By Aidan Wiese
WAPA’s Continuous Process Improvement Program continues to see increasing returns as it adds to and improves the efficiency of the organization.
The CPI program leverages Lean and Six Sigma methodologies and constantly looks for new ways of improving individual processes and components of day-to-day activities at WAPA. In doing so, the CPI program has reported more than $113 million in saved or avoided costs to date.
Since its inception in fiscal year 2014, 187 processes have been improved, spanning all regions and almost every functional area. In FY 2020, the CPI program saw one Green Belt certified, two CPI projects completed, six process mapping workshops completed, trained 55 Yellow Belts and saved or avoided $19.8 million in costs.
The CPI program’s two Black Belts and 23 matrixed Green Belts help identify improvement opportunities and assist and support employees in everything from small projects that can improve daily processes to more complex, large-scale or organizationwide projects that tackle issues directly aligned with WAPA’s strategic goals.
Process improvements come in many varieties, but there are three main categories: CPI projects, Just Do It projects and formal WAPA projects.
To date, projects specifically led by WAPA’s team of certified Lean Six Sigma practitioners have avoided approximately $3.4 million in costs alone.
One such project was the WAPA Orders Approval Process improvement, led by a Green Belt in the Colorado River Storage Project Management Center, which involved streamlining the process for reviewing, approving and publishing internal agency orders.
Another $46.5 million in benefits were through formal WAPA projects, which are aligned with Strategic Roadmap 2024 and the Tactical Action Plan. The CRSP Glen Canyon Long Term Experimental and Management Plan project led by a team of Environment employees in FY 2019 involved engaging with external biologists to develop an operational alternative to an environmental impact study for Glen Canyon Dam. This saved an estimated $16 million in costs for WAPA and its customers.
While these numbers may seem daunting to those thinking of doing process-improvement work, even small suggestions and changes from employees provide benefits to the organization, potentially freeing up funds or resources that can be used for other purposes.
In fact, one of the main focuses of the CPI program is to encourage employees to look at their jobs and the things they do every day with a continuous process improvement mindset to find opportunities for improvement.
These are Just Do It projects, which are smaller and are primarily led by individual employees who have identified specific ways to improve work processes and increase efficiencies in their daily work. To date, Just Do It projects have saved or avoided $63.5 million in costs.
One example is the recent Refurbished X-Arm Trailer project in Rocky Mountain. This project resolved a need for a specific type of trailer by refurbishing a trailer WAPA already owned rather than purchasing and modifying a new one. This project alone saved WAPA and its customers approximately $9,000.
Every CPI project, Just Do It and formal WAPA project is valuable in its own right, and every improvement, no matter how small it may seem, contributes to WAPA’s overall mission to bring low-cost, reliable hydroelectric power to more than 40 million Americans. Every contribution adds up over time, and even small day-to-day changes can result in enormous cost savings that benefit WAPA and the customers it serves.
New changes, expansions and additions are on the horizon for WAPA’s CPI program. The program developed a Yellow Belt class in FY 2019 to assist in fostering an improvement mindset in employees. So far, three classes have been conducted in which 55 employees participated. A White Belt pilot program is also being introduced this year.
Note: Wiese is a secretary who works under the MIRACORP contract.