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News | Dec. 18, 2018

DCMA black belts make an impact around the agency

By Tonya Johnson DCMA Public Affairs

Defense Contract Management Agency black belt employees are using their Lean Six Sigma skills to better advance the agency’s mission.

“DCMA black belts take on some of the toughest challenges for the agency,” said Andrew Miskovich, who is the Continuous Process Improvement director and a master black belt. “As a group, they are highly motivated to solve problems and are eager to learn lasting skills in project facilitation, data analysis and operational statistics.

“Organizations such as DCMA who are fortunate enough to have an assigned black belt are equipped with a highly enabled multi-tool individual that possesses the leadership skills to effectively guide cross-disciplined teams to reap innovations, process efficiencies and formulation of tool improvements. Organizationally, the return on investment is off the charts for a trained black belt, and there is no limit to payback of successes the individual can produce given the level of expertise.”

Devin Downing, an industrial engineer at DCMA Palmdale, said becoming a black belt has made him a better employee. He currently monitors the General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft programs.

“Career development was the motivation for initially pursuing a green belt certification in Lean Six Sigma,” said Downing. “Subsequently, the mentorship and coaching of Jason Pickart and Andrew Miskovich encouraged me to further that development into the pursuit of a black belt. I found that I really enjoyed being a leader and mentoring others.”

Downing has already put his skills to practice around the agency.

“Before my time with DCMA Palmdale, I was previously stationed at the Cleveland office under the DCMA Dayton contract management office. While there, I was able to lay the foundation for a CMO-wide customer engagement strategy which used a complex system of metrics to prioritize the CMO’s top buying activities for command-level engagements with our customers. This is now the CMO’s new process for accomplishing its annual command-level customer engagements.”

Downing said the process has been vetted by the Central Region and the Portfolio Management and Business Integration Directorate customer engagement and sustainment groups for best practices and to identify mechanisms for coordinating efforts when engaging customers.

In addition to creating a process to help his prior CMO, Downing also trained his colleagues to become Lean Six Sigma certified and mentored them through the process.

“I feel my most important contribution was the culmination of my coordination efforts in December 2016 when I helped train 36 new DCMA Cleveland and DCMA Seattle Boeing personnel,” said Downing. “Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor three green belts through their certifications and one black belt through his certification. These were the most gratifying experiences for me because I helped others to succeed.”

Marshall Porter was also able to use his black belt skills to make a difference at his office, DCMA Boeing St. Louis in Missouri. Porter, who is a supervisor of software and avionics across all aircraft programs, said that after he became a black belt, he got promoted from a system engineer to his current position.

“The black belt project was on improving the process for modifying spare parts contracts for direct shipment from the sub-supplier to the customer,” said Porter. “The goal was to speed up delivery and reduce DCMA labor. After the project, the Contracts group process time was reduced from 34 days to eight days, and labor was reduced by 50 percent.

“In addition, the Quality Assurance group processing time was reduced from 40 days to 11 days, and labor was reduced by 90 percent. Boeing’s on time delivery increased from 70 to 78 percent over 16 months. Since most contracts take from more than a year to three years to complete, this was considered a significant improvement for the warfighter. The results should get better as the rest of the contracts are completed.”

Porter encourages other DCMA employees to become certified in Lean Six Sigma.

“Becoming a black belt teaches you the ability to look at administrative processes and convert them into manufacturing-like steps,” said Porter. “I was doubtful in the beginning. The green belt class helped me see the potential. However, doing the initial process mapping for the green belt project was a huge challenge. There was no established process. There were about five people selected to describe the process they used and each one was a little different. I developed the skill of organizing all of the actions under grouped stages.”

Downing also said the skills employees will learn through the various Lean Six Sigma training will help them on their job every day.

“I personally learned that facilitating a room, discussion or team has been the game changer for me,” he said. “It’s about asking great questions, being direct in engaging everyone in the room and utilizing all available resources to one’s advantage. It’s been amazing what I’ve been able to accomplish with a pad of sticky notes and a pen.”

Applications for the 2019 black belt course are now being taken. Classes begin in February and are three one-week sessions designated as LSST300/301/302 in the Talent Management System. In order to take the class, employees must be a certified green belt, approved by their leadership to attend, and assigned a project to execute. Waivers may be available through the CPI office.

For more information about the CPI program or available training, contact Miskovich at, or visit (login required).