In Crane, Ind., one of the most important arms of the government focuses on the production of ammunition and related products needed by the United States armed forces.

Crane Army Ammunition Activity (CAAA) is a critical operation within the military. It also is benefiting, like other areas of the military, from the implementation of Lean Six Sigma.

And, in the case of CAAA, women are leading the way.

Pyrotechnics and Lean Six Sigma

Lara Zilfaro is a chemical engineer who works for the CAAA as a pyrotechnics commodity manager. What that means, essentially, is that she oversees production of non-explosive devices such as visible light and infrared illumination candles, colored smoke, flares and delay elements, according to WBIW radio in Indiana.

They’re the sort of thing everyone has seen in military movies dozens of times, but probably never thought: “I wonder who makes those?”

CAAA does. And to better master the often-complicated business of producing these essential military products, Zilfaro earned a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification. She is among the first group of four people at CAAA to do so.

To earn a Black Belt, professionals must oversee successful Lean Six Sigma projects. Zilfaro decided to put her Lean Six Sigma education to work at CAAA.

Lean Six Sigma Projects

To earn her Black Belt certification, Zilfaro first addressed issues with zinc tanks at the CAAA facility. After applying Lean Six Sigma methodology, she created new operating procedures that cut down on the amount of chemicals needed in the process.

That move cut costs and resulted in higher quality in the zinc tanks. It also improved worker safety, requiring them to work with less chemicals and reducing the amount of hazardous waste generated.

In her second project, Zilfaro studied the effect of weather on the light tunnel used to test pyrotechnics. Her findings determined that some pyrotechnics were being deemed deficient due to weather conditions affecting the tunnel, not because they were actually deficient. The findings improved production and generated cost efficiency by cutting down on the waste of discarding perfectly fine pyrotechnics.

In Charge

Zilfaro eventually led the continuous process team for CAAA before becoming pyrotechnics commodity manager. Her success is remarkable by any measure. But it’s even more notable because of her gender.

In an area that had been dominated by men in the past, women such as Zilfaro are making their mark.

One notable recent example is Sabrina Butcher. An engineer who formerly worked in the automotive and railroad industries, Butcher now has her own consulting company. She specializes in applying Lean to make organizations more effective and efficient, particularly in the area of maximizing individual talent.

Another is Rose Heathcote, the first woman ever to become CEO of the Lean Institute Africa. She also is only the second woman to ever hold the CEO position at one of the 27 Lean Institutes around the world.

Dr. Renee Harris and Fancy Manton, a clinical supervisor in pharmacy, both used their Green Belts in Lean Six Sigma to improve operations at the Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. The pair used Lean Six Sigma in a study on antibiotics resistance that led to more efficient processes and better patient outcomes at the hospital.

These examples show that Lean Six Sigma is not a “man’s world.” Women are assuming leadership positions in the methodology, and achieving remarkable success.

You May Also Be Interested In: