Organization: Naval Special Warfare, U.S. Navy
Naval Special Warfare (NSW) is a division within the U.S. Navy that includes more than 2,400 active-duty Special Warfare Operators, known as SEALs. All of these personnel are divided among “groups”. NSW Group 4 (NSWG4) consists of three Special Boat Teams (SBT) and one international training command – all working together towards the common goal of fighting the global war on terrorism.
Business Challenge: Reduce Procurement Lead Time with Fewer Resources
The Naval Special Warfare Group 4 (NSWG4) is responsible for development and testing of combatant craft and associated ordinance and equipment. NSWG4 monitors and certifies the Combat Readiness of assigned craft and SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman). In the past, NSWG4 has had more than adequate numbers of craft, engines and spare parts. However, with today’s current demand for combat operations, security force assistance (SFA) and fiscal downsizing, NSWG4 had to develop a different business sustainment model to meet missions with less assets. This new model required speeding up the procurement process for craft repairs and spare parts. By decreasing the ordering cycle time for repairs and parts, less craft and assets are required to meet continued customer requirements.
Prior to April 2011, the purchasing of boat requirements involved customers manually filling out purchasing paperwork and routing packages consisting of printed paper forms and substantiating documentation. The manual flow of information increased inaccurate purchasing information and there was no visibility into the process. Customers were often unaware of the procurement status, including delays on parts and services, which could ultimately force mission-critical boats and equipment out of commission.
NSWG4 customers and logistics support personnel developed a solution to streamline purchasing process workflows, using Toyota Production System (TPS) process improvement methodology. TPS is based upon deck plate employees driving process improvements while senior leadership serves as coaches and mentors. To help establish priorities for which processes needed to be improved first, employees first targeted the Government Purchase Card Program (GPCP) process, which is for procurements less than $3000 ($2500 for services). The team agreed on implementing workflow automation with three specific goals of providing process (1) visibility, (2) standardization to reduce errors, and (3) accountability.
BizFlow Solution: Government Purchase Card Process Automation
In October 2010, NSWG4 hosted a two-day off-site meeting and invited the daily owners and users of the GPCP process to participate and provide their input on how to improve this process. Using Shingo value stream mapping techniques, which separates the process steps from the operational steps, the 25-person team defined how to standardize the process, by removing excess steps and identifying over 40 different points of automation. The standardization removes errors by providing a “turbo tax” menu of choices including requirement samples. The team called the project SWIFT - Special Warfare Information Fast Tracker. Within a 6 month time-frame, NSWG4 had an automated workflow solution in place which was successfully up and running, reducing procurement lead time, improving accuracy, visibility, and all around satisfaction and performance of the GPCP process.
The SWIFT solution transforms and automates the NSWG4 GPCP. For the first time, NSW personnel have visibility into the Government Purchase Card Program (GPCP). Through automation, users can track the status of an order, while the process moves faster and easier, and management is able to measure the process. On 450 requests/month, the average lead-time is now 3.2 days from request to completion – before the implementation of this new workflow automation, the process traditionally took several weeks, with considerable process time variation and major inconsistencies.
The automation for the GPCP using SWIFT provides visibility into the process, standardization, and forcing function for over 6,000 purchases and $5.2 million spent annually. NSWG4 can now measure cycle times, and capture other valuable financial data. So successful was the implementation at NSWG4 (echelon III command), there are now plans to implement the software throughout NSW (echelon II). SWIFT is now the success model for future process improvement initiatives.