How important is supply chain management to the business? So important that is has its own awards for “rising supply chain stars” under the age of 30.

And the youngest among them is a proponent of Lean Six Sigma.

In the recently released “30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars” awards from Thomas and the Institute for Supply Chain Management, Rhiana Gallen won recognition for her process improvement efforts at the Denver Water Department.

Gallen, a 2016 graduate from Colorado State University, is 23 years old. In just two years as a contract specialist at Denver Water, Gallen has managed to save the utility $400,000.

Value Stream Analysis

Gallen achieved that staggering amount of savings as team leader of the water department’s Lean Six Sigma procurement value stream mapping and analysis. The team’s efforts reduced the competitive selection cycle on contracts by 45%.

Value stream mapping is one the most powerful tools in Lean Six Sigma. It involves reviewing a process in detail, looking at the flow of information and materials. The goal is to find and eliminate waste.

Waste in Lean is generally grouped in eight areas: defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra processing. It is sometimes referred to by the acronym “DOWNTIME.”

In an interview, Gallen said the review into competitive selection cycle time began as an effort to track cost savings. She said it evolved into an analysis of industry best practices and developing a standard operating procedure for reporting savings. It eventually became an effective procurement cost savings program.

Supply Chain and Lean Six Sigma

Gallen’s success applying Lean Six Sigma to supply chain management is one of many examples of how the methodology can improve supply chains.

As discovered by Gallen’s team, the chief Lean Six Sigma approach that helps with supply chains is elimination of waste. The underlying philosophy is to look at a supply chain and eliminate everything that does not add value to the end user.

That’s an approach that also has helped many recently awarded healthcare supply chains.

Soft Skills

It’s interesting to note that with all the challenges she has taken on, Gallen said in the interview that the most challenging has nothing to do with mastering the technical aspects of supply chain management.

“The biggest challenge that I’ve tackled is learning to work with many different kinds of people,” she said. Over time, she said you start to develop an “understanding of how best to work with the different personality types but figuring that out comes with a lot of trial and error and being open to constructive feedback about yourself.”

That is part of the soft skills that makes for successful Lean Six Sigma leaders. They include communications, negotiations, conflict resolution and coaching.

It also includes time management, another skill that Gallen has developed early. She said she sits down at the beginning of each week to prioritize what she needs to accomplish and does the same for each day.

She had this piece of advice as well: “I also made sure that I took advantage of any free time I did had, to avoid burnout.”

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