Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Biggest Lean Deployment in the World

The American Army has the largest lean six sigma deployed in the world.

The American army budget is currently more than $240billion
The US Army has deployed Lean since 2006 and saved $19.1 billion dollars
so far. In 2011 alone they are conducting 2111 lean improvement projects
to save $3.6 billion.
They have 5700 green belts, 2400 Black Belts and 175 Master Black Belts
and 48 Lean Deployment Directors. Their return on these investments have
been very good.

Most of the projects have been about logistics but their health care is
also heavily into lean. They have seen great successes.

Here is an interesting anecdote from one of their early projects -
obviously dated but the learning value is undiminished.

According to the principles of lean six sigma, US Army Medical Command
looked into high volume areas, 'waste' and 'customer satisfaction'
problems and found that they had:

The largest army call centre with more than 10000 calls per week
Low customer satisfaction at 68%
Average wait time of 3.14 minutes (wait is one of the classic wastes in
Call abandon rate of 26% - with a peak time call abandon rate of 49%

Obviously they found this very unsatisfactory and ran a lean project to
improve this. And they improved:

Average wait time reduced to 33 seconds (a six-fold improvement)
Call abandon rate reduced to 3% with peak time call abandon rate down to 22%
Call volume reduced 20% due to less call backs
and so on

These results were far better than the aims they set themselves for the

Apparently the customer satisfaction got worse!!

While people were getting their calls attended in record time they could
not get appointments to see doctors in clinics because the clinics had
capacity and scheduling problems - so the issue was, what is the point
in answering the phone quickly if they could not address the real need
which is patients to see doctors quickly.

Do not despair!

They have since addressed that issue and that has had an even bigger
effect on their call centre

The average waiting time has fallen to 3 seconds (yes, you read it right
THREE seconds - from their starting point of 3 minutes and 14 seconds)!!

There are two messages, a) system wide thinking is difficult but very
important b) it is even more important to solve the real issue (rather
than what is immediately apparent).


Note: The above is written from my recollection and notes of a brilliant presentation made at the WCBF Lean Six Sigma in healthcare conference 2011; with thanks to the presenters from the US Army Health Command and their collaborators.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Should GMC use Lean approach ?