AUTEC team earns $5,000 for Second Quarter Kaizen Award

By Kerry McGinley

A sweeping change to align to new customer requirements and improve the flow of information resulted in customer satisfaction, a fee award of $95,000 and a check for $5,000 for the Kaizen team that led a project to improve a finance process. Debbie Godbey, Rebecca Lind and Jon Strauss won the second quarter Kaizen Award for continuous improvement after creating a dedicated cost control department that defined roles across the program to better manage cash flow for their Navy client.

“This team took a known problem from their evaluation board and used the principles of Kaizen to come up with a solution,” said John Bennett, Global Mission Services director of Continuous Improvement. “They formed a dedicated cost control department and defined cost management roles across the program. They developed new cost management tools, processes and training for personnel managing time sheets, increased frequency, and improved formatting of the limitation of funds notice.” 

A major financial realignment from the customer meant the PAE team supporting the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center had to make sweeping changes. The Navy’s expectations for AUTEC had changed. Rather than managing two contract lines for labor and material funding, there were now hundreds of technical instructions that had to be tracked and addressed quickly. 

“We started looking internally at what we could do better,” said Strauss, IT director and deputy program manager. “They weren’t even sure the extent of their requirements at that point.”

That meant dramatic changes for the way the entire program did their jobs and the addition of a new Cost Control department. 

“We kicked into high gear and looked into every element we could possibly look at,” said Lind, cost control manager. “It was an evolution. It ended up that where we are now, it’s still ever-changing. We have to be on our toes and look at the customer’s needs going forward and make sure we are in sync with them.”

That required additional education for and commitment from team members, said Godbey, senior manager of Business Operations.

“We had to quickly make those technical operations managers become financially savvy,” she said. “I think that was one of the key things -- it wasn’t just finance personnel looking at data. It had to be a team effort with the project managers looking at both sides of the equation.”

So for more than a year, the trio worked to shift mindsets and teach new skills to the entire AUTEC crew.

“We realized that what was ahead of us was not something that could be done in a vacuum,” Lind said. “We had to have the buy-in from the workforce. It was an educational process. We did whatever we could to get the process in place where it was something our customer could rely on.”

They applied skills they learned through PAE’s Continuous Improvement program to make those shifts.

“Through the use of the Lean Six Sigma tools, we were really able to quantify what had to happen and then make the improvements necessary and then measure whether the improvements were effective or not," Strauss said.

The new processes yielded positive results. In addition to the immeasurable value of a satisfied customer, the changes on the cost-plus award fee contract earned an additional fee of $95,000 from one six-month period, Strauss said. 

“Having these challenges, overcoming these challenges and having a happy customer, there’s no better feeling with your job than to know you are accomplishing what’s expected of you,” Lind said. 

Entries for the next quarterly Kaizen competition are due Friday, Oct. 4. The final quarterly competition submissions are due Dec. 21. For the year-end competition, which offers a prize of $10,000, entries are due Dec. 15.