YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The 8th U.S. Army graduated its first class of 22 Lean Six Sigma trainees this week, marking the first time an Army command has used its own training dollars to activate this new efficiency program.

The 8th Army spent more than $300,000 of its own money to train civilians and soldiers for four months in various units to revamp policies from tank maintenance to accounting systems to shed excess spending within the Pentagon’s overall budget, according to local officials and Ronald Rezek, a top official within the Army’s business transformation unit.

Just as the Army is changing the way it fights and deploys, it is looking for ways to rethink everyday work and find more efficiency, Rezek said in an interview Friday morning.

Already, some progress is being made. In South Korea, for example, the M-1 tank overhaul maintenance time was reduced from 105 to 30 days, Rezek said.

“This Army is made of smart people who react to change very well,” Rezek said the morning before the graduation ceremony.

Other changes show savings in Humvee and Patriot missile maintenance, Rezek said. The Pentagon estimates a savings of $11.9 million over three years in Patriot maintenance, and it cut the mechanics line needed to work on a Humvee from 1,100 feet to 500 feet, he said.

Overall, the Army Department isn’t setting a dollar amount for money savings, he said. The Army does have plans to begin applying the concept to the Installation Management Agency, which has a worldwide shortfall of $500 million in its current budget.

Lean Six Sigma applies streamlining techniques from assembly lines to nearly non-existent error rates from high-tech computer chip makers.

The “lean” comes from a manufacturing philosophy created by Asian companies and adopted by American factories in the past two decades. The “six sigma” is a math term that refers to the error percentage acceptable in the semi-conductor industry, a ratio of three errors to every million tasks done.

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