satisfaction rate of 22 percent. After the first test phase, the team generated 89 percent satisfaction. The team is conducting a second pilot mid-June to validate the process and complete the project.

There are several ideas in the DLA Distribution Tobyhanna pipeline. Since fiscal year 2016, there have been 28 total deliverables on the CPI Action Plan; 13 projects have been completed and 15 are in process or being vetted.

Great strides have been made by DLA Distribution Tobyhanna. With internal focus on the strategic plan and goals, the workforce and leadership have been working hard to improve the warfighter focus, people and culture, strategic engagement, financial stewardship and process excellence. 

“This project was a great example of supervisors, employees and the union partnering to improve safety and financial stewardship,” explained DLA Distribution Tobyhanna commander, Army Lt. Col. Jay Barnard.