This two-page case study highlights the innovative work the Akima Support Operations team is performing in support the Central Issue Facility at Fort Carson in Colorado, including implementing automated technologies and lean six sigma best practices in operational management. Today, the CIF at Fort Carson is known to be one of the most highly functioning and best performing in the U.S. Army.
A few years ago, the CIF at Fort Carson faced numerous challenges:
- The CIF warehouse was outdated,both physically and technologically.
- Soldiers were unable to pre-set appointments and were forced to line up hours ahead of time—sometimes even having to come back if they were unable to be served during thatday’s operating hours. With tens of thousands of soldiers on base, this meant long wait times and significant stress and frustration.
- Providing timely, quality customer service was next to impossible due to the overload faced by CIF staff. Issuing critical equipment could be overlooked, and soldiers would often have to come back numerous times to get the correct sizes for boots, helmets, jackets, and more—putting even more stress on an already taxed system.
The leadership at Fort Carson knew something had to change, so they partnered with Akima Support Operations (ASO) to help transition their CIF into the 21st century. First things first, they relocated the CIF to a more central location near other commonly used buildings such as the bank, DMV and Post Office to provide a “one-stop-shopping” experience for soldiers. They also completed major renovations
prior to the move, ensuring the new building was not only more aesthetically pleasing, but also modern and efficient. But most significantly, they completely changed the way they do business.
With the help of ASO, the Army implemented two new automated systems: A Now Serving System and a rotating shelving system. The Now Serving System provides the ability to identify the needs of the customer at a self-service kiosk prior to speaking with an CIF employee (instead of the antiquated “sign in and wait” system). Customers use the kiosk to fill out their name, social security number, and reason for their visit, and are then provided with a “now serving” number. When their number is called, they are immediately directed to the necessary department such as direct exchange, turn-in, or customer service. The Now Serving System has significantly reduced wait time for soldiers, and also provides leadership the ability to track service times and adjust processes and staffing as necessary.
The rotating shelving system, known as the Hanel system, increases storage capacity for equipment by a factor of eight. It also significantly reduces the number of steps it takes staff members to pull equipment from stock. CIF employees can now simply input the item they are looking for and the Hanel system will automatically rotate to the correct location for that specific item—increasing space utilization, speed, efficiency, and accuracy for providing services to soldiers.
Previously, soldiers spent upwards of four hours collecting their gear directly at the CIF. Leveraging new lean six sigma processes, soldiers can now collect their gear in as little as 15 minutes—at their replacement detachment—eliminating the need to physically visit the CIF for many soldiers. The process
works as follows:
- On day zero of in processing, a solider is provided a sizing
sheet. Once complete, the sizing sheet is delivered to the
CIF and equipment is pulled and pre-packaged by CIF
employees. Equipment is triple checked to ensure accuracy.
- On day two of in processing, soldiers with a rank above
Staff Sergeant visit the CIF at their convenience to pick
up their issued equipment. At that time, they can digitally
sign for their order and have five days to complete their
inventory and report any shortages. Shortages of three
items or less are provided with no question.
- For Staff Sergeants and below, the replacement
detachment picks up prepackaged equipment and
transports it back to them on day three of in processing.
If something is found to be missing, soldiers can then visit
the CIF for replacement or exchange.
The turn-in process was also completely updated. Formerly, soldiers would have to stop at multiple counters and endure a lengthy visit to the CIF. With the new one-to-one process, soldiers turn in their gear to a single staff member reducing visit time from approximately 45 minutes to 22 minutes. Overall these updated operating process have saved thousands of hours for soldiers and commanders in the short-term, as well as millions of dollars in improperly issued equipment. The Fort Carson CIF also features a centralized Customer Service Desk and a modern fitting room where soldiers can try on equipment to ensure proper sizing.