The US military saved 40 million dollars from a process improvement project using process simulation. When a combatant bomb explodes (similar to what happened at the Boston Marathon) in Afghanistan, the pieces are gathered up, scanned and sent to an advanced biometrics process improvement group in the United States. With sophisticated equipment the remains of the explosive device are scrutinized to provide evidence of the origin, tactics, trends, etc. Actionable intelligence leads to changes in US military strategy and tactics to thwart IEDs and minimize loss. Timely response is critical to making informed decisions that will save lives.
Process Simulation Identifies Process Improvement “Keys” for Biometrics Process Improvement
The problem with complex process improvement projects is the difficulty in calculating the benefit on the entire system from improving any individual area. Such was the case when a vendor to the US military proposed a 40 million dollar solution that would reduce the turnaround-time (TAT) for biometric results by 30%. The presentation was outstanding and who can argue with a 30% improvement when US soldiers lives are on the line. The vendor’s proposal was on the fast track to approval when a simulation study was authorized.
Process simulation provides a method to link together information in a way that would be impossible using traditional methods. The problem with traditional methods, like spreadsheets, is the difficulty in calculating a realistic TAT (often being inaccurate by +/- 50% or more). Spreadsheets are great tools, but fall down when calculating time dependent calculations (like work schedules or variation from times depending on the mix of product). Some of the pieces of information required to calculated a realistic TAT might include:
- Work schedules of onsite investigators
- Type of information being sent (many different types are sent for the same IED)
- Arrivals rate of information (large files take a long time to send)
- Processing times based on type of information
- Work schedules off site investigators by skill level
- Consolidation of results
- Transmission time of results
Process Simulation Shows Results of Changes to Complex Systems
After a process simulation was built, showing the main interactions of the system, experiments were run to test new technology’s effect to the TAT. After studying the vendors solution in the simulation, it was found that no appreciable TAT improvement could be expected from implementation. The project went from fast track to trash can in a few weeks. That is a 40 million dollar savings (from expenditure avoidance) on a single process improvement project with a minimal investment.