News: FORSCOM volunteer puts Lean Six Sigma skills to work in Iraq
Story by Larry Stevens
FORT McPHERSON, Ga.— It seemed like a good idea at the time to U.S. Army Forces Command’s Process Improvement Specialist and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Jon Shupenus.
"Lean" is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.
“Six Sigma” is a business management strategy originally developed by Motorola, USA in 1986. As of 2010, it is widely used in many sectors of industry, although its use is not without controversy.
Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes.
Shupenus was attending a DoD Performance Management seminar in 2010 when Kirk Nicholas, the director for the Army-wide proponency of Continuous Process Improvement/Lean Six Sigma program for the Office of Business Transformation called for volunteers to deploy to assist with Army projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, Shupenus stepped up and volunteered himself and his Lean Six Sigma knowledge and abilities.
The next thing he knew he was with the Joint Plans Integration Center in Baghdad, Iraq, helping with plans for the withdrawal of Army personnel and equipment by the end of 2011.
His job was to identify and evaluate plans for pulling out from more than 70 bases the thousands of soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and contractors, plus all the materiel that had accumulated over the years of the U.S.’s presence in Iraq.
“Part of the challenge was to comply with the commander’s understandable guidance to keep as much in-country as long as possible for operational and force protection purposes without causing a last-minute crunch,” Shupenus said.
A major highlight for him during his time in Iraq was that he developed a simulator that could be used to analyze the feasibility and practicality of various plans.
“A lot of people don’t know exactly what Lean Six Sigma is all about,” he noted. “It doesn’t mean more work. It enhances what people do by looking for ways of doing things more effectively and more efficiently.”
Yes, it seemed like a good idea when he volunteered in 2010, and after completing his six-month tour in March 2011, it still seems like a good idea to Shupenus.
“I put in long days and my being away proved a bit harder on my family than it had back when I had been in uniform, but for the Army this is a historic task operationally and strategically to get everyone and everything out of Iraq economically, safely and correctly,” he said.
“The experience was very rewarding for me professionally, and as always I was glad to support our Soldiers.”