NNSY’s Lean Six Sigma College Reaches Throughout DOD

Friday, April 13, 2007
By Michael Brayshaw, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Affairs

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard's (NNSY) Lean Six Sigma College (L6SC), established in 1999, has spread across the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the rest of the Navy, and now influencing commands throughout the entire Department of Defense (DOD). The shipyard’s knowledge and training of Lean Six Sigma originally began for instructing employees from across the Naval shipyards on the benefits of streamlining work processes and eliminating unnecessary waste. L6SC, in less than 10 years, has already grown from a modest program for instructing shipyarders to now educating military and civilian personnel on all things Lean and in all areas throughout the DOD.

“Up through 2004, we trained Black Belts throughout the naval shipyard community,” said Doug Smith, head of the NNSY Lean Six Sigma College. “In August 2004, NAVSEA evaluated our training options and decided to expand the college here to support all of NAVSEA’s training needs for Black Belts, Green Belts, and Lean Champions.” What distinguished the shipyard college’s instruction from other Lean programs at the very start, according to Smith, was its integration of the three disciplines of Lean, Six Sigma and Theory of Constraints. “We looked at commercial sources for training available at that time, and they were either outrageously expensive, or you had to go to separate training for the three disciplines,” he said. “A lot of folks are pursuing that integration today, but back when we did it in 1999, it was a relatively new concept.”

The goal of combining the different disciplines has been a great success in providing L6S students with multiple ways to stimulate improvements in the workplace. “We’ve now acquired many more customers outside of NAVSEA,” said L6SC Administrator Cyndi Duncan. “We just completed Black Belt training for the Defense Logistics Agency and will be commencing our first Black Belt training for the Marine Corps. Our customers include the Army, Coast Guard, Air Force, Naval Expeditionary Command, Human Performance Center, the Navy Personnel Center . . . any government agency, we’re here to answer their questions and provide them information.” “In the last year, we really expanded to training folks beyond NAVSEA, now across the Navy and DOD," said Smith. "Probably 50 percent of our students are from outside of NAVSEA.”

“Branching out allows other commands from various regions not to have to come here to get the training,” said Duncan. Last year, NNSY’s L6SC staff assisted in the set-up of the West Coast NAVSEA L6SC, operating out of Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division. Another indicator of L6S’s success is the college’s partnership with the American Society for Quality (AQS), together setting up a unique exam specifically created for Navy personnel. By the end of last year, over 80 individuals achieved certification with the new Navy ASQ exam. “ASQ gives us the validation that we’ve been successful in our continuous process improvement program,” said Smith. A crucial aspect of the Black Belt program that is of immense and practical benefit to the trainee’s workplace is that every Black Belt must tackle a project that will directly improve his or her organization. This mixture of L6SC training, academic homework, and on-the-job application has already proved of considerable use to the shipyard, with a number of Black Belt projects already having been implemented or soon to be put into practice. NNSY's Lean Coordinator Jim Kelvington, who finished his Black Belt training in spring of 2005, has seen his proposed improvements come into effect. His successful project concerned generating methods to reduce costs and shortening schedules on shipyard availabilities through eliminating unnecessary work such as redundant material inspections. “This gave us more bang for the buck,” said Kelvington. “I still try to follow-up on the data to make sure we’re where we need to be and it helps to have a good measurement system in place.” So far, the shipyard’s L6SC has taught 379 Black Belts, and the college stays busy with training for Green Belts and Lean Champions. To date, the college has instructed over 2,050 Green Belts. Tony Dyal, NNSY’s Continuity of Operations Manager, who just completed the Green Belt course, said “There are a lot of things that we’ve done for years, but the class is able to define what we’re doing and how to do them better."

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